This Is What Your Carbon Footprint Means

By Holly Riddle

Your carbon footprint means the total sum of your carbon emissions — all the greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere in order to fuel your lifestyle. Your footprint greatly impacts climate change and global warming. Even the smallest of actions to alter your impact can have a lasting affect on our planet’s future. 

While you might assume that your carbon footprint is limited to the greenhouse gases emitted by actions such as driving or taking a flight, it actually goes much deeper.

recycling reduces carbon footprint
Recycling bins on the beach of San Lorenzo, in Northern Spain | JAVIER HUEDO

How your carbon footprint is created

Think about your everyday choices. In fact, take a look around the room you’re in right now. Is the light on? That’s part of your carbon footprint. Do you have waste in the trash can? Part of your carbon footprint.

Frequent travelers in particular are often assumed to have a higher footprint due to air travel, something that can be heavily critiqued given the impact on climate change. 

However, you don’t have to give up your love of travel in order to save the planet. All you need to do is make smart, conscious decisions in order to reduce your contribution to the problem.

What to do about it

Once you’re more aware of what your current footprint is, you can begin to make lifestyle choices to lessen your impact, as well as offset your footprint. It starts with calculating your carbon footprint. The EPA provides a simple, easy-to-use calculator

planting trees reduces carbon footprint
Planting trees is one of the most common ways to offset your carbon footprint | PHOTOMIX LTD.

Many global organizations have offsetting programs. They allow you to pay a fee based on your footprint. That fee then goes to initiatives like tree planting or another project that reduces atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Additionally, making your offsetting even easier, some airlines have begun allowing travelers to pay an offset fee when booking a flight.

Check out one of the many offsetting options available. Carbonfund, which partners with popular travel brands such as JetBlue and Amtrak.