Measuring your carbon footprint begins with first collecting information about how much energy, and what type of energy, you and your household use. This information is then plugged into a carbon calculator, which will then determine the overall footprint left behind. The measure of your carbon footprint is useful if you want to determine how you can reduce your impact on global warming. While no carbon calculator is completely accurate, it can provide a basic comparison of you or your family and the averages of others.
Among the basic information required to determine your carbon footprint is your location and number of people in your household. This makes the calculator equally as useful for both individuals and families. The calculator may average out the energy usage to show what each individual in the family is personally responsible for emitting. The location is required for comparison purposes.
A simple online search will turn up a number of online carbon calculators. In order to use a carbon calculator as accurately as possible, you will need to gather some information first. You should collect your energy bills, or get a statement of usage for the past 12 months from the utility company; you may need to add your monthly usages together and divide by 12 to come up with a monthly average. Note your car's gas mileage and how many miles you drive any vehicles each year. Other forms of transportation, such as public transportation and even air travel, may also need to be considered in determining your carbon footprint.
The length of time it takes to enter the information necessary to measure your carbon footprint depends on the calculator being used. Usually, the time-consuming part is actually gathering all the information needed. Entering the information may take as few as 15 minutes, but it could take substantially longer, depending on the carbon footprint calculator being used.
Once you enter all of your information, the calculator will indicate your carbon footprint. This is done by calculating how many pounds, or kilograms, of carbon dioxide you or your household are emitting each year. It may also provide a breakdown of where you are using the most fossil fuel-based energy and make suggestions for how to reduce that consumption. In some cases, the calculator may tell you how many pounds of carbon dioxide you could reduce by taking these suggestions.
In many cases, an online carbon calculator will also provide some benchmarks, comparing families of similar sizes in similar geographic areas. This can help you see the relative size of your own carbon footprint in addition to the actual size. This can help you understand if your energy usage and carbon emissions are out of line with other people with similar lifestyles.