Climate scientists’ reports about 2020 carbon emissions numbers are sobering. An analysis of global temperatures by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies shows that 2020 was the warmest year on record. That’s despite the cooling effect of last year’s La Niña event. The previous six years are all among the hottest ever.
It’s a wake-up call. There’s no doubt that political and business leaders need to institute smart and aggressive climate policies. But at the same time, we can each take steps to reduce our carbon footprint. Even small changes can add up to a big impact. This article will explain what a carbon footprint is and how it is calculated. It also offers four key ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
What is a carbon footprint?
Your carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases generated by your existence. Carbon footprints are measured by the ton. According to The Nature Conservancy, which offers a carbon footprint calculator, the average carbon footprint for a person in the U.S. is a whopping 16 tons per year. The non-profit states that everyone would need to reduce their footprint down to 2 tons by 2050 to avoid a catastrophic 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.
For the average individual, that means reducing your carbon footprint by nearly 90%! That’s a steep order, but if you know which aspects of your lifestyle have the most environmental impact, you can take meaningful steps towards that reduction target.
One of the most impactful areas to focus on is transportation. That’s because, in America, transportation accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions, representing 28% of total emissions. Passenger vehicles—our cars, S.U.V.s, and trucks—produce the highest portion (59%) of those transit-related carbon emissions.
Even a moderately efficient 25-mpg car represents more than 4 tons of emissions per year—based on average annual driving in the U.S. Drivers can slice off about 2 tons of climate emissions by cutting in half the miles driven in a year. You can achieve that by replacing car-trips with walking, biking, or taking public transit. Technology, such as vehicle electrification, is also a part of the solution.
Let’s take a look at the four top ways to reduce your carbon footprint, without sacrificing the conveniences of a modern lifestyle.
1. Drive an electric vehicle
On average, electric vehicles are about four times more efficient than gas-powered cars. What would switching to electric mean for your carbon footprint?
- An efficient, 34-mpg Toyota Camry emits 3.9 tons of direct CO2 emissions based on 13,500 miles of annual driving.
- A Tesla Model 3 produces 0 direct emissions from the tailpipe for those same miles.
Direct tailpipe emissions include smog-forming pollutants harmful to human health and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. While electric vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions, they still require energy from the grid. The exact amount of carbon emissions associated with powering an EV varies depending on geography and where your electricity comes from. On average, gas cars produce 300% more emissions than electric vehicles today.
There’s a myth that all-electric vehicles are too expensive. The venerable Consumer Reports magazine published a 2020 study finding that EVs cost between $6,000 to $10,000 less than internal-combustion vehicles over the lifetime of use. Upfront purchase prices are reduced by EV and EVSE rebates worth between a couple hundred and as much as $7,500 the federal EV tax credit depending on the vehicle make and model.
Try Enel X Way’s EVSE incentive tool for the specific rebates available to you based on your region.