6 Personal Carbon Footprint Calculators (and How to Use Them Efficiently)

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By Kayla Matthews


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You’ve undoubtedly heard environmental experts stress how important it is for people to make lifestyle changes that reduce their carbon footprints. But, some individuals may not feel compelled to do that unless they know how much progress they need to make. Personal carbon footprint calculators can help by determining some of the greenhouse gases (GHG) you contribute through the way you live.

Scientists know fossil fuels are significant contributors to GHG emissions due to how they release CO2. Statistics published in 2017 asserted that over the past 263 years, the CO2 contributions from industrialized humans totaled 1480 billion tons.

But, how much does a person contribute? Carbon dioxide is the main kind of greenhouse gas associated with human activities. And, data from 2016 indicates that the average amount of carbon dioxide per person in the United States was 16 metric tons, with that amount projected to decrease through 2050.

Now, it’s time to examine six personal carbon footprint calculators and learn how to use them.

Conservation International’s Carbon Footprint Calculator

Have you ever wondered about how much a trip you’re taking impacts your carbon footprint? This calculator can tell you, in addition to estimating the carbon footprint for your overall lifestyle, that of your household’s or the carbon emissions associated with an event. Choose the kind of calculation you want from the drop-down menu, then enter your zip code.

You’ll then proceed to the main part of the calculator, which has three sections, and numerous questions within each one. Don’t worry, though, because each segment is a reasonable length and not prohibitively time-consuming. When you get done, the results give your estimated annual emissions compared to the average American home.

Bear in mind, though, that there’s a button that prompts you to “offset your footprint now,” but it merely goes to a donation page.

This calculator would be more practical if it helped users take the next steps. Luckily, there’s nothing to suggest the information it gives while calculating a footprint might be inaccurate. And, since the organization deals solely with Earth conservation, major errors would cause embarrassments.

The Nature Conservancy’s Carbon Footprint Calculator

This option has a feature many other carbon footprint calculators don’t have because, as you type information into the fields to indicate things about your life, it adjusts to show if your carbon footprint is better than average. When it is, you’ll see a percentage. Also, the calculator breaks down your carbon footprint by types, such as a household footprint or travel footprint.

That’s useful because it highlights problem areas and lets you know how to make the most noticeable improvements. Since the calculator offers changing figures based on what you input, you can trust that it probably has a high level of accuracy.

The EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator

This calculator from the Environmental Protection Agency has you begin by entering the number of people in your household, plus your zip code. Then, the calculator takes you through three segments: home energy, transportation and waste. You’ll have to get specific with the data, such as by inputting the usual amounts of your electricity bills, your car’s gas mileage and how many miles you drive per year.

One helpful thing about this calculator is that it has “Reduce Your Emissions” sections, and you can find out how much certain activities — like performing regular automobile maintenance — could cut down on emissions. If you want to help the planet in another way by tackling pollution, consider recycling your car’s motor oil, filters and other parts, like batteries, if there are places that accept those things in your area.

After going through all the parts of the calculator, you’ll see how your family’s carbon footprint compares to the U.S. average based on where you live.

Plus, the calculator tells you how much of a difference you could make by undertaking the potential actions to cut emissions. Since this calculator is so thorough, it’s likely very accurate compared to some others.

Carbon Calculator

Although this carbon footprint calculator isn’t as visually pleasing as the one above, it works in almost the same way. One advantage though is that it lets you estimate your secondary carbon footprint, calculated based on how much you spend on different categories of products each year, and the previous calculator didn’t offer that.

Plus, when you get your results, they’re compared to other people in your country as well as the global average, which is useful for figuring out how you stack up.

One thing to note is that this calculator comes from a company that helps businesses offset their carbon footprints. Also, the website doesn’t say where the source material came from, which could cause some people to raise their eyebrows.

The myclimate Footprint Calculator

This calculator, from a Swiss organization called the Climate Protection Partnership, is simpler than some of the other carbon footprint calculators mentioned here so far. It only asks seven questions, so it’s ideal if you have a couple of minutes to devote to initially learning about your carbon footprint. There are three possible answers per question, and many of the options are broad.

So, keep in mind that this one is probably not as accurate as others, but it’s a good starting point. This calculator also breaks down your total emissions per category, showing you how your impact adds up.

The Global Footprint Network’s Footprint Calculator

This option allows people to give answers by either using a slider bar to show their estimated position on the spectrum or adding more details by getting more precise. For example, the first question asks how often you eat animal products.

But, then, you can say how many times you eat beef or pork, etc. Since scientists know some animals have a more significant impact on the environment than others, those details matter.

As you work with the slider bar, notice the descriptions clarifying what some positions mean. Referring back to the question about consuming animal products, it tells you that selecting “occasionally” confirms you really like vegetables and eat eggs, meat and dairy from time to time.

A frustrating thing about this calculator is that it gives no signs of how far along you are in completing the calculating process. Also, you may not like that this calculator doesn’t provide a carbon footprint like the others, but shows how many Earths would be needed if every human on the planet lived like you do.

It also gives your Earth Overshoot Day, which happened on August 1, 2018. That’s the date when humanity has supposedly used up the planet’s resources for the year, making it switch into “overshoot mode.” So, if your overshoot day is before the first of August, you’re doing better than most people.

But, this measurement is vague, calling its accuracy into question.

Start Using These Carbon Footprint Calculators Today

Knowing how your lifestyle affects the planet is crucial for taking positive action, and these six calculators can help you do that.

Kayla Matthews has been writing about healthy living for several years and is proud to be a featured writer on a number of inspiring health sites, including Mother Earth News. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on ProductivityTheory.com.

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Published on Dec 31, 2018