Volume 16, Issue 38 - September 18 - September 24, 2008

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Got an Environmental Question? Send it to: EARTH TALK, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881. Or submit your question at: www.emagazine.com. Or e-mail us at: [email protected].

From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

How Big Are Your Shoes?

Measuring your carbon footprint is Step 1 in reducing it

How can I measure — and then improve — my overall carbon footprint? What are the major areas of one’s daily life that one measures?

–Andy Fusco, Passaic, NJ

With global warming dominating so many headlines today, many of us are looking to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases our activities produce.

By assessing how much pollution each of your individual actions generates — be it setting your thermostat, shopping for groceries, commuting to work or flying somewhere for vacation — you can begin to see how changing a few habits here and there can significantly reduce your overall carbon footprint. A number of free online carbon footprint calculators will help figure out just where to start changing.

One of the best is the University of California at Berkeley’s Cool Climate Calculator. The free web-based tool takes into account daily driving mileage and grocery and electricity expenses, among other factors, to assign a carbon score, which users can compare to similar households across the 28 largest urban areas in the U.S. Some of the results are surprising. For example, residents of eco-aware San Francisco tend to have bigger carbon footprints than those in more conservative Tampa, Florida. The reason: San Francisco has a higher cost of living, and its colder, wetter winters require more fossil fuel-derived heat.

Another great carbon footprint calculator is available at EarthLab.com, an online “climate crisis community” that has partnered with Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection and other high-profile groups, companies and celebrities to spread the word that individual actions can make a difference in the fight against global warming. Users just take a three-minute survey and get back a carbon footprint score, which they can save and update as they work to reduce their impact. The site provides some 150 lifestyle change suggestions that will cut carbon emissions — from hanging your clothes to dry to sending postcards instead of letters to taking the bike instead of the car to work a few days a week.

“Our calculator is an important first step in educating people about where they are, then raising their awareness about what they can do to make easy, simple changes that will lower their score and positively impact the planet,” says Anna Rising, EarthLab’s executive director. “Our goal isn’t about convincing you to buy a hybrid or retrofit your house with solar panels; our goal is to introduce you to easy, simple ways that you as an individual can reduce your carbon footprint.”

Other websites, green groups and corporations, including CarbonFootprint.com, CarbonCounter.org, Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and British Oil Giant BP, among others, offer carbon calculators on their websites. CarbonFund.org not only allows you to assess your carbon footprint but also offers you the ability to offset such emissions by investing in clean energy initiatives.

For more information:

• Cool Climate Calculator: http://bie.berkeley.edu/calculator.html.

• EarthLab: www.earthlab.com.

• CarbonFootprint.com: www.carbonfootprint.com.

• CarbonCounter.org: www.carboncounter.org.

• Conservation International: www.conservation.org.

• The Nature Conservancy:www.nature.org.

• BP: www.bp.com.

Got an environmental question? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek: or e-mail [email protected]. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php.

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