How Does Your Carbon Footprint Impact Climate Change?

Ways to be mindful of your contribution to climate change, and ways to offset your impact

The U.S. Energy Information Administration states that greenhouse gases are gases that keep heat in the earth’s atmosphere. They do this by making it easier for sunlight to enter the atmosphere. And when the sun’s rays hit the earth, they also cause a reflection — infrared radiation — which is what stays in the earth’s atmosphere due to greenhouse gases. Although greenhouse gases do occur naturally, human activity contributes a great deal to greenhouse gas emissions. Your carbon footprint — or your impact on the environment — measures the greenhouse gases that you are responsible for creating. Common activities like using electricity and driving a car emit those gases.

Global warming and fossil fuels

About three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions that are attributed to humans come from burning fossil fuels. We burn fossil fuels — nonrenewable energy sources — when we operate vehicles, heat our homes and even use electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Administration has also concluded that greenhouse gas emissions have been on the rise since industrialization, suggesting that humans are to blame for much of the greenhouse gas production. And science has also linked greenhouse gas production to climate change, or the increase in earth’s temperature. Because the Natural Resources Defense Council writes that global warming can cause catastrophic weather events, flooding, water shortages and disturbed ecosystems, it is important for each individual to understand his or her impact on the future and work to make that impact more positive.

Climate change and recycling

Although reducing energy use is today’s latest rage, a measure of your carbon footprint will also include recycling. According to Carbon Footprint, a carbon management business, when you don’t recycle, you waste the energy that is used making and transporting new items. Recycling and reusing allows less energy to go into the process of creating new items. This means fewer fossil fuels are being used. In addition, Carbon Footprint points out that when you recycle, your garbage takes up less room in landfills. Thus, by not recycling, you increase your greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.

Reducing your carbon footprint

There are several ways to combat climate change by reducing your carbon footprint. First, you can recycle, use less electricity and use public transportation. In addition to these lifestyle changes, many companies now allow you to buy credits that neutralize your carbon usage. In fact, this movement has been popular with some commercial companies. A carbon credit is a dollar amount that will go toward offsetting emissions. Individuals and companies buy the credits through environmental improvement agencies, who dedicate them to carbon-offsetting projects. Many companies sell carbon credits online, but it is important to ensure you buy credits from reputable organizations in order to ensure that you are reducing your carbon footprint.

Thank you for signing up!

Tell us what you think!
If you'd like to comment on this article, become a member of Gaiam Life.
Click here to create your account.