A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment, and in particular climate change. It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases produced in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation etc. Carbon footprints are measured in units of tonnes (or kg) of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The carbon footprint break down of an average US citizen
Image provided courtesy of Energy Star
A carbon footprint is made up of the sum of two parts, the primary footprint (home energy use and transportation) and the secondary footprint (everything else).
1. The primary footprint is a measure of our direct emissions of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels including domestic energy consumption and transportation (e.g. car and plane). We have direct control of these.
2. The secondary footprint is a measure of the indirect CO2 emissions from the whole lifecycle of products we use - those associated with their manufacture and eventual breakdown. To put it very simply – the more we buy the more emissions will be caused on our behalf.
Did you notice that over 25% of our carbon footprint comes from the gas, coal, and electricy we use at home? Look at your energy bill and compare it to the average American household usage of 900 kWh per month. Visit Xcel's website to learn how you can reduce your gas and electricity usage at home.
Have some fun! Calculate your carbon footprint at one of the links below! Once you know your footprint, you can consider purchasing carbon offsets.