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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

Getting Personal About CO2: Tools to Help Track Our Carbon Footprint

Aerial shot of trees in forest with blue footprints above, representing carbon footprints

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The mixed results of the recent COP26 climate summit in trying to forge worldwide cooperation to reduce carbon emissions show that personal action is necessary, although doing so may seem daunting and confusing because it means reevaluating many everyday activities.

To help, Graham Hill, who founded the sustainability website Treehugger in 2004 and the small-living consultancy LifeEdited in 2010, recently launched The Carbonauts to teach us how to reduce our carbon footprint and lead a lower-carbon lifestyle.

In August, Hill told Treehugger he viewed the venture in part as “a great way to make a difference to do two things—change your behavior and pressure corporations and governments to change, as well.”

Hill and former Treehugger editor Meaghan O’Neill offer a free one-hour course titled Personal Sustainability Plan that teaches people how to use a carbon calculator. They also offer a six-week course on Zoom that focuses on carbon footprint calculation; renewable energy; plant-rich diet and food waste; electric vehicles; optimizing flying and carbon offsets; and goal setting and personalized resources. 

TheCarbonauts.com also recommends composting and waste storage products and helpful books and films. In partnership with Terrapass, it offers opportunities to participate in carbon offset programs on a one-time, monthly or annual basis.

Other helpful carbon-reducing guides can be accessed via the apps United Nations Carbon Footprint Calculator and The Capture. Other personal actions may include:

  • Buying goods that are pre-owned or secondhand, renting or sharing items and having broken items repaired instead of buying new, all of which cut emissions from product manufacturing.
  • Considering family staycations instead of flying and taking long road trips.
  • Choosing Rainforest Alliance-certified products, including coffee, bananas, tea and chocolate. Doing so maximizes the yield from existing cropland of farms that use responsible growing methods, which, in turn, protects and restores forests that sequester carbon.
  • Walking, biking or taking mass transportation instead of driving.

Taking such basic steps can also help influence others. As Treehugger writer Sami Grover says in his book We’re All Climate Hypocrites Now, riding a bike not only cuts down on our personal carbon footprint, but also sends “a signal to politicians, planners, businesses and fellow citizens.”

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