What is a carbon footprint, and why does it matter?
What is a Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) that you directly or indirectly produce in your lifetime. Take the Environmental Protection Agency’s Carbon Footprint Quiz, Nature Conservancy’s Quiz, or our own Ecological Footprint Quiz to find out just how many pounds of carbon dioxide that you produce and how you can decrease it.
What are greenhouse gasses and why are they important?
Greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide and methane, trap heat in the atmosphere. They then release that heat back down to Earth. This environmental process is necessary for our survival, for Earth would be too cold to live on without it. However, in recent centuries, we have been emitting excessive amounts of carbon dioxide, and other GHGs, into the atmosphere. This huge influx of greenhouse gases is causing climate change.
What am I doing in my daily life that produces GHGs, and how can I produce less?
The biggest source of greenhouse gasses in the U.S. is from transportation. It made up 28% of all greenhouse gasses emitted by the United States in 2018. The second biggest source is electricity.
There are many, easy ways to decrease your carbon footprint without making big changes to your lifestyle. In fact, many of these changes save you money. Below is a list of quick, wallet friendly ways to lessen your impact on the environment:
- Adjust your thermostat temperature setting while you’re away from home. In the winter, set it to 55°F and in the summer set it to 82° F
- Turn your water heater thermostat down to 120 degrees
- Close drapes and windows during sunny summer days
- Wash clothes in cold water, it can save around $40/ year
- Only run the washer if it is full, avoid half loads
- Air dry your clothes
- Use the dishwasher in place of washing dishes by hand
- When upgrading appliances, choose ENERGY STAR certified appliances
- Carpool, walk, or bike when possible
- Reduce engine idling
- Use public transit
- Complete all of your errands in one trip
- Maintain your car
- Avoid accelerating quickly
- Fly less
- Buy local foods
- Buy snacks without individual packaging
- Reuse or compost leftovers to minimize food waste
- Grow some of your own food
- Eat on reusable plates
- Bring a reusable bag when shopping
- Shop vintage
- Donate old clothes or fix them
Be a Part of the Change.
Climate change, a direct cause of excessive greenhouse gas emissions, will continue to have disastrous impacts on our society if we do not make a change. Sea level rise, an increase in heat- related deaths, increased extreme weather, and ocean acidification are just some examples of the effects of climate change. Decreasing your personal carbon footprint will help mitigate climate change and its impacts.
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