Understanding Your Carbon Footprint

Calculating your carbon footprint is a first step to attaining a net zero carbon emissions lifestyle and balancing the amount of harmful carbons you release.

As the green movement continues on unabated, you may be searching for ways to reduce your carbon footprint. As a comprehensive measure of one's impact on the environment, carbon footprints account for all greenhouse gases that individuals create. With a few simple steps, you can join the ranks of others who aspire to be carbon neutral- attaining net zero carbon emissions by balancing the amount of harmful carbons released with the amount offset.

Calculating your carbon output will give you a better sense of your daily expenditures. Many sites, such as and Yurtcozy, offer free Carbon Footprint Calculators. Visit one to input your information and see an estimate of your carbon footprint.  Social Enterprise Associates' Managing Partner Drew Tulchin is on the board of Yurtcozy, which also offers carbon credits and services for people who want to help those in the developing world be more energy efficient.

Of course, reducing your personal carbon emissions is also an important step in reaching carbon neutrality. Simple actions such as turning off lights when they are not in use; turning central heating down several degrees; turning off heat/air when you are not at home; biking to work; and using public transportation are generally effective and easy. Another step you can take towards sustainability is making your money work for the earth and you through joining Permaculture Credit Union.  Social Enterprise Associates' Managing Partner Drew Tulchin is on the board of Permaculture Credit Union, which offers discounted loans for fuel efficient cars, solar heating systems, and other sustainable initiatives to encourage their adoption and reduce carbon emissions.

Because reaching carbon neutrality through carbon reductions is virtually impossible, you may wish to consider buying carbon offsets. Many organizations, such as, allow individuals to "purchase" these offsets with a donation. Money collected from individuals funds "domestic and international renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions." For example, an environmentally conscious couple planning a wedding may offset the environmental cost of their special day- estimated to be 7.5 tons of carbon emissions- by purchasing $75 worth of carbon offsets. The event is then deemed carbon neutral. 

Though many environmentalists advocate for the practice of carbon offsetting, others warn against using carbon offsets to justify an environmentally destructive lifestyle. Carbon offsetting is a critical facet of the green movement, but it is not a silver bullet and will not halt global warming by itself. Only when combined with policy changes and emission reductions will carbon offsetting be an effective means of positive environmental change. In addition, use caution when purchasing carbon offsets. Many for-profit businesses charge up to twice as much money as non-profit organizations that support identical projects.

The chart below lists several respected carbon-offsetting organizations, allowing you to make an educated decision based on several factors- price, project type, whether you can pick the project, legal ownership of the company, and the types of certifications the organizations adheres to.

With the steps above and the chart below, you can begin your pursuit of a carbon neutral lifestyle!

Name Price (Per Ton) Project Types Project Choice Legal Ownership Certifications Website
CarbonFund $10 Renewables, efficiency, reforestation Yes Non-profit ERT, CCBS, CCX
Verus Carbon Neutral $2.75 (varies) Various No For-profit CCX $12 Efficiency No Non-profit CCX
e-BlueHorizons $5 Renewables, reforestation No For-profit CCX, ERT
ClearSky Climate Solutions $15 Reforestation, methane Yes For-profit CCX, CCBS



Description of Certifications

CCX- Chicago Climate Exchange

            The CCX manages the United State's sole cap-and-trade system. Members enter into a voluntary             agreement, guaranteeing that they will aid in reducing the levels of carbon dioxide emissions. This             agreement is legally binding, ensuring the certification's validity.

ERT- Environmental Resources Trust

            ERT is an organization that utilizes market forces for the benefit of the environment. ERT develops             environmental standards and offers validation & verification of outside projects.

CCBS- Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard

            Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard Alliance is an organization that unites companies,             NGOs, and researchers in order to establish rigorous standards for voluntary land management.


Description of Projects

Reforestation/forestry: According to, "Forest-based carbon offset projects fight climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere in trees and soil and have many co-benefits for the community and local wildlife. Forest preservation creates jobs, maintains and expands wildlife habitats, protects biodiversity, and improves local environmental quality."

Efficiency: Refers to programs or projects that utilize advanced technology or operations in order to produce the same results while expending less energy.

Renewables: Refers to projects that focus on accelerating the transition from an oil and coal-based economy toward a low-carbon economy. Renewable energy programs aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions now, while simultaneously focusing on alternatives for the future.

Methane: Refers to projects that aim to sequester methane, a greenhouse gas that is thirty-one times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

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