What is Your Carbon Footprint?

By Sally Miller

Woodstock’s average household carbon footprint as calculated on the CoolClimate interactive map.

Woodstock’s average household carbon footprint as calculated on the CoolClimate interactive map.

Calculating your climate footprint helps you understand your impact on climate change. A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production, use and end-of-life of a product or action. It includes carbon dioxide, the gas most commonly emitted by humans, and other gases like methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which trap gas in the atmosphere, causing global warming. Most of an individual’s carbon footprint comes from transportation, housing and food.

Everyone can act on climate everyday. Your climate action can be– and should be– as unique as you are. Start by figuring out your climate footprint, and then you can take action to have a big impact. An online tool, called a footprint calculator, can help you plan your own sustainable path. Answer a few questions — about transportation, meals, and home– to see how your emissions add up. Once you have a good picture of your total impact — your footprint– you can consider where the biggest impact is AND where you feel the most inspired to make a change.

There are many online carbon foot print calculators, but here are two calculators that are easy to use:

Cool Climate Network – coolclimate.berkeley.edu/calculator
Global Footprint Network – footprintcalculator.org/

The Cool Climate Network calculator is based on research from the University of California, Berkeley and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. You can get a quick answer based on a few easy questions or a more detailed analysis is possible by answering ‘advanced’ questions. It provides comparisons to households in your region and, based on your responses; it offers suggestions for climate actions you can take.

CoolClimate has developed cutting-edge carbon footprint benchmarking research and combined it with ongoing lessons from behavioral sciences to design tailored climate solutions to different users and populations. Their tools quickly identify the unique opportunities each individual, business, organization or community holds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At the end you get a long list of actions that you can take from buying an electric vehicle to choosing a low flow toilet with the associated metric tons of CO2 and dollars saved annually along with the upfront costs.

The CoolClimate Network also has an interactive carbon footprint map at CoolClimate Maps – coolclimate.berkeley.edu/maps, and you can find out how you compare to local averages. It also shows which municipalities and locations within the United States contribute the most to household greenhouse gas emissions. Using national household surveys, they developed econometric models of demand for energy, transportation, food, goods, and services and derived average household carbon footprints (HFC) for U.S. zip codes, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas.

The Global Footprint Network calculator is based on finding your ecological footprint to determine your Earth Overshoot Day which is a calculated calendar date on which humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds the Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year. The calculator lets you see how many planets we would need if everybody lived like you and gives you your personal Overshoot Day.

Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by dividing the amount of natural resources generated by Earth that year, by humanity’s consumption of Earth’s natural resources for that year, and multiplying by 365. It represents the day in which humanity enters an ecological deficit spending. The Global Footprint Network calculator also offers global solutions. For instance, food demand makes up 26% of the global Ecological Footprint, if we cut food waste in half worldwide, we would move Overshoot Day by 11 days.

As you complete the survey they stress that a person’s ecological footprint includes both personal and societal impacts. The footprint associated with food, mobility, and goods is easier for you to directly influence through lifestyle choices. However, a person’s footprint also includes societal impacts or services such as government assistance, roads and infrastructure, public services and the military. In their calculations, all citizens are allocated their share of these societal impacts.

No matter how you score, make a plan to take some action, keeping these things in mind:
• work with what you have
• do what inspires you
• go for a big impact

Through our activities and action groups, Sustainable Woodstock is helping area residents and businesses reduce their carbon footprint. For more information go to our website –sustainablewoodstock.org or sign up for our monthly e-newsletter by sending an email to info@sustainablewoodstock.org.

Just Do One Thing: Know Your Carbon Footprint

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