What is My Carbon Footprint and What Do I Do About It?

We often hear pleas to reduce our carbon footprint, but what does that mean and how can you do it? According to Wikipedia, a carbon footprint is defined as the total emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, or product.

As we consume food, fuel, manufactured goods, and materials, and utilize roads, buildings, transportation, and other services, there are associated costs and environmental impacts. Every item we buy or consume has a carbon footprint. For example, while we love Amazon and the convenience it offers, there are negative environmental consequences related to overseas shipping in container ships, fuel usage by delivery trucks, and packaging materials used to ship our items safely.

While we could theoretically opt-out of purchasing online, there is also an associated carbon footprint for driving to the store to buy those same items, including your vehicular trip and the shipping required to stock items in your local grocery story or department store. There is no clear-cut “better” or “worse” to online shopping over real-world shopping. The point is to think about the environmental impacts of a supply chain and your involvement in it.

Fortunately, there are ways that we can offset our carbon footprint. Some organizations embark on a carbon offset program, in which they proactively reduce emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases to compensate for an emission made elsewhere. For example, an organization may purchase land to make sure it is never developed or plant trees to equivalently pull CO2 from the air. Please see the websites below to learn more about ways to offset your carbon footprint:

You can also start really simply: instead of buying a case of bottled water that is transported using gasoline or diesel and resides in plastic, consider turning on the tap and filling up a reusable water bottle instead.  In my family, we actually buy each other carbon offsets as gifts for the holidays as a way to honor the Earth we live on, to better acknowledge the privilege we have in buying items from all over the world, and to recognize the responsibility we have to care for the only planet we will ever have. Even those simple steps, multiplied by more proactive people, can reduce our collective carbon footprint tremendously.

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