It is becoming more and more popular among environmentally aware persons
to offset their “carbon footprints.” Your carbon footprint
is, in essence, the mark (or footprint) that you leave on the earth
every year. The larger your footprint, the more of a (negative) impact
you have made on the environment.
Your carbon footprint is generally considered to be the total of CO2
that you contribute, both directly and indirectly. Keep in mind, though,
that your overall impact on the earth can include other greenhouse gases
that you contribute, as well as other impacts you make both environmentally
There are many different things that can affect the size of
the carbon footprint that you leave:
• Car – how many miles you drive, how fuel efficient
your car is, what type of car, how often you carpool, how often you
take public transportation, etc. all affect the impact you and your
• Home – think of all the electricity and gas you use
in your home. How much you use, how much is provided by non-renewable
resources, etc. are important factors.
• Airplane – airplanes use very large amounts of fuel,
and most of this fuel is used during take-off and landing. Therefore,
the length and number of your flights make a big difference.
• Boat – boats can actually produce more carbon dioxide
than airplanes (but this depends on the distance traveled, size of
the boat, fuel efficiency, etc.)
• Food – while you may not realize it, what you eat makes
a big difference as to the size of your impact on the earth. When
you buy food from non-local sources, you must account for how that
food got to the store. Also, vegetarian or vegan diets have a much
smaller impact than meat-rich diets.
Realize that all of your basic activities of daily life can contribute
to your carbon imprint: taking a shower, watching TV, commuting to work,
eating lunch, traveling to visit family, cooking dinner, etc.
Carbon Footprint Calculators
How do you find out the breadth of your negative impact on Mother Earth?
A carbon footprint calculator can assist you by putting your carbon
contribution into understandable numbers.
If you do a search for carbon calculators online, you are going to
find a variety of different ones. And, sometimes frustratingly, each
of these calculators will likely give you a different result. Why?
Some carbon calculators take into account the type of car you drive
while others ask only for the amount of miles you drive. Some ask for
specific numbers (i.e. from your energy bills, etc.), while others ask
for more general numbers. Also, some do their accounting differently
– some of these calculators will use CO2 as their only factor
while others include all greenhouse gases.
Regardless of the different numbers that you may get by using different
calculators, all of the numbers should make you aware of one important
thing: living in an industrialized country, you contribute tons (quite
literally) of greenhouses to the environment each year.
Here are just a few of the carbon calculators available online:
Offsetting Your Carbon Footprint
Do not worry, there are some things that you can do to lessen your
impact on the environment! There are ways to make your home
more efficient. Here are just a few:
• turn down your water heater
• get storm windows
• reduce drafts
• turn out the lights if no one is in the room
• watch less TV
• use a push reel lawnmower
• use energy efficient
• turn down your thermostat one degree in winter and up one
degree in the summer
• buy solar panels and set your home up on solar power
• buy green
furniture (aka sustainable
Here are just a few ways to lessen the impact of your travel:
• drive a fuel efficient car
• ride your bike to work on sunny days
• use public transportation whenever convenient
• fly less
• combine all of your errands and shopping into a single trip
There are also ways to make your diet more sustainable – buy
local foods, eat less meat, etc.
Of course, one of the most popular things to do these days is to offset
your carbon imprint by contributing to carbon offset projects (it is
best to do this in addition to some of the abovementioned ideas). Such
projects are meant to reduce and/or prevent the accumulation of global
warming gases (you know, the gases that you helped create by heating
your home and driving your car…) As a way to continue your current
(or even more efficient) lifestyle but feel better doing so, you can
donate money to these projects that increase the availability of renewable
There are many different companies that you can contribute to to offset
your carbon footprint. Before you choose a particular company, research
it. Make sure that it – in your opinion – does the most
good for the least money. Make sure that it focuses on something that
is important to you – there are some projects that are focused
solely on global warming while others also focus on other social and
environmental issues, too.
Here are some different sites that offer you ways to offset
your carbon imprint:
Realize, however, that by simply donating to one of these sites, you
will not automatically suck from the atmosphere all of the CO2 that
you contributed – it is still important to reduce your overall
impact directly by driving less and being aware of how and what you
consume. Of course, as some may argue, by helping change the technologies
related to our consumption, we can make a bigger difference in a shorter
time while still living the lives we love to lead.
Why not both lessen and offset your impact?