A quick online search will yield many calculators of carbon footprints, which are the total amount of carbon emissions (or, in some cases, amount of greenhouse gas) created by an individual, household, organization, event, or product.
Carbon footprint calculators range from long to short and come in a variety of styles, from the no-frills calculator provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the most elaborate, interactive, flash calculators offered by many non-profit organizations.
Essentially, a carbon footprint calculator will tell you how many pounds of carbon you (or your family) emit into the air. Other calculators will tell you how many earths it would take to sustain your lifestyle for every individual on the planet today. Both results, whether a number of pounds of carbon emissions or a number of planets, are abstract and take some pondering to comprehend.
Most carbon footprint calculators offer ideas to reduce your carbon footprint and provide a hypothetical carbon footprint alternative, should you implement that suggested changes.
It is baffling, though, to realize the number behind your everyday, seemingly normal actions. However, carbon footprint calculators aren’t perfect. These calculators are geared toward mainstream Americans who have an attention span of about five to 15 minutes. Most carbon footprint calculators are designed to be quick, simple, and entertaining. Many aspects of a person’s life may be left out of a carbon footprint calculator, yielding a less-than-accurate result. For example, most calculators do not take gardening into account, or eating local and/or organic food.
Other factors are more difficult to include, such as public services like police, roads, libraries, the government, and the military. Hypothetically, every American should take some ownership over the emissions produced by our military, since it would be unfair to ask someone who enlists in military service to take on both the responsibility of defending or protecting our country and the carbon footprint of a fighter jet. Likewise, a personal carbon footprint calculator doesn’t add such public services into the equation.
A person who visits the library frequently would, undoubtedly, have a different carbon footprint equation than a person who never goes to the library. Additionally, an individual who is frequently sick requiring tests, treatments or medications, would presumably possess a larger carbon footprint than someone who is generally healthy.
Despite the flaws, carbon footprint calculators are informational, and, if you’re trying to convince a skeptic, a very useful tool.