How to Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

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When you buy carbon offsets, your goal is to offset the part of your carbon footprint that you can’t avoid. But how do you know that you’re buying enough offsets to be carbon neutral? To answer that question, you’ll need to calculate your carbon footprint.

Add up your life’s emissions.

Your carbon footprint is the sum total of greenhouse gas emissions that are generated from your life. These emissions can come from direct sources, such as vehicle emissions from your commute, but they can also come from indirect sources, such as the growing, harvesting and shipment of the food you eat every day, or from the amount of trash your home sends to a landfill.

With so many factors going into your carbon footprint, measuring its exact amount from day to day is nearly impossible. However, just like your car’s manufacturer gives you its gas mileage in a range of miles per gallon, we can make some basic estimates about your car’s carbon emissions per mile.

We can make these estimates for everything else in your life, too. For example, if you’re a family of five living in a single-family home, you’ll have more emissions from food consumption on average than a single person who lives in an apartment. Or if your job requires you to travel by plane once a month, you might have a bigger carbon footprint than someone who works from home.

How carbon offsets reduce your carbon footprint.

Just like we can measure the greenhouse gas emissions that come from everyday life, we can measure the amount of greenhouse gases being prevented or recaptured by carbon-reduction programs such as reforestation or agricultural soil management. We can measure them so closely, in fact, that we can bundle these greenhouse gas reductions into certified carbon credits. That’s what you’re buying when you purchase carbon offsets.

The goal of carbon offsets is to compensate for the emissions you can’t avoid by making sure emissions are removed from the atmosphere elsewhere. When a home or business is able to offset 100% of its carbon emissions, we call them carbon neutral, which means they have net-zero carbon emissions.

To put it plainly: When you buy enough carbon offsets to be carbon neutral, you ensure there’s as much CO2 being removed from the air — or prevented from entering the air — as you’re putting into it.

There’s still a lot that needs to be done before we win the fight against climate change, and purchasing carbon offsets is a great start for homes and businesses that want to do their part. Here at Green Mountain Energy, our mission to promote sustainability has led us to become a carbon-neutral company, and we make carbon offsets accessible for anyone who’s aiming to be footprint free. And someday, in the cleaner and greener future we dream about, we may even be able to achieve net-negative carbon emissions.