Buy a hybrid car or save up for solar panels? Shop for local produce or choose compact fluorescent light bulbs? It’s tough to know which environmentally-friendly changes make the most impact.

New research out of the University of California, Berkeley, shows that who you are and where you live can determine which eco-changes would be most beneficial. Christopher Jones, lead author of the study and a researcher in Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, told me more about the findings last week. Below are excerpts from our interview.


Carbon Footprint changes
The typical U.S. household dumps 48 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. In this breakdown, blue indicates direct emissions, such as from driving a family car or heating a home. Green indicates indirect emissions, such as carbon emitted by the trucks delivering groceries to a retail store or in the process of growing crops. / Courtesy of UC Berkeley


What are the elements of a carbon footprint?

We consider the carbon footprint of everything that household consumes. A carbon footprint is a measure of greenhouse gas emissions required for the production, use and disposal of goods and services. That could be anything from transportation to household energy [to] actual goods and services, products, food, water and waste.

Businesses also have a carbon footprint. There is some potential for double counting there. We’re not saying that this is what you’re responsible for. We’re saying, ‘This is the carbon footprint of all your household activity.’ We leave it to individuals to determine what they want to take responsibility for. That’s an important point.

It’s easy for people to understand that the fuel they burn in their vehicles [is] something they’re directly responsible for. They also feel responsible for their energy, but that is indirect. It’s emissions that the company is doing on their behalf. Food is also indirect. Consumers place demand on the economy and the economy provides goods and services to the consumer.

via How location, household size and income impact your carbon footprint | Smartplanet.

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