One way to better understand how to take part in shifting the trajectory of climate change is to assess your carbon footprint or that of your family. A carbon footprint is a general calculation of the number of greenhouse gases, measured in the amount of carbon dioxide, created from human activities. It is an estimate of the total amount of carbon dioxide directly and indirectly released by activity or the lifetime of a product. The higher your carbon footprint, the less sustainable your lifestyle, but the more potential you have to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
A number of websites offer simple assessments of your carbon footprint. The quick estimate can give you a general idea of the carbon dioxide emissions associated with your lifestyle in comparison to others or the average American. For example, on the SC Johnson website, you can determine your carbon footprint according to three aspects of your lifestyle: household, transportation, and travel. (https://www.conservation.org/carbon-footprint-calculator#/) Other websites that walk you through the calculation of your carbon footprint in more detail include https://www.carbonfootprint.com/, the Nature Conservancy (https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/consider-your-impact/ carbon-calculator/) and the United Nations (https://offset.climateneutralnow.org/footprintcalc).
To reduce our carbon footprint, we invested in a geothermal system for the heating and cooling of our home two years ago. The rest of our energy needs are met through electricity, generated from 100% renewable sources, an option offered by NIPSCO, the local energy company. We emit zero carbon emissions from our energy use in our home. Other ways we have reduced our carbon footprint include fewer material purchases, less meat consumption (especially red meat), reduction of chemicals (no pesticides), packaging, and paper products. We rarely purchase fast foods, generate much less garbage, drive energy-efficient cars, and continue to modify our lifestyles toward greater sustainability.
As a means to address climate change, compute your carbon footprint using one of the websites, and then look for ways to lower your carbon dioxide emissions. Combating climate change is an effort for the greater good, for the future health of the earth. We are all connected in our dwelling place on this earth. Pope Francis states, “we are called to reside as brothers and sisters in a common home” and “now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers, and sisters, and stewards of creation.”
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.