Home Sustainability Learning to Live Sustainably: Calculating Your Carbon Footprint

Learning to Live Sustainably: Calculating Your Carbon Footprint

by Alina Zárate

As the threat of climate change becomes more and more visible in our everyday lives, the need to transition to more sustainable ways of life is becoming much more urgent. We will all need to do our part to protect the planet and mitigate the effects of global warming and climate change. An important step in transitioning to more sustainable living is learning about the impact that your everyday actions have on the environment. Luckily, there are a lot of great tools to help you calculate and learn about your environmental impact. One of the most important ones is a Carbon Footprint Calculator. 

What is a Carbon Footprint Calculator and how does it work? 

We all have something called a carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds that are emitted due to the consumption by a particular person or group. A carbon footprint calculator helps calculate the average amount of impact that you have in a given year based on basic questions about your lifestyle. This includes questions about your average diet, energy use, travel habits, and the energy efficiency of your home.  

Why is it useful? 

Most if not all of our everyday actions result in the emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. There are obvious examples like driving a car or using electricity but there are also less obvious examples such as emissions due to the production of the food you eat or to dispose of your trash. Keeping track of the environmental impact that every action to take has on the environment is impossible. However, by using a carbon footprint calculator, we can get a general sense of our average total emissions for the year, which aspects of our everyday life emit the most carbon, and how to reduce our total carbon footprint. 

Carbon Footprint Calculators and Study Abroad 

As a study abroad student, you will have the unique opportunity to live a completely different lifestyle and experience a new culture. Your host culture will likely have different norms around travel, diet, and housing compared to the United States. You may find that you walk a lot more, eat different foods, or live in a smaller home that is more energy efficient. Using a carbon footprint calculator can be a great way to quantify the differences between your environmental impact in the United States versus abroad.  

Try it Out! 

Here is a fun exercise to help you be more environmentally conscious as you study abroad. Prior to arriving in your host country, calculate your carbon footprint. Record what your total footprint is and which aspects of your lifestyle have the largest environmental impact. Then enjoy your time abroad! Learn about the norms of your host country and immerse yourself in the cultural practices there. Before the end of your time abroad, calculate your carbon footprint again based on your lifestyle in your host country. Then answer the following questions: 

  • Is there a difference in your carbon footprints?  
  • Is your carbon footprint larger or smaller while living abroad?  
  • Which aspects of your lifestyle abroad have the largest environmental impacts? 
  • What are some of the key lifestyle differences between your host country and the United States? 
  • Are there any sustainable cultural practices in your host country that you could incorporate into your lifestyle in the United States?  

Check out these Carbon Footprint Calculators: 

Here are a couple of carbon footprint calculators for you to try out! 

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