Green Transportation

Moving toward a transportation system that fuels healthy people and a healthy planet.

Add to My MSN

Carbon Counting Cheat Sheet

6/27/2008 1:29:00 PM

Tags: climate change, global warming, carbon, energy, electricity, coal, gas, natural gas

If you're concerned about climate change, and want to reduce carbon emissions, you might be surprised how easy it is to figure out how much carbon dioxide is produced by, say, driving to work. Sure, there are a lot of carbon calculators out there where you can plug in all the numbers on how much you drive, and how much electricity you use. But it's also surprisingly easy to estimate yourself.

Here’s how you can do it. If you go to the EPA carbon calculator it gives you recognizable units, like gallons and pounds. (And slightly more confusing units like carbon dioxide equivalent.  Essentially, they’re adding the other greenhouse gases into the number for carbon dioxide. But there’s more about that on the calculator page.)

It’s very simple to use, so here are results I got from spending a few minutes with the EPA calculator and playing with the numbers.

* Every gallon of gas burned produces about 22 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent. (So for simplicity, let's round down to 20.)
* Every therm of natural gas burned produces about 11 pounds. (I think it’s fair to round down to 10.)
* Every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity produces about 1.7 pounds.
(If rounding up to 2 seems too painful, consider where your electricity comes from. If it comes from coal, yep, round up to 2. For natural gas, you can figure 1 pound. There are some statistics that help justify those numbers here.)

So when you fill up your gas tank, you have a number in gallons. Take it times 20 and you're awfully close to knowing how much carbon dioxide burning that tank of gas will produce. Same thing goes for your electric bill. Take a look at the number of kilowatt hours. Double it (in most cases) and you’re looking at pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

Want to think more about pounds of carbon emissions and how to lose them? Here are a few related articles:

Eight Projects for Instant Energy Savings, Mother Earth News 

On Carbon Calculators, Grist 

What Makes a Pound of Carbon Dioxide, The Green Guide 

Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on .

Related Content

It's A Small, Small World Even Out Here in the Woods

Cam celebrates his daughter's engagement but considers the impact of flying across the world for the...

It's Not the Bugs in Your Food That You Need to Worry About

Cam thinks people worry about the small things (bugs), when they should be more concerned about the ...

Calculating Your Carbon Footprint

Calculate your personal carbon footprint and compare your total to both the average per capita footp...

Solar Activity, Greenhouse Gas Levels and Climate Change on Our Earth

An introduction to Richard Hilderbrand’s new blog discussing climate change, plus the first installm...

Content Tools

Post a comment below.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.