A carbon footprint is a "measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide". It is meant to be useful for individuals, nations and organizations to conceptualize their personal (or organizational) impact in contributing to global warming. A conceptual tool in response to carbon footprints are carbon offsets, or the mitigation of carbon emissions through the development of alternative projects such as solar or wind energy or reforestation. The carbon footprint is a subset of the ecological footprint, which includes all human demands on the biosphere.
This is an interesting site that will help you calculate your own carbon footprint. Be prepared to have what you pay for utilities handy.
While I didn't go through the whole process (but I will), there were some questions that relate to eating locally that can reduce each of our carbon footprints including:
- Being a vegetarian (difficult in South Dakota with our fantastic beef/bison and lamb!)
- Buy organic food (more and more options all the time; even better -- grow your own)
- Buy food that is in season (since our growing season is short -- maybe freezing and canning summer produce are options?)
- Buy only second hand clothes (Being second hand is second nature to me! Sweet Repeat in Spearfish and yard sales are okay by me most of the time.)
- Buy things with very little or no packaging (Depends on what we buy but something to think about. Bringing a cloth bag when buying groceries could be one example.)
- Buy second hand furniture and appliances (Not sure about this one. Second hand furniture -- maybe; appliances -- not sure)
- Recycle or compost everything (We are exploring recycling options in Spearfish that cost $14 per month. I could compost but need to set that up.)
- Focus on recreation that is zero carbon like cycling and walking (This probably means I should pull my clubs instead of taking a cart!)
- Do not own a car (Some could do this -- driving to Rapid City which is 50 miles each way would be tough but we could still think about our shopping 'trips and errands' and be smarter about that. Mike could ride his bike to work in the fall!)
These are great ways to reduce our carbon footprint. If we all made little changes, the net result could be a big impact.