A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by an individual or institution. It measures how many tons of carbon dioxide you create every year, based upon your lifestyle choices. Many carbon footprint calculators exist to help you quickly and easily determine your overall impact. Direct greenhouse gas emissions, such as home-energy use and transportation, are only part of the equation. The food you eat, products you buy and garbage you throw away create greenhouse gases indirectly, and are equally important contributors to carbon footprint calculations. (See References 1)
Collect utility bills including gas, electric and oil from both winter and summer months to determine your average usage.
Determine the average number of miles you drive each week for an individual calculation. For a household calculation, consider the vehicles driven by all members of your household. Calculate your average miles per gallon for each vehicle.
Search for a user-friendly online carbon footprint calculator, such as those found on The Nature Conservancy or the University of Berkley's Cool Climate Network websites.
Answer the questions asked by the calculator tools as accurately as possible. When you are finished, compare your scores with local, national and global averages in each category and determine which areas you could improve upon through changes to your lifestyle. (See References 2)
Track your progress over time. Many calculators allow you to save your data and reenter new data after you have made changes to your lifestyle. (See References 2)
Consider offsetting your carbon footprint. Carbon offsetting is a way to compensate for the emissions you produce by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide savings somewhere else, or going "carbon neutral." Many websites with carbon footprint calculators also offer more information and opportunities for carbon offsetting. (See References 3)
Hailing from Austin, Texas, Beth Berry has been writing since 1995 about sustainable farming, fiber arts and parenting. She brings expertise in organic gardening, landscape design and domestic arts to her writing. Berry holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental science from Abilene Christian University and is a master seamstress.
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