Image Description

The Humanitarian Side of Everything: Your Carbon Footprint

Welcome to "The Humanitarian Side of Everything: Creating Positive Impact in Your Daily Life" on Listenable! This is Lesson Five, and I'm your host, Alexa.

When I hear the phrase "carbon footprint," I always picture an actual footprint in the dirt. But while the idea of a carbon footprint does have a lot to do with the earth, it's not a literal phrase.

Most of us have heard of or used the term "personal carbon footprint" to think about our personal impact on the environment, but did you know this term was created by oil giant BP?

Due to backlash in the late twentieth century about the company's harmful environmental practices, BP executives hired a public relations firm to rehabilitate their image. BP and Ogilvy & Mather are directly responsible for creating and popularizing the term "carbon footprint" in 2004. Through clever marketing, BP could signal that individual production of heat-trapping carbon pollution was the true culprit behind increasingly worrying climate change.

Wait, but isn't it a bad idea to fly transatlantically, drive a diesel engine, and eat lots of red meat? Well, our sense of individual responsibility for environmental degradation is still worth listening to. We can generate positive impacts for the environment and our neighbors by making greener choices as individuals.

Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) generated by your actions. Things like travel, work, and what you eat all contribute to your impact on the environment. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons. That's one of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average is closer to 4 tons. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop under 2 tons by 2050.

What's your carbon footprint? Head to to calculate an estimate of how much emissions your actions produce each year.

It's sobering to come to the realization that our actions in the developed world have such an effect on our shared environment. But by reducing and offsetting your emissions, you can mitigate those impacts.

First, to reduce your personal carbon footprint, focus on your actions that produce the most emissions. Airplane flights are notoriously bad for creating greenhouse gas emissions. Think about the kind of energy that your home uses. Is it renewable? One of the most important shifts that need to take place is the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. A simple search online will show you hundreds of things that you can do to decrease your carbon footprint starting today.

You can also offset the emissions that you do create. Basically, if your carbon footprint is 16 tons, you can offset each of those tons of carbon. After using an online calculator to get an estimate of your emissions, you can use a carbon offset certifier like Climate Action Reserve to find projects like planting trees to offset your carbon footprint.

Technology in various forms is also a major contributor to carbon emissions. Next time you need to search for something online, try using the search engine Ecosia. This company uses the profits from its ad revenue to plant trees around the world!

Thinking about your carbon footprint can be overwhelming. But taking a few steps towards decreasing and offsetting your carbon footprint can go far towards increasing your positive impact. Most importantly, don't act alone – involve your friends and family in conversations about sustainability.

In this lesson, we learned about your carbon footprint and what you can do to have a more positive impact on the environment. In Lesson Six, we're going to the grocery store.

Image Description
Written by

Alexa Bussmann