Understanding Your Carbon Footprint

When talking about living green or low impact living, you will often hear the term carbon footprint. But what is that and how do you know if you have lowered your carbon footprint by changing the way you live? Understanding your carbon footprint and how it’s figuring out is important when you’re trying to determine your low impact lifestyle. So here’s what you need to know about your carbon footprint.

What Is Carbon Footprint

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines carbon footprint as: “the amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide emitted by something (as a person’s activities or a product’s manufacture and transport) during a given period.”

A carbon footprint is broken down into two parts; a primary footprint and a secondary footprint. The primary footprint is the sum of the direct carbon dioxide emissions in burning fossil fuels by things like furnaces and transportation.

The secondary footprint is the sum of indirect carbon dioxide emissions. This includes those emissions associated with the manufacturing of a product and the breakdown of a product, as well as the services and food an individual or a business consumes.

Calculating Your Carbon Footprint

When you are trying to figure out your carbon footprint you are basically looking at the products you buy and determining how much energy was used to manufacture each product and get it to you. Buying local is going to reduce your carbon footprint considerably. Of course, calculating how much fossil energy is used to produce an item is going to be difficult.

So something easier to calculate is your own use of fossil fuels. The amount of heating fuel and electricity we use in our home, how much gasoline and oil is used to get us from one place to another, and how many flights we take are more tangible for us to calculate.

Calculating the amount of carbon dioxide used when burning gas is quite straightforward. A standard amount of carbon dioxide is released when you burn this type of fossil fuel. Electricity is a little harder to calculate. It depends on your electric supplier and what they use to generate your energy. Wind energy produces no direct emissions, but coal uses the most.

Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Now that you know what the carbon footprint is and how to calculate it, here are ways to begin reducing your carbon footprint:

* Reduce your junk mail. There are services which will remove your name from lists that send you junk mail and this will reduce your carbon footprint.

* Change your driving habits. That’s right, by following the driving rules and accelerating smoothly, following speed limits, maintaining your speed, and not slamming on the breaks you’ll reduce your CO2 output.

* Maintain your car’s tires and keep up to date with tune-ups and oil changes and filter replacements.

* Share car when you can.

* Reduce your travel and combine trips whenever you can.

* Think about how you get there. Take a train if you can or fly nonstop.

* Turn things off when you’re not going to be home. Unplug what you can.

* Use a programmable thermostat in your home.

* Reduce drafts in the home by using weatherstripping and caulking.

* Change your lights to incandescent bulbs.

* Get A energy star appliances, electronics, shower heads, and toilets when it’s time to buy new.

* Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Following all of these things will help you begin to reduce your carbon footprint.

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