Your carbon footprint measures the total impact your lifestyle makes on the environment, from your utilities consumption to the way you get around. Online calculators let you enter specific data, then provide you with a numerical representation of your personal contribution to global warming and other environmental problems. By reducing your carbon footprint, you can minimize your impact and the amount of greenhouse gases you produce.
According to the Carbon Footprint website, transportation makes up 10 to 19 percent of your individual impact on the environment in terms of emissions and fuel use (see References 1). To reduce your transportation footprint, alter your travel habits. Walk or ride a bike whenever possible for a zero-emissions activity. Instead of driving alone to work, use a carpool. You can further minimize your impact by riding public transportation and taking direct flights when possible.
Heating and Cooling
The way you heat and cool your home contributes to your carbon footprint. To reduce your impact and cut utility costs, make small changes that add up over time. Check your house for drafts and leaks around doors, windows, outlets and pipes, and make sure that unheated areas are well-insulated. At home, turn the heater down at night and when you are at work, and turn your water heater down when you go out of town. According to the Carbon Footprint website, you can cut your heating bill by 8 percent just by turning your central heating down 1 degree Centigrade. You should also have your heating and cooling systems maintained regularly so they can use energy efficiently.
Use energy wisely by unplugging appliances when you’re not using them; to make it easier, plug groups of appliances into a power strip so you can cut off power completely. Swap old-style incandescent light bulbs for Energy Star-certified ones; according to the EPA, this can prevent greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75 percent. You can also reduce power use with energy management settings on computers, printers and copiers. If you have the budget, you can install solar panels or personal wind turbines to generate green electricity.
To reduce the size of your carbon footprint, start with small changes: buy local, organic and seasonal foods and look for products with limited packaging to cut waste. Recycle as much of your household waste as possible. Get your family into the habit of turning off lights and equipment when it is not in use.