Learn Your Carbon Footprint with These Calculators

Understanding the intricacies of climate change can be overwhelming. It's a complex issue, and there are still many unknowns when it comes to future impacts. While we need world leaders to take real action on a global scale, there are many choices you can make to reduce your carbon footprint every day. The size of your carbon footprint indicates how much of a negative impact you have on the environment, and you can figure out yours by using one of the many carbon footprint calculators found online.

What Is a Carbon Footprint?

Basically, a carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that any person, business, product, or event has produced. It's the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that are responsible for the "greenhouse effect" and contribute to climate change and global warming. Typically, the bulk of an individual's carbon footprint comes from housing, food, and transportation.

A carbon footprint is a useful means for understanding the impact of a person's lifestyle and activities on global warming. Anyone who wants to contribute to slowing global warming's rapid pace should measure and track their carbon footprint. This is where carbon footprint calculators come in.

Carbon footprint calculators utilize a series of questions to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions from all your activities. They are typically measured in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent), the standard unit for measuring carbon footprints. Essentially, it takes the amount of any greenhouse gas emissions and expresses them in the amount of CO2 that would have the equivalent impact on global warming.

Below are a few online calculators help you figure out your carbon footprint. Once you understand your carbon footprint and what areas of your lifestyle contribute to it most, you can work toward changes to lessen your impact.

Carbon Footprint Calculator for Individuals

You may question whether one person can really make a difference when it comes to climate change, but don't discount yourself just yet. Climate and environmental experts agree that individuals' conservation and advocacy efforts play a crucial role in protecting the Earth and influencing others around them to get on board. Any personal changes you make to combat climate change have the potential for a significant ripple effect when multiplied. For this very reason, some of the best ways you can take action for the environment are by joining activist groups and petitioning your local politicians. Use one of the calculators below to see which areas of your lifestyle can be cleaned up to become a better global citizen.

The Nature Conservancy

This easy-to-use calculator from The Nature Conservancy gathers your information on travel, home, food, and shopping to calculate your carbon footprint. After your footprint is calculated, it even gives you suggestions on ways that you can take action to reduce your impact.

Ecological Footprint Calculator

The colorful graphics that accompany this calculator from the Global Footprint Network make completing this quiz fun, which is good because it's one of the lengthier calculators we tested. The results are uniquely displayed in two parts, and you can even compare your results to the country that you live in and explore solutions.

Carbon Footprint Calculator for Businesses

Because changes at the individual level can only go so far, the onus is on massive mega-industries to cut pollution. While governments have been frustratingly slow to take action on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, a growing number of businesses are making serious commitments to clean up their own actions. Check out the calculators below to see what changes your company can make to up their environmental ante.

Cool Climate Network

Brought to you by the brilliant folks at the University of California, Berkeley, this calculator gathers information on travel, facilities, and procurement to estimate your business's carbon footprint. Once your summary is calculated, it offers tons of suggestions for ways that you can take action to make your business more environmentally friendly. The site also provides additional links to research, tools, programs, and outreach.

Carbon Footprint Calculators for Kids

It's our children that will be inheriting the planet, so the sooner we get them to understand the impact of their carbon footprint, the better. The best way to begin is with a carbon footprint definition that kids can understand. Sciencing does an excellent job of explaining carbon footprints in kid-friendly terms:

"A footprint is a mark you leave by walking. The way you live also leaves a mark. Many of the things we do in life, such as producing energy, driving cars, and raising livestock, generate gasses that contribute to climate change. Almost all of these gases are carbon compounds. That's why the effect you have on climate change is called your carbon footprint."

Once they understand what a carbon footprint is, it's time to let them calculate theirs on a carbon footprint calculator for kids.

World Wildlife Federation

This kid-friendly carbon footprint calculator from the World Wildlife Federation is the perfect way to teach kids how their choices impact the environment. Parents may need to help with a few questions, such as how much you spend on food outside the home, but the colorful illustrations and facts that accompany them get kids thinking and keep them engaged.

Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Climate change is real but not unsolvable. While you can't put the blame for climate change on a particular group of individuals, your personal actions still affect the planet. There are lots of ways to reduce your carbon footprint to help combat climate change. Here are just a few:

  • Minimize driving by walking, biking, carpooling, and using public transportation as much as possible
  • Buy fewer new products, especially those that are heavily-packaged
  • Buy more unprocessed, plant-based, locally sourced, organic foods
  • Reduce water usage
  • Recycle whenever possible, both at home and work
  • Compost food waste
  • Install solar panels on your home

Lastly, always consider how the lifestyle choices you make today could affect life on our planet tomorrow.