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Carbon Footprint Facts: What You Need to Know



But what exactly is a carbon footprint? And how is it linked to the climate crisis? Here are some answers.

What is a carbon footprint?

The carbon footprint is basically the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that has produced everything – a person, an organization, an event or a product. Greenhouse gases are gases in the atmosphere that produce the "greenhouse effect" and contribute to global warming and climate change.

So your carbon footprint is a way of measuring the environmental impact your lifestyle has. For example, if you drive to work every day, your carbon footprint may be greater than someone relying on public transportation because you are emitting more greenhouse gases.

How is it calculated?

It works by summing up the emissions from all your activities ̵

1; everything from what you eat to what setting you wash your clothes.

Everything is measured in CO2e, which means carbon dioxide equivalent and is the standard unit for measuring carbon footprints. It essentially accepts any amount or type of greenhouse gas and expresses it in the amount of CO2 that would have an equivalent impact on global warming. It allows us to easily compare impacts across gases.

How to find out what your carbon footprint is?

There are a number of online calculators that can help you understand your carbon footprint, including one from The Nature Conservancy and another from the US Environmental Protection Agency. [19659004] Once you know what your carbon footprint is and what part of your lifestyle is most conducive to it, you can find ways to reduce your impact.

The carbon footprint figures that may surprise you

  • Meat products have larger carbon footprints on calories than cereals or vegetables. This is because animals like cattle, sheep and goats produce a lot of methane. In 2016, they produced 170 million metric tons in methane CO2e, according to a carbon footprint data sheet compiled by the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems. And yes, everything that ends up in the atmosphere.
  • Meat is not the only problem, the center says. Dairy products like cheese and yogurt contribute almost 19% of greenhouse gas emissions – even worse than poultry, seafood and eggs, which contribute only 14% of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, vegetables contribute only 4.9%.
  • The Center finds that, on average, an American household emits 8.1 metric tons of CO2e each year through food consumption alone. Yes, it's TONS. Food production accounts for 83% of emissions and transport for 11%.
  • And the fact sheet states that if you follow the speed limit, not only will you not get a ticket, but you will also improve your fuel economy and, in addition, shrink your carbon footprint through greater fuel efficiency. You will be better – literally. The Center found that when you drive 50 mph or more, every 5 mph increase equals a payment of between 20 and 40 cents more per gallon.
  • Speaking of Travel: Transportation is one of the largest CO2 producers, behind only electricity production according to the NuEnergy environmental group.
  • Waste reduction, surprise surprise, actually matters. For every 10% waste reduction, you can avoid 1200 kilograms of CO2e, according to the Center for Sustainable Systems. And it's not just recycling, it's also just by buying less-packaged products and giving up plastic bags at the store.
  • NuEnergy says that fossil fuels and coal are the source of 67% of the electricity generated. If you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint, think about it the next time you leave the lights on.
  • Corperations, surprisingly, have the largest carbon footprints of all. Only 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of global emissions, according to a 2017 report by the nonprofit CDP in collaboration with the Institute for Climate Reporting.

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