A New Year’s Resolution to ‘Go Green’: Assessing Your Carbon Footprint

December 29, 2008 at 1:07 pm 7 comments

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.  

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Random Quizzes

  1. 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.  
  2. TheGreenOffice.com.  This site as well as CarbonFootprint.com allow you to take a quiz for your office.

Now What?

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!

Picture Credit: http://mrhartansscienceclass.wordpress.com/

Entry filed under: Compost, Energy, Facts & Figures, Little Action, Recycling, Reduce & Reuse, Sustainability. Tags: .

DIY Shipping Envelope 40 Tons Isn’t THAT Much Trash for 1 Night…

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tigerna  |  December 29, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    I must say, this is a great “new year” post for folks. It gives so many options for understanding our impact on the environment and the world in general, even a few I didn’t know about before….

    Sharing how we lower our footprint(s) with others is one of the simplest and easiest ways to help everyone improve, I think. So, since you asked, here is what I am doing so far:
    *I live in town, and am slowly increasing my walking/biking trips for visits/commute/groceries as my fitness improves.
    *began converting my front/back yards to food/health producing landscaping, unsing multicropping to maximize plant health. I also garden fully organically, with no artificial fetilizers or pesticides.
    *continuing to increase composting waste, partly by buying products that will be compostable at the end of their useable life (eg wicker vs. plastic laundry basket,)
    *preparing meals from scratch and using locally grown, self-grown, in season ingredients as much as possible.
    *drying laundry on the line, when weather allows.
    *cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, and natural soaps.

    Hmmm…I am sure there are more (many more if we are including weatherizing, minimizing consumerism, etc), but that is what I can think of right now.

    Love to see what others share, for further ideas 🙂

  • 2. Mat Nayie  |  December 30, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Lithium battery is the best choice today..hope another technology will develop soon
    Hybrid Car Technology

  • 3. pandemicgreen  |  January 1, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Fab new year’s post! I think its crucial for people to remember the oft forgotten R–Rebuy. The best way to limit waste is to stop creating it!! Make someone else’s waste your good fortune. And most importantly, don’t let the idea of “going green” taunt you into ignoring it like those weight-loss resolutions of yore, haha. It’s a lifestyle choice, yes, but it’s easier than we like to think. A great way to start? Limit your trash. Nothing to it! Use re-usable tupperware, water bottles, utensils, bags, etc. Start there and you will begin making a difference almost instantly.

  • 4. Recycle Raccoon  |  January 7, 2009 at 8:42 am

    I totally agree. When I started using reusables I was shocked at how quickly and how dramatic the difference was. It is also so much easier, I never run out of baggies when making lunch or paper towels in the middle of cleaning.

  • 5. Recycle Raccoon  |  January 7, 2009 at 8:49 am

    What a great list! I have been cleaning with vinegar and baking soda for almost a year now and prefer it bar none to commercial cleaners. One site I used a lot for great ‘recipes’ is http://www.care2.com/greenliving/ Also, if you are in Waukesha County, contact me at 896-8300 and I (sans mascot costume 🙂 ) am available for a free Green Cleaning Party presentation where you and your friends learn about and make your own green cleaning supplies. For more information on this presentation visit our website.

  • 6. Earth Hour 2009 « Recycle Raccoon’s Easy Going Green  |  March 25, 2009 at 10:07 am

    […] March 25, 2009 by Recycle Raccoon This Saturday millions will participate in Earth Hour.  This event is to show solidarity around the world of people looking to reduce their carbon footprint.  […]

  • 7. Dan  |  August 6, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Hi, I came across your blog and thought you might like this initiative we are running; “Make Your Blog Carbon Neutral”. If you get chance, have a look here:


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