It's the little things.

It's the little things.

Simple, inexpensive things you can do to help the planet



Ask anyone, they’ll tell you, the first step to making change is to admit you have a problem.

If you’re reading this, chances are your activities produce more carbon and other greenhouse gases than the average human being. If you don’t know how much more, now’s the time to find out.

The truth shall set you free

Footprints in the sandThe simplest way to calculate your carbon footprint is to use an online calculator. Here are a few of our favorites.

If you live in the United States, one of the best is the Cool Climate Carbon Footprint Calculator by The Berkeley Institute of the Environment. Another excellent calculator for Americans is provided by The Nature Conservancy It takes into account home energy, transportation, diet, and recycling habits. Also USA-centric, Yahoo! offer an easy to use calculator, though it’s perhaps a bit too simplistic.

Our UK readers may want to try the Ecological Footprint Calculator by Best Foot Forward, winners of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development in 2005.

For the rest of us, the calculator at Carbon Footprint lets you choose the country in which you live. It requires entry of specific amounts of different types of energy used to calculate household use, which can be tedious, but should give accurate results.

Resurgence Magazine offer both quick and detailed carbon calculators, developed by Mukti Mitchell, designer of zero-emission yachts. The quick version lets you calculate the carbon produced by your energy use by asking you how much you spent on different types of energy over the past year while the detailed version asks for kilowatt hours used.

We’ve talked before about the importance of eating less meat to the environment. The Low Carbon Diet Calculator helps make our point by showing the relative impact of different kinds of food. (Of note is the fact that tofu is not much better than beef or lamb in terms of carbon produced!)

A quick and easy way to compare the carbon impact of different modes of travel is to use the CO2 emissions calculator from Transport Direct.

Lastly, if you’re an iPhone user, there are several applications (several of which are free) that can help you calculate and track your carbon emissions, such as Carbon Tracker. Go into iTunes and search for “carbon calculator” for more.

Knowing how much carbon dioxide is produced by what you do every day is the first step towards reducing your impact. Best of all, it’s free to find out.

Do you have a favorite carbon calculator that we missed? Link to it in the comments!

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  1. Bruce on July 29, 2009

    Great article and using the calculators was quite eye opening. After playing with a couple though one thought I had was that while it’s useful to know your total carbon footprint it’s hard to then derive how to improve since there are so many data points that go into the total calculation. For example, the Cool Climate Carbon Footprint Calculator asks for household income and the more income you make the more your carbon footprint increases. While this makes sense and I’m sure it is based on factual statistical data it doesn’t really suggest how to improve aside from making less money! (Just as a side thought I wonder how much total global carbon emissions have been affected by the worldwide recession?) I guess it’s like the overall theme of It’s The Little Things… it’s hard to know the individual effect of all your small changes but in the end it adds up to a lot…

  2. Andrew on July 29, 2009

    Hey Bruce. You make a good point. It can be overwhelming to see that you produce X tons of CO2 per year and be left with “What now?!” Some of the sites mentioned above do link to climate saving tips, like this page on the Nature Conservancy site. Of course, this is also why we built ITLT, to provide this kind of information!

  3. Eduardo Jezierski on April 17, 2012

    One consideration I’ve seen is that ‘calculators’ as ‘truth’ tend to be misleading (i.e. they may or may not go in the ballpark; especially for people that are aware of footprint issues that therefore knowingly or unknowingly change the behavior).
    I find simple little things I’ve done are:
    - Keep an online spreadsheet with each month’s info on energy, water, and gas bills info (how many gallons/Therms/kwh were used). I then try to correlate changes in behavior to the outcomes. You can also extract fuel/gas transactions from credit card records and the likes. a few mins housekeeping as you pay the bill gives you a wealth of insight.
    - If you are OK spending a bit more, get smart devices that will help you reduce footprint – like the Nest thermostat; which I saw cut our house’s heating gas use by 25%
    - Finally, you can get or build some realtime-sensors for electricity or water consumption. E.g. buy a kill-a-watt EZ for $20 and test how much electricity different things around your home eat up-when not in use!


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