Calculating (and reducing) our carbon footprint

by: Karenza Raelene M. Ibarrola

Katy is an average college student who lives in a household of three members. She drives herself to school, uses a laptop, connects to the Internet daily and shops for new clothes from time to time. All her activities cause her to leave an average carbon footprint of 21,000-22,000 pounds per year.

If you do more or less the same set of activities like Katy, chances are, you also leave as much carbon footprints.

Climate change is said to be a lasting change in statistical distributions of weather patterns over a period of time. It is an irreversible process, so instead of trying to undo climate change, let us focus on doing things that will slow or reduce the level of it effects. One thing we can do is to reduce the carbon footprints we leave behind.

Carbon footprints measure how much carbon dioxide (CO2) we produce while going through our normal activities in our daily lives. We can quickly compute for our carbon footprint by using the formula Alexandra Shimo-Barry suggests through her book, “The Environment Equation.” Here’s how:

A) Multiply your monthly electricity bill by 105

B) Multiply your monthly gas bill by 105; if you don’t use gas, add 0

C) Multiply your monthly oil bill by 113; if you don’t use oil, add 0

D) Multiply total annual mileage by 0.79

E) Multiply the number of flights (4 hours or less) by 1,100

F) Multiply the number of flights (4 hours or more) by 4,400

G) If you recycle newspaper add 0; if not, add 184

H) If you recycle aluminum and tin, add 0; if not, add 166

I) Adding A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H will result in your total carbon footprints, reflected in pounds per year. If your result is below 6,000, you are certainly doing a great job. A number between 6,000 and 15,999 is normal, while 16,000 and 21,999 is average. Any number above 22,000 is not a great result.

Everyone contributes to the green house emissions that cause climate change. No one is an exception. Even so, there are hundreds of things an individual can do to reduce carbon emissions and shrink down their carbon footprints. Not all of these methods will cause us much pain or ask us to sacrifice too much. As Shimo-Barry said, “There’s still inertia when it comes to making small changes.”

We can start in our own homes. We can increase our home’s energy efficiency, and we can drive less. Riding on bicycles instead of driving a car to our school or work can do a big contribution. It will also give a big impact to your health.

We must also observe the food we eat — if we eat and support locally grown food, we do not only support our local farmers and food producers but we also eat well without funding the emissions used to import food from other countries and regions.

Buying second-hand products is another excellent choice. Collecting vintage accessories and clothing is not just a new trend but it will also reduce your carbon footprint by expelling the energy it takes to produce something new.

Participating or donating on carbon offsets will also do a big contribution. Carbon offsets are activities handled by organizations to reduce greenhouse gas. They are just like trades. You give money to the organizers in exchange for funding projects. Even not participating directly in the project, paying on carbon offsets can do various things like restore forests, update power plants, and increase energy efficiency of buildings and transportations.

There are lots of ways to contribute to lessen green house emission. It’s up to you what step will you take. Living grandly can do the earth a big favor and benefit, but we must know our limitations.

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