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What is My Carbon Footprint? Published January 2013 Howard Hughes Medical Institute 2012 Holiday Lectures on Science What Is My Carbon Footprint? What Is a Carbon Footprint? We use energy in everyday activities, from turning on the lights to driving to school. Most of that energy is derived from burning fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), into the atmosphere. A carbon footprint is the total amount of GHG emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event, or product. A household’s carbon footprint varies depending on factors such as home size, types of vehicles used, and what household members eat and purchase. We care about our carbon footprint because GHGs absorb energy and trap heat in our atmosphere. We need some amount of GHGs in our atmosphere to survive, but too great an amount and too rapid an increase can have devastating effects on our environment, our health, and the economy. Current consumption of fossil fuel releases more than 25 billion tons of CO 2 into the atmosphere every year. If current trends continue, there will be a tripling of atmospheric CO 2 by the end of the century – levels not seen for more than 40 million years. By measuring our carbon footprint, we can learn how we are contributing to this rise in atmospheric CO 2 and how we might use energy more efficiently. Materials A computer with online access What Is My Carbon Footprint? Instruction Sheet Procedure What Is My Carbon Footprint? 1. Take some time to carefully read through all the steps in the procedure. You may want to list the information you need to collect to make it easier to input the data into the calculator. Your parents or guardian can help you fill in some of the information. 2. Go to the website . Remember, you will be calculating the carbon footprint for your entire household . 3. Click on the “Intro” tab of the online calculator. Fill in your zip code and basic information. This populates the calculator with accurate defaults and allows you to see how your energy use compares to that of households of similar size and income in your area. None of this information is saved by the Berkeley website. You may, however, choose not to fill in this section. This will not affect later calculations. Mouse over the orange question mark for more information. 4. On the Data Sheet (on page 5 of this document), write down your zip code of residence (question 1). Zoonar/Thinkstock About This Activity This activity complements the 2012 HHMI Holiday Lectures on Science — Changing Planet: Past, Present,Future. Using an online calculator, you will estimate your household’s carbon footprint and explore various actions to reduce it.
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  • Spring '17
  • Muenchrath
  • Greenhouse gas, Methane, Howard Hughes, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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