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Carbon Footprints

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You may be familiar with the term “carbon footprint”. But, what exactly is it, and what impact does it have on the environment? The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a carbon footprint as “a measure of the impact your activities have on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO₂) produced through the burning of fossil fuels, [which] is expressed as a weight of CO₂ emissions produced in tonnes”. Carbon footprints are important as carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases (gases that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, like a greenhouse) contributing to global warming, so the larger one’s carbon footprint is, the worse it is for the environment. The main contributors to one’s carbon footprint include a person’s food and energy consumption, along with the way they transport themselves.

What’s quite shocking is that the average American’s carbon footprint is about 16 tons per year, one of the highest rates in the world. Thankfully, the global average is only 4 tons, but this still isn’t enough. According to The Nature Conservancy, the global average needs to drop to 2 tons a year by 2050 in order for the global temperature to lower by 2 degrees Celsius.

Before we discuss possible methods of reducing our carbon footprints, you might want to know how big your footprint is. There are several online calculators for this out on the internet, but my personal favorite can be found at the following link: Although this is an ecological footprint calculator (which is completely different from a carbon footprint), it still gives you your carbon footprint, which can be found by clicking on the “Results Part 2” tab near the top of the screen when you complete the test. Go ahead and take the test now, it’ll take you about 5 minutes to complete. Try to be as truthful as you can. Even though your results may shock you, it’s important to start from somewhere. However, keep in mind that your results may not be 100% accurate as the test assumes that your actions stay constant over the span of time, which isn’t always the case. The test concluded that my carbon footprint was about 5.3 tons per year, which isn’t horrible, but definitely could use some work. I’m curious to know, what’s your carbon footprint? Comment yours down below so we can compare!

After taking the test, you may have been quite shocked at your results, which is completely normal. This may lead you to wonder what measures can be taken to reduce your carbon footprint. There are actually several different ways to reduce your carbon footprint, some of which are to:

  • Reduce your animal product (dairy, meat) consumption if you can, especially your red meat consumption.

  • Buy unprocessed and/or unpackaged food locally.

  • Recycle or compost food waste.

  • Carpool more often or use alternative methods of transportation such as public transportation, walking, or biking.

  • Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.

  • Be aware of your residence’s temperature, as a drop of 1 degree Celsius can cut down your energy bill and carbon dioxide emissions by 5-10%.

Try some of these out for yourself! While trying something new may feel like a big change initially, you know you’ll be helping to reduce your carbon footprint and global warming!

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