What is a Carbon Emissions Calculator?

Ken Black

A carbon emissions calculator is a tool that is used to determine how much carbon a household or individual emits. The calculator, which can often be found online, is especially useful for those who are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. The results are typically provided in pounds or kilograms of carbon dioxide per year. Often calculators will offer you the opportunity to note carbon reducing measures you can or want to make and show you what that means in terms of what your overall carbon footprint would be if you implemented those measures.

A programmable thermostat can reduce energy consumption.
A programmable thermostat can reduce energy consumption.

Of course, different carbon emissions calculators will consider different factors. Most will consider carbon emissions from appliances and vehicles that are powered by electricity, natural gas, and gasoline. They also may consider how many people you have in your household and how much you recycle. While air travel has a large impact on one's footprint, most calculators, do not consider this data. This is typically because only a select group of people do enough air travel through the year to make such calculations worthwhile. As more and more people track their footprint, calculators will likely include this information too.

Many carbon emission calculators do not take air travel into consideration.
Many carbon emission calculators do not take air travel into consideration.

The main impact on a household's carbon emissions is based on the amount of electricity and natural gas used, as well as the number of miles driven. As a result, most calculators focus on these aspects. After a user determines their footprint, he or she can tweak the numbers to see what activities will reduce the yearly footprint by how much. For example, if one does not recycle, one could enter values in the recycle fields to determine what kind of impact that could have on his or her yearly footprint.

Burning fossil fuels, like  coal, is a major source of carbon emissions.
Burning fossil fuels, like coal, is a major source of carbon emissions.

There are plenty of ways to reduce one's footprint; some will cause a dramatic lifestyle change, but others may require just minor changes in behavior that will hardly be noticed. Around the home, the key is reducing the energy used in heating and cooling the home. Making sure the home is properly insulated will cause a dramatic change in carbon emissions calculator results. Also, keeping the thermostat a few degrees cooler in the winter, and a few degrees warmer in the summer will help as well.

To use a carbon emissions calculator effectively, one should have utility bills for the past year handy. Vehicle mileage rates and actual miles driven in the past year will also be helpful.

Car exhaust still produces a large amount of the air pollution in the U.S.
Car exhaust still produces a large amount of the air pollution in the U.S.

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