A New Year’s Resolution to ‘Go Green’: Assessing Your Carbon Footprint
With this year almost done, a party conversation this past weekend turned towards 2009. Everyone seems to have a goal or a New Year’s resolution in mind. They ranged from the typical (loose weight) to the absurd (not eat jelly beans). One person in the group said their goal was to ‘go green’, but wasn’t really sure where to start. This (obviously) got me thinking. The first step for any change is assessment. When I was teaching, there was always some sort of a pre-test before a new unit. When you decide to loose weight, the first step is to get on a scale to see from what point you are starting. The best way anyone can get an overall impression of their overall ‘green-ness’ is by taking a look at ones carbon footprint. C’mon – all the kids are doing it!
There are a wide variety of sites that provide this sort of quiz. Depending on the data used, the assumptions of the quiz, and the detail of the information that one is expected to input, results will vary. However, I don’t recommend using these quizzes as an exact measure of your carbon output, but rather as an overall ‘check-up’ of your lifestyle. If you are looking to live a greener life, these quizzes can provide you with a good place to start.
When I looked at a wide variety of the quizzes online I tried to find ones that were broad in scope (not just a 3 question quiz about your driving habits) and allowed a higher degree of information input. (Do you drive an SUV or a hybrid?) Here is a selection of some of the quizzes I found.
These sites give you your footprint in tons of CO2 emitted:
- CarbonFootprint.com. This calculator allows you to put in your state information. This site is also really precise with air travel. Food and purchasing habits are not as precise. Your final footprint is compared to both the average footprint for the country as well as the target footprint for the world. The quiz is from a private company that has also created a quiz for businesses.
- The Nature Conservancy. This calculator takes into account some things like tire maintenance and composting. However, my footprint came out unusually high because of the lack of specificity in the ‘home energy’ area.
These sites give you your footprint in reference to how many hectares (or Earths) you are using.
- FootprintNetwork.org. I really like this quiz. There is a fast option that gives you an overview of your footprint as well as an option that goes into more detail if you have time. It covers all the major areas quite well. The final breakdown shows how many earths needed to supply your lifestyle, the tons of CO2 emitted, as well as a breakdown of what type of activity creates the most CO2.
- EarthLab.com. This site allows you to put in your zip code and is selectively specific. The make and model of your car can be imputed to use information from the manufacturer. For energy usage, you can enter the amount that you spend each month on a variety of fuel sources. Answers are provided in tons of CO2 as well as an Earth Conservation Plan score which you can track over time.
- Redefining Progress. I really like this quiz as well. The results are only given in hectares, which are broken down by biome type. There are also tips as you take the quiz to help you lower your energy consumption. Some bigger assumptions are made by the quiz, however, so the results came back a little skewed compared to the other quizzes I took.
- EatLowCarbon.org. If you are interested in the specific impact your diet has on your carbon footprint, this is the site for you. Each type of food is given a point value that relates to carbon output.
- TheGreenOffice.com. This site as well as CarbonFootprint.com allow you to take a quiz for your office.
See how your country stacks up. I love this website that compares the emissions of the countries of the world in a very visual way. It also shows birth and death rates for different countries. I am always amazed at how countries of similar lifestyle have such fewer emissions.
Begin to take actions to reduce your footprint. A good place to start is with the five R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, rot, and rebuy. Other sites provide you with a plethora of other suggestions. For example, StopGlobalWarming.org suggests many changes and then shows how those changes affect your carbon output while Greener-Good.com provides daily challenges.
How have you lowered your footprint? Do you have a favorite site I missed? I’d love to hear about it!