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Secrets to Calculating Your Carbon Footprint (What They Don’t Tell You)

The term “Carbon Footprint” is becoming more common these days. Basically it refers to recognizing that actions you take produce greenhouse gases, or carbon dioxide ’emissions’ that impact the environment.

For example, if you drive X miles to work each day, you will put Y tons of carbon emissions into the air from your driving. You can calculate an estimate of your carbon footprint on various websites such as CarbonFootprint.com

So, how do you reduce your carbon footprint? If you’re heavy on your car emissions, a potential solution would be reducing the amount of times you drive – carpool with a colleague or take public transportation to work. Run errands with a friend and walk whenever you can. If you’re booking a flight, you can purchase offset credits from websites – For approximately $5-10 per every 500 miles, you can offset your flight by putting money towards cleaner energy investments.

What you often don’t hear about are the tricky pitfalls of calculating your Carbon Footprint. For example, you want to purchase a bottle of wine. You go to the liquor store and there’s a nice bottle of Merlot from Napa Valley and a nice bottle from France’s Bordeaux. Since I’m on the East coast, it would seem logical that I’d want to purchase something from the US – it’s a lot closer than France. But contrary to first instinct, the French wine would be a wiser decision. The wine from California likely traveled by land – that means heavy trucks with heavy emissions, versus the wine from France which likely came across the Atlantic Ocean with lesser emissions.

Another example of a tricky area involves cars. For example, hybrids are a great transition to wean off of our gas supply. However, the hybrid car’s gas battery’s environmental impact has been questioned. Is disposing this battery worse for the environment than all the extra emissions of non-hybrid cars? The debate isn’t settled, but this issue poses a challenge to companies trying to become greener.

A variety of situations can be confusing when calculating your carbon footprint. However, don’t get discouraged. These discrepancies will hopefully weaken over time as the lines become less blurry. In the meantime, make an impact where you can.

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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

1 thought on “Secrets to Calculating Your Carbon Footprint (What They Don’t Tell You)

  1. This is a great article and too many people take a myopic view when looking at how they live. Increased awareness of the totality of our impact will go along way at making a more substantive change in our society than simply automotive carbon emissions.

    Good stuff julebay!

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