I’m carbon neutral, are you ?

Carbon-dioxide A friend made a plea that we all try to reduce our carbon footprint. My first thought is I have already put my "money where my mouth is" in that regard. However, it got me thinking – What is my carbon footprint ?

A person’s carbon footprint is simply the carbon produced minus carbon consumed. I found two calculators that did a passable job (carbon calculator #1 and carbon footprint #2). My results were between 16 and 17 tons of CO2 per year. Some sites will describe that as high and the primary factor is that my number represent a household of one. It also includes my workshop which is no small contributor during the heating season. For the curious, here is the breakdown:

  • Air Travel = 1T
  • Car = 2.3T
  • Truck = 6.3T
  • Self + House & Shop = 6.5 T
  • Total = 16.1 T

That is the "producer" side of the equation. Now for the offset.

A healthy tree stores about 13 pounds of carbon annually — or 2.6 tons per acre each year. (source). I have approximately 40 acres of trees so that is just over 100 tons of carbon sequestration. I was not able to find data for lawns so I will assume it is net neutral against the lawn mower.

The envelop please …. I am actually carbon negative to the tune of 84 tons per year. Awesome !

Of course, this is not a highly reproducible pattern. There are approximately 2.3 billion acres of land in the Unites States (source). If everyone had 40 acres of trees, that would make the total population less than 60 million and that does not even allow for manufacturing, agriculture, or infrastructure. For the record, the current population is estimated at more than 307 million (source).

Anyone want to buy some carbon credits ?


  1. Roy says:

    i am not carbon neutral, personally containing ~49 lbs.

  2. Mary says:

    This is an interesting question. I looked at both sites and find a couple of the questions difficult to answer. Of course, for some of them I can get all self-righteous, as I drive less than 1000 miles per year and always opt to use 35+ mpg vehicles. But then I visit family in Chicago and Florida by air, not to mention the trips to Brazil every two years. Consumption of heating oil is difficult to calculate, as I live in a condo and we purchase oil as a group. My unit is sunny and located in the center of the building, so I don’t have the radiators on much. But that’s because I’m insulated by other units on more exposed areas, and my neighbors do need more heat to keep their units at 65 degrees in winter. Our buildings were constructed in 1926 and except for replacement windows and more efficient water heaters and boilers, we haven’t had too many retrofits. So my footprint is smaller than that of the average US citizen, but it could be smaller still – even without going off the grid or shopping at Salvation Army.

  3. Sylvain says:

    Best I’ve read on this topic is the free book/PDF downloadable from here: http://www.withouthotair.com/.

    • Glen says:

      Thanks! – I just loaded the book onto my iPod so I can read it while on business trips (which I seem to be doing more and more of). Of course, then new spurt of business travel adds to my carbon footprint so now I’l need to recalculate it again.