carbon footprint

What is your carbon footprint?

You’re bombarded with the message to Go Green, and you’ve heard something about a carbon footprint.  You do your best to recycle…most of the time. You try to take shorter showers and turn off lights. But, you wonder, “Am I really helping the environment?  Is it worth it?”

Go Green. Get Some Green.

You’d hope that the call to Go Green and conserve our natural resources would help us make more efficient energy choices.  However, for some, imagining how their energy usage affects our environment is a challenge. Seeing how their energy usage affects their bank account is a lot easier to understand.  

You can easily find out your family’s carbon footprint (and the hit to your budget) by using a footprint calculator.  But first, let’s make sure you’ve got the basics—what we’re measuring and why it matters:

What’s a carbon footprint and why does it matter?

  1. According to nasa.gov, your carbon footprint is the “amount of carbon dioxide released into the air because of your own energy needs….transportation, electricity, food, clothing, and other goods.”

Imagine your footprint left on a beach.  Now imagine your energy usage as a dirty footprint on the environment.  That’s your carbon footprint.

How does my carbon footprint affect the environment?

The carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the air from our energy choices collects in the Earth’s atmosphere.  This causes the earth’s atmosphere to warm up, triggering many problems:

  • Higher temperatures damage crops, and make it harder for animals and humans to live healthily.
  • Severe weather, including heavy flooding
  • Loss of habitat for animals

Now You’re Ready to Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

By clicking the link below, you’ll see how your energy use translates into pounds of CO2 and dollars spent.

Click Calculate Carbon Footprint

While using the calculator, did you notice that a single energy saving action can save you real money (and save our air many pounds of CO2) each year?  

How big was your footprint?  If it’s bigger than you’d like, keep reading.  There are plenty of actions you can take today to shrink your carbon footprint in a Beginner’s Guide to Reducing Your Carbon Footprint below.  

Beginner’s Guide to Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

Simple Actions You Can Take Today to Shrink Your Carbon Footprint

 

  • Use only the water you need.  Water that goes down the drain or sewer needs to flow through a water treatment plant for processing, whether it’s dirty or not.  
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and washing dishes.  
  • Take shorter showers
  • Wash only full loads of laundry and dishes.

 

  • Use a hose nozzle when washing cars.
  • Turn off and Unplug
  • Turn lights, computers, and other electronics off when not in the room or in use.
  • Unplug electronics with remotes or appliances with digital displays.  TV, cable box, stereo, coffee pot with a digital display–these are called energy vampires because they draw energy even when they are turned off.
  • Use Computer Sleep Mode and other power management features to save electricity.
  • Turn down your water heater temperature to 120° and wash clothes in cold water.
  • Turn up/down your thermostat.  The recommended summer temperature is 78° and winter temperature is 68° when you are home.  Even adjusting your temperature up or down 2-3 degrees can make a big impact.
  • Stop buying plastic water bottles.  Energy must be used to manufacture, recycle, and then re-manufacture plastic bottles.  Use a refillable water bottle with tap water. There are great colorful, insulated options out there that keep your water icy cold.  Don’t like your tap water? Buy a water filter.
  • Put Less in the Landfill

 

    • Recycle.  By recycling paper, plastic, metal, and glass, you are decreasing the load

at landfills and providing resources to manufacture new goods.

 

  • Reuse plastic and glass containers for storage:  Whenever possible, reuse plastic and glass containers to store leftovers or to pack lunches. This helps you avoid the cost and environmental waste of using Ziploc bags, plastic wrap and foil as often.  
  • Buy local produce.  Buying local produce decreases the amount of transportation energy and pollution to get faraway goods to your local market.
  • Walk or bike more.  Only a short distance to go?  Why not get your steps in and walk or bike to your destination?
  • Drive smart.  Save gas by coasting to a stop, accelerating gradually and driving the speed limit.
  • No Drive Thru.  Next time you’re at a drive thru, park and walk in.  Sitting in your car with the engine idling is wasting your gas and increasing your carbon footprint.

 

It’s a long list, so start with a few actions that are easiest to implement, and go from there. To be most successful, get the whole family involved.  If you have kids in your household, check out this nasa.gov link for kids. You’ll find kid-friendly information and activities to get them excited about how they too can help shrink your family’s carbon footprint.

With even a modest amount of effort (and no expense), you can make a real impact on reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the health of our environment and you!  Plus, by Going Green, you’ll be saving money too!

Click here for more information about how your family can save on energy.