Tips for Minimizing Your Carbon Footprint

How big is your carbon footprint?
How big is your carbon footprint?

Environmental awareness is at an all-time high. We've moved beyond the message that littering is bad -- today we have Web sites, television programs, documentaries and books examining our impact upon the environment. As our knowledge increases, so too does our desire to do something about the situation. What can you do to help reduce any negative impact on the environment?

One approach is to reduce your carbon footprint. But what does that mean? Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide you generate during your daily activities. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. As we produce more carbon dioxide, we increase its concentration in our atmosphere. Eventually, this gas helps trap heat around the Earth, contributing to global warming.

The average U.S. citizen produces several tons of carbon dioxide each year. The average carbon footprint for an American is between 10 and 30 tons of carbon dioxide per year, depending upon how you measure it. While environmentalists disagree on the best way to calculate carbon emissions, there are several online calculators that help the average user evaluate his or her own impact.

That's the first step to minimizing your carbon footprint -- determining how much carbon dioxide you produce. There are many different carbon footprint calculators on the Web. You may want to try several of them to see if you get similar results. Some will only ask for major sources of carbon dioxide production, such as the amount of electricity you use or how many flights you take a year. Others get more granular.

You can find carbon footprint calculators for both individuals and companies. Using a carbon footprint calculator is also a good way to see what sort of activities contribute the most to carbon dioxide production.

Reducing your carbon footprint will require sacrifices. It may also require you to invest in alternative ways to generate electricity or travel.