What is a Carbon Footprint?
Carbon footprint is the term used to describe the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) that are emitted into the atmosphere annually by an entity, which could be an individual or organization, or a household, building, or company. If the entity were an individual, than their carbon footprint would constitute of all of the greenhouse gas emissions they directly or indirectly produce on a daily basis as a part of their lifestyle choices. An individual can produce greenhouse gas emissions directly by burning oil or gas for heating their home or indirectly by using electricity generated from fossil fuel burning. An individual with a small carbon footprint would engage in activities or lifestyle choices that limit the amount of greenhouse gases they emit annually. On the other hand, an individual with a larger carbon footprint would engage in activities or lifestyle choices where they are not as conscious of the amount of greenhouse gases they emit annually.
* An individual's typical carbon footprint in the developed world.
An entity's carbon footprint is comprised of both a primary footprint and a secondary footprint. The carbon footprint pie graph depicts an individual's primary footprint (shown in green) and their secondary footprint (shown in yellow).
- An entity's primary footprint is the measure of their direct carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, including their domestic energy consumption and mode of transportation decisions (e.g. car or bus).
- An entity's secondary footprint is the measure of their indirect carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the entire lifecycle of products they use, meaning emissions associated with products' manufacturing processes and their eventual breakdown. In essence, the more an entity purchases, the more greenhouse gas emissions will result from their actions.
An entity's carbon footprint is measured in tonnes (kg) of carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon Dioxide is calculated by multiplying the emissions of each of the six greenhouse gases by its 100 year global warming potential (GWP). Tallahassee's personal greenhouse gas emissions calculator can help estimate your household's annual emissions for the Tallahassee- Leon County area. Use the calculator to find out your carbon footprint and individual contribution specific to our community and the environment.
Why Should I Reduce My Carbon Footprint?
- Negative effect on the environment. From 1990 to 2008, greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities increased by 14 percent in the United States. From 1990 to 2005, emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities increased by 26 percent worldwide. Both domestically and internationally, CO2 accounts for most greenhouse gas emissions and its significant increase. This significant increase of CO2 has contributed to the rise of global temperatures, heat waves, droughts, air pollution, precipitation, and tropical storms.
- Increasing number of health concerns. Over the past thirty years, more than 6,000 deaths across the United States were caused by heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke. Every year, vehicle emissions, which contain CO2 and nitrogen oxide (NO), increasingly contribute to human illnesses caused by air pollutants. In addition, poor air quality has been linked to asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic bronchitis.
How Can I Reduce My Carbon Footprint?
You can reduce your carbon footprint by following the suggestions listed below.
- Seal and insulate your home. Forced air ducts that run through unconditioned spaces are areas that usually waste the most energy. The largest energy leaks are typically found in the attic and basement. By sealing air leaks and adding more insulation to your home you can improve your home's efficiency by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, eliminating drafts, and saving energy that would otherwise be wasted. A free energy audit can help you find air leaks, areas with poor insulation, and evaluate energy efficiency of your home.
- Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Reducing waste and over packaging consumption, reusing multipurpose items, and recycling used items all help conserve energy. Reducing, reusing, and recycling also lessens the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases that result from resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal.
- Use alternative fuels. Use fuels like biodiesel, E85, or B5 when powering your vehicle or motor equipment. E85 is a fuel blend containing 85 percent ethanol that can be used in alternative fuel vehicles called Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). FFVs can either be fueled with E85 or gasoline. Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from agricultural resources such as vegetable oils or corn. B5 is a biodiesel fuel blend containing 5 percent biodiesel. When purchasing a vehicle look for vehicles that use alternative fuels to help reduce your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. When buying equipment, such as a lawnmower, purchase a push mower, rather than an electric or gas mower. By doing so, you will not consume any fossil fuels and will not emit any greenhouse gases.
- Use water efficiently. Decreasing the amount of water you use, especially hot water, will help lower your greenhouse gas emissions output. When watering landscape, grass, and outdoor plants do it during the coolest part of the day and only when needed. When washing your hands, shaving, or brushing teeth turn off the water to conserve energy.
- Use your vehicle less. Find other ways to travel besides using your own vehicle. Use mass transportation, carpool, vanpool, bike, or walk to help reduce your individual carbon footprint. If you leave your car at home for just two days a week you will reduce the overall amount of greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year. When traveling in your own vehicle, combine activities and errands to avoid making a lot of small trips. When making multiple stops, go to your farthest destination first to save money and for better fuel economy.
How Can I Make a Difference?
Make proactive decisions to reduce your individual carbon output and follow the suggestions listed above. Take advantage of the City of Tallahassee's StarMetro and Energy Services green programs to help reduce your carbon footprint. Make a difference by encouraging others to make positive environmentally conscious lifestyle choices.
If you would like to help our department make a difference in the community and the environment or if you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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