A 10 metric ton footprint?

Most people have heard about the countless contributions they can make to help improve the environment, although many people are still hesitant to jump aboard. Perhaps they feel that their changes will not have a significant impact. Others may not be willing, as they perceive they are picking up the slack of others out there. Now, there are ways to calculate exactly how much of the deteriorating environment is your own doing.

Carbon footprinting is one way to estimate how much carbon dioxide (CO2) you and your household is putting into the environment. Everything from the car you drive to shopping habits play a factor on how we treat our surroundings.

Web sites such as www.carbonfoot print.com and www.carboncounter.org can help estimate an individual’s impact on the environment through their CO2 and greenhouse gas (GHG) production. A five-minute survey will help pinpoint your contribution, by measuring your energy consumption, means of transportation and shopping habits. So much goes into your footprint, including the where you live, due to the fact that there are different carbon footprints for electricity generation in each state and different average prices for electricity and gas.

The fact is that an average American contributes anywhere from 8 to 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, depending on which studies are referenced. The worldwide average, though, is a pretty consistent 4.5 metric tons per person.

Some solutions to making ourselves more environmentally aware and “cleaner” come through a process know as offsetting. By modifying our daily routine, habits and behaviors, we can begin to bring down the harmful carbon dioxide levels and work toward a longer-lasting planet.

CO2 gasses represent 83 percent of GHG, which contribute to global warming, and are among the easiest for individuals to decrease. And even avid recyclers and people who opt to bike and walk to work leave a carbon footprint. Offsetting our carbon footprint is precisely how individuals can make a difference in the world and achieve a more “climate-neutral” lifestyle.

Transportation makes up a hefty portion of the population’s carbon dioxide production. For every gallon of gasoline burned by cars and trucks, 24 pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. It takes only a few seconds of arithmetic to determine how much one’s car is burning with each return trip to the pumps.

Carpooling is an example of a personal offset. By carpooling just twice a week, an individual can reduce their carbon dioxide by 1,590 pounds. Public transportation is another alternative. Most families today own a number of automobiles. They should use the one that gets the worst gas mileage only when they can fill it with passengers or cargo.

When deciding on purchasing a new car or truck, look for the cleanest, most fuel-efficient gasoline, gasoline-electric hybrid, or alternative-fuel model in its class. Simply keeping a car tuned up so gasoline burns efficiently can make a notable difference. Even those traveling by air can help reduce their impact on the planet by purchasing carbon offsets from a number of organizations, such as carbonfund.org.

Purchased at a cost ranging from $5 to $15 per metric ton, these offsets go to pay for renewable energy, reforestation and work on energy efficiency. In many cases, you’re paying someone to plant a tree (or 10) to offset the pollution your air trip (or lifestyle, as you chose) produces.

Consciousness of your electricity usage is another significant way to better the environment. Every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity used in your home produces 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide. Turning off lights and minimizing wasted electricity is a simple way to turn around your CO2 output.

Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs are quite possibly the simplest way for individuals to make a difference. If every American family replaced one incandescent bulb with a CFL, total carbon dioxide emissions would drop by more than 90 billion pounds – the equivalent of removing 7.5 cars from our roads.

Replacing mechanical thermostats with digital ones allows you to preset specific times and temperatures for your heating and cooling system to kick in, minimizing energy consumption.

When shopping for appliances, you should look for products with the Energy Star label, as they use significantly less energy than their counterparts. Proper insulation in a home is yet another step to reduce electricity usage.

Many towns and cities, both state- and nationwide, have implemented recycling programs. Recycling reduces waste in landfills and decreases carbon dioxide and methane production. It also takes less energy to recycle a product than it does to manufacture new materials.

Buying local products and goods, including produce, minimizes transportation emissions.

Many businesses and companies are taking a healthier stand in their production, too. Some examples of ways large organizations can contribute are by increasing energy efficiency in buildings, factories or transportation, putting wasted energy to work by cogeneration, and capturing carbon dioxide in forests and agricultural soils.

Modifications to power plants or factories to use fuels that produce less GHG are other big steps towards a greener environment. Solar and wind energy, two forms that are catching on right here in Delaware, are examples of another way to offset carbon dioxide production.

For more information about carbon footprints, visit the above mentioned Web sites or go online to http://www.www.carbonsolutionsgroup.com.