Renewable Energy & Sustainability News

Understanding Carbon Footprint


Carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly or indirectly support human activities. It’s usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). “Reducing your carbon footprint” is a big buzzword in environmental talks, but what exactly does this mean, and how can you calculate your carbon footprint?

Understanding CO2

CO2 emissions occur naturally because of things like decomposition, ocean release and respiration. These emissions are not used to calculate an individual’s carbon footprint, though they still add to the planet’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

87% of all human CO2 emissions result from the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.”

Before the Industrial Revolution, the planet was able to naturally offset CO2 emissions. Post-revolution, human emissions increased dramatically, throwing this relationship off balance. Natural emissions are still considerably higher than human-related ones, but the planet is unable to address the increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

Any activity involving fossil fuels emits CO2. Electricity/heat, transportation, and industry are the largest sectors that utilize fossil fuels. Your use of electricity and transportation carries a carbon footprint, but it’s important to realize the indirect impact of industries on your personal carbon footprint. By selecting conscious, renewable partners, you can decrease your carbon footprint. When given the choice between similar product A and similar product B, select the brand with sustainable initiatives.

Looking closer at your carbon footprint

Your individual carbon footprint is calculated by considering the following types of activities:

  • How many miles you drive in a year
  • What kind of car you drive
  • The heating source for your home
  • How much electricity you use in a year
  • Amount of non-repurposable waste

Here’s what 1 kg of CO2 looks like in your personal carbon footprint:

  • Traveling 6.5 to 7 miles on public transportation like train or bus
  • Driving your personal car 3.75 miles (It’s important to note, that’s with 39 mpg! The lower the gas mileage, the less efficient the car, the higher the carbon impact.)
  • Flying 1.375 miles (a cross-country flight from NYC to LAX is 2,448 miles)
  • Operating your computer for 32 hours (perspective: individuals ages 15-19 spend 52 minutes per day on a computer (this does not take into account devices like cellphones and tablets)
  • The production of 5 plastic bags (Americans use 100 million plastic bags per year!)
  • The production of ? of an American cheeseburger (That’s right! The production of the entire cheeseburger emits 3.1 kg of CO2!)

Did you know?

The energy used to produce, deliver and dispose of junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 2.8 millions cars. Reduce the junk mail you receive by contacting 41pounds.

Keep following Renergy for more information about ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. We’re all about looking at the current status quo and turning it on its head. Check out what we do.

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Cari Oberfield