For this month’s Free for All, we continue with the theme of climate change and our impact on the planet. One of the most popular methods to assess your individual impact on the climate is using a carbon footprint calculator. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a carbon footprint is, “the amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide emitted by something (such as a person’s activities or a product’s manufacture and transport) during a given period.” Calculators are available on several different websites and apps that determine your emissions based on varying degrees and types of information. In this piece, I do my best to assess a few different options that take unique approaches to quantifying the amount of carbon that we each emit.
When first searching for a carbon calculator, you will likely stumble upon the website Carbonfootprint.com. Not only do they offer calculations for individuals, products and businesses, they also provide information on how to offset your emissions (i.e. how to reduce carbon in the atmosphere to balance out what you emit). They educate readers on what carbon offsetting is, why you would do it, and how to accomplish it. Various projects and their associated cost estimates based on the amount of carbon you are looking to offset are included as well. In addition, there is information on getting involved in local offset projects, as well as how to stay compliant with energy laws and how to manage your business’ emissions more effectively. The calculator is very in depth, as it requires you to enter exact energy and gas emissions as well as the amounts of different materials purchased throughout the year. Overall, Carbonfootprint.com is informative and useful as it includes several tools that are tailored to your specific needs.
If you are looking for a quick and easy-to-use calculator, I would recommend either the World Wildlife Fund or Conservation.org. The WWF calculator is a simple questionnaire that provides an approximation of your emissions for the year. The Conservation.org calculator includes open-ended questions that allow users to be more exact with their consumption estimates. Both calculators feature similar questions, including the number of people in your household, the type of household, average energy use, and habits of consumption and transportation. Although the websites are not as in-depth as Carbonfootprint.com, they do provide ways to offset your footprint as well as their associated prices.
Quantifying your impact on the environment via a carbon calculator is a good way to educate yourself, but it is not a solution to climate change. Instead, it is a way to inspire people to change their daily habits to damage our planet less. Although carbon offsetting appears to balance out our harmful emissions, there is a period between paying for the offset and seeing it go into effect. Eating less red meat, using public transportation and limiting energy consumption all have direct impacts on emissions, so if you want to fight climate change, you might think of starting there!
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