Carbon Footprints in the Sand…

How Big Are Your Feet? Use the Ecological Footprint Calculator from Refinding Progress to find out.Waiting for someone else to do something about climate change is one way to help insure that nothing gets done. All the way from the Bush Administration saying the U.S. can’t do anything to curb its emissions until China and India do something (with China and India pointing the finger right back at us) right down to my own feeling of powerlessness to make any positive change in the face of climate change – my daily life is part of the problem more than it is a cure – and I’m an avowed tree-hugger. Optimism is not always easy.

Okay, I’ll indulge the moment of pessimism, but then I need to get over it and move on– do something, take a positive step forward with that big, huge, carbon footprint of mine.

Through education comes change, and educating ourselves on both our carbon footprint but ways to change it, if we so choose, is good first step.

There are several very good “carbon calculators” available on the web. My favorite is the newly redesigned Ecological Footprint Calculator from Redefining Progress, a progressive policy think tank. The calculator takes the carbon footprint one step further by helping define an overall ecological footprint based four general classifications of Carbon, Food, Housing, and Good and Services. Through each step of the calcuation process I am given my region’s average footprint, so I have a running idea of where I stand as I work my way through the process. The final result shows my aggregate consumption of planet Earth. In other words how many Earths it would take if everyone consumed resources at the rate that I do.

While I am significantly below the U.S average in carbon and housing footprints, slightly below the average for goods and services, and just about average for food footprint (though I might argue this a bit as I haven’t had any red meat in years) my use of the earth requires 4.2 earths if everyone where to live like I do.

Okay, that sorta bums me out. So I’ve got big feet after all – what am I going to do about it?

Fortunately, the Ecological Footprint Calculator doesn’t leave a person hanging like that. That’s one sure way to fall back into apathy and pessimism. There are definite steps outlined to reduce my footprint for each category. Admittadly, many of them I am already focused on. Particularly in my carbon footprint. But there are still many things I can be doing better. And it only took me a few minutes to find that out.

Sure, solving the climate crisis will take more than changing a lightbulb, but we all need to start somewhere by changing our habits and “re-tooling our thinking”.

Redefining Progress and the Ecological Footprint Calculator are ways to do just that.

So go ahead, find out just how big your feet are.



Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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