You may have heard the term “carbon footprint” thrown around recently. In recent years, closer attention has been paid to the carbon footprints of businesses and individuals alike, especially as we seek to achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement with greater urgency. In this blog, we’ll dive into what a carbon footprint is, how you can calculate yours, and give you some tips to help reduce your carbon footprint. Keep reading to learn more!


What Is a Carbon Footprint? 

Let’s begin with the definition of this term that is so often used but rarely being defined clearly. A carbon footprint is a way to measure the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are caused both directly and indirectly by a person, household, or organization. This measure can also be applied to the emissions associated with a product or an event. Understanding what a carbon footprint is and the factors that contribute to it is an important step in helping individuals and organizations take stock of and understand the environmental impact of their habits and practices. Once these things are understood, they can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint, which is an effective way to help lessen the adverse impact of their habits on the environment.

How to Calculate Carbon Footprint 

Calculating carbon footprint, specifically your own, involves taking stock of all your habits and activities and assessing the emissions associated with them. It can be difficult to get a completely accurate figure as most calculations rely on estimations, but it will still give you a great starting point. There are numerous online carbon footprint calculators available that can help you determine the footprint of your daily routines. Carbon footprint calculators enable you to input various data points such as your energy consumption, dietary habits, miles driven, and travel frequency. They will then give you an estimation of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the activities you provide.

Our favorite online carbon footprint calculator is this one from the United States Environmental Protection Agency:

Average Carbon Footprint

When calculating your carbon footprint, it can be helpful to note what the average carbon footprint is so that you have a better idea if yours falls on the higher or lower end. The average American carbon footprint is approximately 16 tons annually, meaning that in the US, the average person will emit 16 tons of greenhouse gases over a year. This varies quite significantly between states, with some trending much lower than others when it comes to their carbon footprint. Globally, this figure is considerably lower than the United States average carbon footprint, sitting at approximately 4.7 tons per person

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

If you find yourself concerned about the size of your footprint, don’t worry! There are ways to reduce your carbon footprint through big and small lifestyle changes, all of which make an impact. Taking steps to reduce carbon footprint is one of the impactful ways to help the environment through lifestyle changes.

Let’s start by looking at how your home energy use and appliances can contribute to your carbon footprint and what habits can alleviate that impact!

kitchen appliances
  1. Energy Efficiency: Consider the energy efficiency of your appliances and opt for ENERGYSTAR-certified upgrades when it’s time to replace them. Choosing energy-efficient appliances will help you lower your carbon footprint by reducing how much energy it takes to run these appliances while also reducing how much electricity you use, leading to energy cost savings as well! It’s a win-win scenario.
  2. Clean Energy: Supporting clean energy is another great way to help lower your carbon footprint. Solar is a great option that offers long-term benefits in the way of emission reductions and cost savings but it can come at a steep upfront cost. If this is a deterrent, community solar is another great way to reap the benefits of solar energy and reduce your carbon footprint without any installation or upfront costs.

Your transportation habits also contribute to your carbon footprint. Luckily, these can be lessened without stopping you from getting to your destination. 

electric car
  1. Car alternatives: Opting for alternatives to driving is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment. Public transportation is one great option that can help reduce the emissions associated with your commute to work or school. Walking or biking are also great options if you’re going a short distance, especially when the weather is nice!
  2. Carpool: If driving is necessary, try to carpool when you can. Not only will this make your journey more fun, but you’ll also reduce the number of cars on the road, subsequently making a dent in your own carbon footprint and the footprints of those who are driving with you.
  3. Electric Cars: Electric cars are gaining popularity, and for good reason! They are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint without sacrificing the convenience of driving. If you're considering making the switch, you can learn more about the pros and cons of EVs here.

Your diet is another significant contributing factor to your carbon footprint. While making swaps here may take some getting used to, they are very impactful and worth trying to implement as a result!

farmers market produce
  1. Local, seasonal produce: Prioritizing seasonal, local produce ensures that your produce doesn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get to your grocery store. Food storage and transportation require a significant amount of energy; supporting your local farms and shopping in season will reduce the emissions associated with your food choices.
  2. Meat consumption: Reducing your meat consumption is a sure way to reduce your carbon footprint. While adopting a fully vegetarian diet might be difficult, consider that 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from the meat and dairy industry. Reducing your consumption of these foods will help the planet and reduce your carbon footprint.

All in all, if you are interested in reducing your carbon footprint, there are changes you can implement on a small or large scale to make an impact and reduce your own emissions. Start by calculating your carbon footprint, and from there, you can assess what changes you might be able to incorporate into your lifestyle to make it more environmentally friendly and sustainable. The planet will thank you!