Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support your activities. It is usually expressed in equivalent metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The average American is responsible for a whopping 50,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Some examples of your carbon footprint are:
- When your car’s engine burns fuel it creates CO2, the amount generated depends on its fuel consumption and the driving distance.
- Heating your house with oil, gas, or coal also generates CO2.
- Even if you heat (or cool) your house with electricity, CO2 is emitted during the generation of electrical power, most of which comes from coal in the US.
- When you buy food and goods, the production of the food and goods creates CO2; again, the amount depends on where the foods and goods came from and how they were created.
- Traveling on a plane generates CO2 in the same ways a car does.
- Weddings even create CO2 emissions! See this past post for more information about how to reduce your wedding’s environmental impact.
- Also consider all the indirect emissions you are in part responsible for: the roads we drive on, the schools our kids attend, the mall and grocery story, our shared military and city hall. It all adds up.
The bottom line is your carbon footprint is the sum of all carbon dioxide emissions that were generated by your activities in a given time period, typically one year.
The carbon footprint is a powerful tool in understanding your personal impact on global warming. Most people are surprised by the amount of CO2 their activities create. If you personally want to reduce your contribution to global warming, the calculation and monitoring of your carbon footprint is critical.
Carbonfund.org offers helpful calculators to estimate your carbon footprint. Individuals can follow this link for more information. http://www.carbonfund.org/individuals There is also a calculator for businesses here.
June has traditionally been the most popular month for weddings. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s National Vital Statistics Report for 2009, the latest data available on marriages, June is tied with July and closely followed by August, then September, and then October in order of most to least popular months for weddings. This means wedding season is just getting underway.
Travel, whether by air or car, generates large amounts of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, and for most weddings is the biggest contributor to its carbon footprint. Carbonfund.org offers a helpful and easy-to-use emissions calculator to determine the level of carbon dioxide your wedding events will emit into the air.
It’s simple and affordable to have a carbon neutral wedding. If you don’t know the exact numbers try a preset amount. For example, the 15-ton preset option may be right for you if you have more than 100 guests and many of them are flying. The 50-ton option can be used for larger weddings of over 200 guests, many of whom are flying, or destination weddings, which involve a lot of travel.
As you prepare for the beginning of a new life together, it is important to share this special time with friends and family. Your wedding is a celebration of the future, and you can make it a celebration for our planet's future as well!
Go to http://www.carbonfund.org/weddings to learn more about how you can offset the global warming emissions impact of your special day.
There’s quite a bit of buzz in the news about eco-friendly clothing, but you may be asking yourself why. Here are five reasons to go green with your clothing choices.
1) Keep toxic chemicals off your skin. Did you know that conventional cotton uses 25% of the world's pesticides? Those same pesticides can be harmful to you if they are absorbed through your skin. Seek out Certified Organic textiles that are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers, and are certified by an international governing body such as Control Union, Institute for Marketecology (IMO) or One-Cert.
2) Get informed about the labor and shipping practices employed to make the clothes you buy. All those pesticides already mentioned, well, they’re not good for you or the farmers that grow cotton using them. Also keep in mind where the clothes were manufactured, which you can often find on the label. Think about all the greenhouse gas emissions generated if that t-shirt you’re considering had to be shipped across the ocean.
3) Buy antibacterial and durable clothing – it’ll save you money and keep you healthier in the long-run. Bamboo fabric can have up to a 99.8% antibacterial rate. This reduces bacteria that thrive in clothing and cause unpleasant odors. So you’ll smell better and be less likely to have a skin infection or allergic reaction. Tencel is a completely biodegradable fabric that retains its shape after its first washing and is naturally wrinkle resistant. Its durability is maintained whether wet or dry.
4) The earth has finite resources; buy clothes that are sustainable. Polyester is mainly made out of oil, which is not a renewable resource, and to make matters worse it is not biodegradable either. Sustainable textiles include organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and soy fabrics.
5) Lastly, consider vintage clothing. Buying clothing that was chosen once before is environmentally friendly, and a great way to maximize your clothing budget. If you need an outfit for a special event, check out a consignment store first. Oftentimes, they’ll help you find what you’re looking for because they have the time and staff that know the available stock.
If you prefer to buy new, look for clothing that is created with reclaimed, recycled, and vintage materials.
Shopping for clothes has an often overlooked environmental impact. It pays for us to use our purchasing power to make ourselves chic and reduce our carbon footprint.
Learn more about eco-friendly fabrics here: http://www.the-eco-market.com/eco-friendly-fabrics.html.
Want to know what route your orange juice or laptop took from creation to the final product in your hand? Or what's the carbon footprint of your favorite brand of shoes? Check out http://sourcemap.com/. Sourcemap is the crowdsourced directory of product supply chains and carbon footprints.
In 2007, Leonardo Bonanni was looking for a tool that his product design students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could use to measure carbon footprints. The most widely accepted method, Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA), is costly and uses complicated software. So Leonardo and his colleagues built a simple carbon footprint calculator that measures every phase of a product’s life: raw material extraction, manufacturing, shipping, use and end-of-life. They referred to publicly available information on the impact of industrial processes and the sources of commodity materials. Students could visualize the life-cycle on a map – a sourcemap – showing where each part comes from and the carbon footprint of shipping it around the world. Another benefit is that if designers have real-time feedback on the impact of their design choices, then they can make more sustainable products available to the rest of us.
The "wisdom of crowds" is a popular Web 2.0 buzzword, popularized by James Surowiecki's book of the same name. Crowdsourcing is an application of the “wisdom of crowds” concept, where the knowledge and talents of a group of people are leveraged to create content and solve problems.
So put your wisdom to use; go take a look at http://sourcemap.com/ and register to contribute or stay informed about Sourcemap’s work.
Take a look at this interesting infographic of every U.S. state’s environmental strengths and weaknesses. http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/responsible-living/stories/infographic-united-states-of-the-environment
Every U.S. state is designated as first place in some environmental or public health category and 50th in another. Mother Nature Network (MNN) created the infographic to reveal how each state excels or lags in science, nature, public health, or social justice. The comments are worth reading as well because not everyone agrees with MNN’s classifications. The discussions can stimulate thinking about our carbon footprints.
Some of the undefined acronyms are defined here for ease of understanding.
- LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
- Superfund is the name given to the environmental program established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites.
- Dioxin is defined as a highly toxic compound produced as a byproduct in some manufacturing processes, notably herbicide production and paper bleaching. It is a serious and persistent environmental pollutant.
Go here to see the sources of MNN’s statistics and to learn more.
Did you know that American meat consumption has doubled since 1960? Or that the water needs of livestock are huge, far above those of vegetables or grains? An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide, far more than transportation. Annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow, but cutting down on meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
Eating less meat can also deliver a wealth of health benefits such as reducing your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Not to mention the financial benefits considering meat often costs more than grains, fruits, and vegetables. There is no need to give up meat altogether, simply reduce your consumption. On the days that you do eat meat, look for locally raised options to further lower your carbon footprint and help the local economy.
You can save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel by forgoing meat one day a week. Meatless Monday has a nice ring to it. Read more and get meat-free recipes at http://www.meatlessmonday.com/.