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The first step in becoming carbon neutral is to calculate your carbon footprint.

Your carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases that you produce in daily life. This includes carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases and others.

This carbon calculator from Clever Carbon will estimate your emissions in a few minutes. Go to https://clevercarbon.io/quiz/ to run in full screen.

Personal Footprint Calculator

But there are plenty of other footprint calculators on the Internet that you can use. Some can be complex, needing a lot of information and then require you to pay at the end. There are different factors that contribute to a person’s carbon footprint. Many personal calculators use average emissions, relating to the level of greenhouse gases produced within a particular nation.

The EPA’s carbon footprint calculator can show how much carbon and money you will save by taking some of these steps. Here are some of the easiest ways you can start to shrink your carbon footprint.

If you would like to work out your personal carbon footprint in exact detail, then you can download the spreadsheet from the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

See our GHG Protocol Accounting Guide and UNFCC tutorials for more information on how emissions are calculated.

Global Average Carbon Footprint

Use could use the Global Average of 20 tonnes per year which the Institute has determined is a reasonable estimate, for people living in developed economies. Whilst the amount may not be the exact amount of a your emissions, it balances out statistically with a 15% margin for error.

A problem with footprint calculators is that they will always have an uncertainty margin and never be absolutely correct. When you use the Global Average, you can go carbon neutral without delay, rather than spending time and money trying to work out their exact carbon footprint. Better to spend that time and energy on emission reduction and offsetting.

Emissions per capita (tonnes of CO2) FootprintTotal annual emissions (tonnes of CO2)
Australia 16.96417.04 million
USA16.215.27 billion
Canada15.55571.14 million
China6.929.84 billion
Germany9.44775.75 million
UK5.81387.39 million
Nigeria0.64122.78 million
Organisations such as Our World in Data or WorldoMeter provide figures on how much CO2 the average person emits in different countries

The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project estimates that in order to hold the global temperature rise to 2˚C or less, everyone on earth will need to average an annual carbon footprint of 1.87 tons by 2050. According to them, the current the average U.S. per capita carbon footprint is 18.3 tons. (By comparison, China’s per capita carbon emissions are 8.2 tons).

This calculator estimates the carbon emissions of your flight and the amount of money needed to offset them. For example, flying economy roundtrip from New York to Los Angeles produces 1.5 tons of CO2; it costs $43 to offset this carbon.

The 2nd step is to reduce your carbon footprint

There are many ways to reduce emissions and save energy, such as insulating your home or putting up solar panels. However we still need to make everyday changes to our lives to keep recusing our emission as far as possible.

assorted sliced fruits in white ceramic bowl

1. Eat low on the food chain. This means eating mostly fruits, veggies, grains, and beans. Livestock—meat and dairy—is responsible for 14.5 percent of manmade global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from feed production and processing and the methane (25 times more potent than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere over 100 years) that beef and sheep belch out. Every day that you forgo meat and dairy, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 8 pounds—that’s 2,920 pounds a year. You can start by joining Meatless Mondays.

2. Choose organic and local foods that are in season. Transporting food from far away, whether by truck, ship, rail or plane, uses fossil fuels for fuel and for cooling to keep foods in transit from spoiling.

3. Buy foodstuffs in bulk when possible using your own reusable container.

4. Reduce your food waste by planning meals ahead of time, freezing the excess and reusing leftovers.

5. Compost your food waste if possible.

photo of women s clothing

Clothing

6. Don’t buy fast fashion. Trendy, cheap items that go out of style quickly get dumped in landfills where they produce methane as they decompose. Currently, the average American discards about 80 pounds of clothing each year, 85 percent of which ends up in landfills. In addition, most fast fashion comes from China and Bangladesh, so shipping it to the U.S. requires the use of fossil fuels. Instead, buy quality clothing that will last.

7. Even better, buy vintage or recycled clothing at consignment shops.

8. Wash your clothing in cold water. The enzymes in cold water detergent are designed to clean better in cold water. Doing two loads of laundry weekly in cold water instead of hot or warm water can save up to 500 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

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Shopping

9. Buy less stuff! And buy used or recycled items whenever possible.

10. Bring your own reusable bag when you shop.

11. Try to avoid items with excess packaging.

12. If you’re in the market for a new computer, opt for a laptop instead of a desktop. Laptops require less energy to charge and operate than desktops.

13. If shopping for appliances, lighting, office equipment or electronics, look for Energy Star products, which are certified to be more energy efficient.

14. Support and buy from companies that are environmentally responsible and sustainable.

turned off flat screen tv

Home

15. Do an energy audit of your home. This will show how you use or waste energy and help identify ways to be more energy efficient.

16. Change incandescent light bulbs (which waste 90 percent of their energy as heat) to light emitting diodes (LEDs). Though LEDs cost more, they use a quarter of the energy and last up to 25 times longer. They are also preferable to compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs, which emit 80 percent of their energy as heat and contain mercury.

17. Switch lights off when you leave the room and unplug your electronic devices when they are not in use.

18. Turn your water heater down to 120˚F. This can save about 550 pounds of CO2 a year.

19. Installing a low-flow showerhead to reduce hot water use can save 350 pounds of CO2. Taking shorter showers helps, too.

20. Lower your thermostat in winter and raise it in summer. Use less air conditioning in the summer; instead opt for fans, which require less electricity. And check out these other ways to beat the heat without air conditioning.

21. Sign up to get your electricity from clean energy through your local utility or a certified renewable energy provider. Green-e.org can help you find certified green energy providers.

architecture auto automobiles bridge

Transportation

Because electricity increasingly comes from natural gas and renewable energy, transportation became the major source of U.S. CO2 emissions in 2017. An average car produces about five tons of CO2 each year (although this varies according to the type of car, its fuel efficiency and how it’s driven). Making changes in how you get around can significantly cut your carbon budget.

22. Drive less. Walk, take public transportation, carpool, rideshare or bike to your destination when possible. This not only reduces CO2 emissions, it also lessens traffic congestion and the idling of engines that accompanies it.

23. If you must drive, avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration. Some studies found that aggressive driving can result in 40 percent more fuel consumption than consistent, calm driving.

24. Take care of your car. Keeping your tires properly inflated can increase your fuel efficiency by three percent; and ensuring that your car is properly maintained can increase it by four percent. Remove any extra weight from the car.

25. When doing errands, try to combine them to reduce your driving.

26. Use traffic apps like Waze to help avoid getting stuck in traffic jams.

27. On longer trips, turn on the cruise control, which can save gas.

28. Use less air conditioning while you drive, even when the weather is hot.

29. Use E10 petrol if possible fuel as overall, ethanol is considered to be better for the environment than traditional gasoline

30. If you’re shopping for a new car, consider purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle. But do factor in the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of the car as well as its operation. Some electric vehicles are initially responsible for more emissions than internal combustion engine vehicles because of manufacturing impacts; but they make up for it after three years. This app rates cars based on their mileage, fuel type and emissions from both the production of the car and, if they are EVs, from generating the electricity to run them.

The 3rd step is to offset your emissions

You offset your emissions with Carbon Credit Certificates that finance verified projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

When you buy offset certificates and you are actually financing projects to remove/reduce carbon in the atmosphere, buying us time to make the transition to low carbon economies.

A carbon offset is an amount of money you can pay for a project that reduces greenhouse gases somewhere else. If you offset one ton of carbon, the offset will help capture or destroy one ton of greenhouse gases that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere. Offsets also promote sustainable development and increase the use of renewable energy.

You can purchase carbon offsets to compensate for any or all of your other carbon emissions as well.

The money you pay goes towards climate protection projects. Various projects include energy efficient cookstoves in Rwanda, installing solar power in the Dominican Republic, and sustainably planting trees in India, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Nicaragua to absorb CO2. There are also U.S. projects utilizing animal waste from farms, installing wind power, and capturing landfill gas to generate electricity.

Columbia Climate School

For Businesses

Go to our GHG Accounting Guide for resources to measure an organisation’s footprint using the GHG Corporate Protocol Accounting Standard.

photo of smoke pollution during dawn

Reduce your emissions

This should be done on an ongoing basis. See the emission reduction program which is provided free of charge by the Institute for organisations and individuals.

When you buy offset certificates you are investing in verified projects that slow down global warming.

They are buying us the time we need to switch to low emission economies before we hit irreversible tipping points.

If we hit these tipping points it means that it is too late and nothing we do will be able to stop climate change.

“Unless we reduce and offset our emissions going into the atmosphere we we may reach the point of no return”

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 6th Assessment Report.
Learn More

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Disclaimer: The CLIMATE CHANGE INSTITUTE has provided this greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions tutorial and calculator to give businesses and the general public with a free and up-to-date methodology for estimating GHG emissions. The aim is to support organizations to estimate their GHG emissions in order to raise awareness and to promote climate action. However, the CLIMATE CHANGE INSTITUTE makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any of his information or Spreadsheet and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an “as-is” basis. All data and information provided on this Spreadsheet are for reference purposes only. The emission factors used on this Spreadsheet are publicly available on third parties’ websites. The contents in, and linked to, this spreadsheet may not always reflect the policy or position of the CLIMATE CHANGE INSTITUTE nor does it imply endorsement. Under no circumstances shall the CLIMATE CHANGE INSTITUTE be liable for any loss, damage, liability or expense incurred or suffered that is claimed to have resulted from the use of this information and spreadsheet, its data or its methodology, or from the conduct of any user. Use of this Spreadsheet and reliance upon the content in or linked to it is solely at the user’s own risk. Furthermore, this Spreadsheet does not replace a formal, tailored GHG inventory development process nor third-party verified GHG inventories and should be not used for certification purposes. The emission factors used in this spreadsheet are sourced from references that may not be applicable to all geographic locations. The user is encouraged to use more suitable emission factors when they are available. Each user agrees to decide if, when and how to use this Spreadsheet, and does so at his or her sole risk.