Shrinking Your Carbon Footprint

Reducing your carbon emissions can save Earth -- and your money

ByABC News via logo
November 26, 2008, 11:54 AM

April 18, 2007 — -- If you think you have nothing to do with global warming, think again. From the car you drive to the house you live in, nearly everything you do contributes to your "carbon footprint" -- your impact on the environment.

"Everything we do generates some kind of environmental impact," said Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resource Defense Counsel.

Making energy creates carbon dioxide, which scientists say is the leading cause of global warming. But they also agree that if you know how much energy you're using -- or the size of your carbon footprint -- you can take steps to reduce it. "We are talking about the carbon emissions related to the products you use and the activities you engage in," Hershkowitz said.

The average American household produces over 35,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. Added together, that's 20 percent of the greenhouse gases our entire country produces.

After Kristen Joy-Flanagan and Kevin Flanagan heard that statistic, they decided they wanted to reduce their share of greenhouse gases. They set out to calculate their family's carbon footprint -- no easy task in a household of six kids.

They went to the EPA Web site to add up their heating and electric bills along with the amount of gas their cars use and how many miles they drive. "We're a large family so I figured we would probably have a pretty large footprint," Joy-Flanagan said.

Between three cars, the Flanagans used over 1,100 gallons of gas and drove over 20,000 miles last year. That created 20,000 pounds of carbon emissions.

The household's consumption of almost 16,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year produced 25,000 pounds of carbon. Heating fuel added up to $2,500 for the year, producing about 20,000 pounds of carbon.

The Flanagans subtracted some credits for recycling and finally found out the size of their carbon footprint -- 60,000 pounds, considerably higher than the national average.