A term that gets thrown around a lot in the green arena is carbon footprint.  What in the world does this mean and how can you determine your own?  Well friends, a carbon footprint is a calculation that determines how your own actions and lifestyle impacts the planet.  It is usually measured in metric tons and can be easily calculated from these sites I will share with you in a minute.  But first…. what gives?

Well, to be honest with you, everything gives!  We often forget that our daily decisions have tremendous impacts on the natural system.  We are all faceless, anonymous as we collectively pollute the planet.  No one is taking accountability… In one day we pump 85 million barrels of petroleum from the ground, and then burn it up.  And on the same day we spew the waste of 27 billion pounds of coal into the atmosphere.  Our global footprint is on an exponential tear.  People are using 100 to 1,000 times more resources and energy than our ancestors did 7,000 years ago.  Let’s also consider that the planet’s population today is 1,000 times greater than it was then as well.  In other words, we have the same impact in five minutes that our ancestors had in a year!  Not surprisingly, people don’t know that they count in such a destabilized world, that they have a sense of value.  The first step in understanding this value is to take a couple minutes to calculate your own carbon footprint….

One of the best carbon footprint calculators is the one powered by Earthlab, an online ‘climate crisis community’.  The calculator asks you to consider factors like how you commute and travel, where you live, and how you work… Scores range from 150 to 900, lower being better.  I rocked out a 214… pretty decent, but definitely some room for improvement.  Take 3 minutes right now and plug in your info, and if you’re in a sharing mood, post your score and some fresh insight on the comment tab below.

Another great calculator is from the Environmental Defense Fund’s Fight Global Warming page… after plugging in your numbers there, you will find out how many metric tons of carbon you personally contribute a year.

The most thorough carbon calculator I’ve come across yet is from Zero Footprint Offsets.

A completely different take on our personal impact can be found at Consumer Consequences… I did a posting on this a while back that can be found HERE.  Instead of carbon as its tally, this ‘game’  will show you how many ‘Earths’ of natural resources it would take to sustain all 6.6 billion humans… if everyone lived like you.  My score here is 2.9… that is, it would take almost 3 planets to supply the resources needed if everyone lived like me…. ouch! considering I do virtually everything I can to be ‘green’.

So, how did you do on all these tests?  Once you have your scores, the next step is to lower them!  One great tip to drop some digits is to look into carbon offsets.  I fly a lot more than I would like to, but have offset all my flights with TerraPass, a company that funds clean energy and other carbon reducing projects.  Obviously this isn’t quite the same as not flying at all, but carbon offsetting is a great way to maintain accountability for your actions.

Again, feel free to post any or all scores in the comments section below… Good luck!


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.