Calculate Your Personal Emissions
Small Lifestyle Changes Make a Big Difference
Every April 22nd, we celebrate Earth Day to raise environmental awareness. Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to spend a few minutes calculating your carbon footprint, which is the impact your daily behaviors, actions, and consumption has on the planet. Of course, you can do this any day of the year, not only on Earth Day.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website offers a “Personal Emissions Calculator” to help you measure your footprint. The calculator will show you how much you contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions. It will also provide information for what you can do to reduce your footprint.
It will take you about 10 to 15 minutes to complete the Personal Emissions Calculator, which will ask you to provide information about many things from how many miles you drive a year to how much you recycle at home. The data you provide is calculated, and you learn what your household’s annual share of greenhouse gas emissions is.
The instructions suggest you gather your recent power (electric, gas, and oil) so you can provide actual numbers for the calculator. This will provide the most accurate results of your household’s consumption.
My Personal Emissions Calculator Results
Transportation: We use about 758 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. The average is 12,100 pounds. However, my husband and I both commute by bus, only using our car for shopping or social events.
Home Energy: We live in an apartment, so we only pay an electric bill. We use 14,796 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. The average is 16,290 pounds.
Waste: The average for a household of two people is 2,020 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, but we calculated at 1,191. Seattle provides fabulous recycling services that we take full advantage of.
Total Emissions: Our total emissions came to 16,745 pounds, and the average for our household size is 41,500.
The calculator then provided tips to help us reduce our emissions by 12%.
Reacting to the Results
Honestly, I think the calculator is great and can really open your eyes to what you contribute to the environment. I don’t know how accurate the calculator is for us as we live in a big apartment building and only personally pay our electric bill. If we lived in a house or owned our own condo, I wonder what our emissions would be then. As well, we live in a city with a decent public transportation system. If this wasn’t available to us, we would have to drive more.
We do work very hard to recycle as much as possible and produce small quantities of non-recycled trash. I think we could do more, but it is difficult when you live in a shared community space like an apartment complex. The City of Seattle offers single family dwellings the options of a compost bin in addition to their trash and recycling bins. In comparison the compost and recycling bins, Seattle trash bins can be pretty small.
The calculator suggested we purchase a car that offers better gas mileage, but I can’t help but wonder if this is really an effective action. Our car already gets fairly decent mileage and we keep it up-to-date with emissions tests. I’m not sure how sustainable purchasing a new vehicle is when our current one is still decent to drive. Will we be encouraged to purchase a new car every time a “better” version come out? When you get a new car, something has to happen to the old one—either sell it or trash it (or donate it). But if it is passed on to someone else, the emissions from using that car will remain the same. Trashing it certainly isn’t great for the environment. I would prefer a more sustainable option.
Take the Test
Please calculate your emissions and share your results with us here in the comment box below (if you wish). I was surprised to find we are below the average. How do you score?