The average American generates the equivalent of 17 metric tons of carbon a year, as compared to 6.7 metric tons for the average Chinese citizen, 8.9 for the average German and 2.2 for the average Brazilian, according to the World Bank Group. The biggest contributor is electricity production, accounting for 31 percent of greenhouse gases, followed by transportation (27 percent), industrial burning of fossil fuels and other industrial chemical reactions (21 percent), commercial and residential uses such as heating (12 percent) and agricultural sources such as livestock (9 percent), reports the EPA. While much of this is generated by government and business use, you can take a number of proactive measures to reduce your own carbon footprint and its contribution to the total output of greenhouse gases.
- Measure Your Carbon Footprint
A good place to start on making an objective impact on your carbon consumption is by getting some hard numbers on your individual greenhouse gas output.
- Your home use of electricity and fuel
- Your use of private and public transportation
- Your secondary factors such as your food buying and recycling habits all contribute to your total output
Carbon Footprint’s website provides an online calculator you can use to estimate and adjust your output in each of these categories. You also can track your carbon output by using the Carbon Footprint app on your iPhone 6s Plus or the Worldbeing wrist app.
- Reduce Your Home Electrical Use
Since electricity is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas production, cutting your home electrical usage is one of the steps you can take toward reducing your carbon output. A U.S. Energy Information breakdown shows that the largest percentage of home electricity use is consumed by space cooling devices, such as air conditioners, accounting for 13 percent of total consumer usage. These are followed by lighting (11 percent), water heating (9 percent), space heating (9 percent), refrigeration (7 percent) and TV equipment (7 percent). The EPA recommends cutting these numbers down by replacing old appliances with more recent models that use eco-efficient technology certified by Energy Star as well as using energy-efficient light bulbs and putting computers and monitors in sleep mode when not in use.
- Cut Your Heating Consumption
The next way to decrease your carbon output is to increase your heating efficiency. Here the EPA again recommends installing Energy Star-certified technology. It also advises properly using a programmable thermostat, changing air filters regularly, having your heating and cooling equipment maintained by a licensed contractor, and sealing and insulating your home. Smarthome recommends using home automation technology such as Insteon to manage your thermostat, appliances and lights with a central preprogrammed button. This way you can adjust everything when you leave your home or set to activate automatically when you go to bed.
- Use Energy-Efficient Transportation
Outside the home, your choice of transportation has the greatest impact on your carbon footprint. Walking, biking and using public transportation are the most energy-efficient methods of traveling. If you need your own car, choose one with eco-efficient technology to cut your carbon footprint. A hybrid car has a lower overall carbon output than an all-electric or plug-in electric model, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center. Hybrids produce 51 pounds of CO2 equivalent per 100 miles, compared to 54 for all-electric models, 61 for plug-in hybrids and 99 for regular vehicles. Keeping your vehicle maintained, properly inflating your tires and flying less are other steps you can take to reduce the carbon generated when you’re out and about.
Every step we take to reduce our carbon footprint whether you can buy a hybrid car or just saving as much electricity and heat as you can all have an impact on our future and saving the planet. What steps have you taken in your life to lower your carbon footprint?