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Your Environmental Footprint

Calculate your footprint and learn how to have less of an impact on the environment.

What is an environmental footprint?

Everything we do affects the environment around us, creating an environmental footprint that tells a great deal about us as individuals and as a society. As the world's population increases, humans are encroaching upon wilderness areas and destroying habitats at an alarming rate. As a result, we are reducing biodiversity, causing the extinction of many plants and animals, and ultimately threatening our own survival. But there are ways that you can assess and reduce the negative impact that your normal daily routine can have on the environment. Below are some tools to help you determine how much of an impact your lifestyle is having on the natural world around you and how to reduce that impact.

How are YOU impacting the environment?

There is no way to entirely eliminate the effect human beings have on the environment. But armed with the knowledge of how our everyday activities affect the world around us, we can strive to pollute less and lower our energy use. Here are two different ways to measure YOUR impact, and learn how you can reduce it!

Carbon Calculator:

This carbon calculator from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determines your impact on the climate via carbon emissions. It uses your transportation and electrical habits to determine specifically what your carbon footprint is and offers ideas on how to reduce emissions and save money. Calculate YOUR carbon footprint .

Calculate Your Footprint:

This footprint calculator takes into account where you live, how you travel, and what you eat, and it tells you how big your environmental footprint is. What if everyone shared your lifestyle? How many planets would we need to sustain all of us? This calculator suggests answers to these questions and more. Calculate YOUR ecological footprint .

Want to change your footprint?

Here are a few simple tips and tricks you can use to lessen your environmental impact!
Click each one to learn more.

Reduce, resuse, recycle — and compost.

  • Carry a canvas grocery bag instead of using plastic bags in stores. Single-use plastic bags are a huge source of pollution. If you forgot your reusable canvas grocery bag, re-use those plastic bags, and when they're done, take them back to the grocery store. Many major chains have bag-recycling services.
  • Avoid extra packaging where possible — for example, produce like potatoes, handled with care, probably don't need their own little plastic bag inside your grocery bag. And if all you're carrying out of the store is a single item like a loaf of bread, why get a plastic grocery bag to carry it in? By avoiding extra packaging, you save both energy and landfill space.
  • Buy used instead of new. If you can find a lovely piece of furniture on Craigslist, in a thrift store, or through a friend, purchasing it instead of something new cuts down on material and energy resources that go into making and shipping a brand-new product. And you'll probably save yourself some money, too.
  • Shipping something? Reusing packaging material, from cardboard boxes to plastic and "peanuts," saves even more energy than recycling.
  • Aluminum cans are one of the greatest recycling successes, and aluminum is the only common recyclable material that can endlessly recycle without breaking down. Does your beverage of choice come in both cans and plastic bottles? Choose the former — and recycle it when you're done.
  • Check the recycling numbers on your plastics to see what can be tossed into the recycling bin, instead of the trash. The more that gets recycled, the less goes into landfills or, worse, escapes into the great oceanic garbage patches — which contain great quantities of discarded plastic.
  • Compost your yard and kitchen waste. This waste, which includes leaves, grass, and vegetable scraps, makes up 30% of trash — an amount you can significantly reduce by composting. You can do it yourself with a little research, or ask your city disposal organization — many cities are offering composting bins along with trash and recycling bins these days.

Save energy at home.

  • Watch for vampire electricity drains — turn off the computer and game consoles when you're not using them, unplug the coffeepot (anything with a digital display continues to consume energy even if "off"), and turn off lights if you're not in the room.
  • Look for energy efficient light bulbs — compact fluorescent lights have come a long way, and you can purchase fluorescent bulbs that imitate the warm glow of incandescence but can last ten times the lifespan of a traditional incandescent bulb.
  • Replacing your appliances? Look for energy-efficient models — they will not only save energy, but also save you money when you run them.
  • Lower your thermostat a bit in the winter and raise it in the summer; wearing a sweater during the winter and short sleeves in the summer saves energy and reduces pollution.
  • Keep your windows and doors up-to-date and sealed, and keep your house insulated so that heat doesn't escape. Your heaters and air conditioners will not need to work as hard to maintain a comfortable temperature, and your energy bill will reflect the savings.

Cut emissions & reduce toxic chemicals.

  • Consider efficiency when purchasing new cars or appliances. Look for fuel-efficient cars — there's quite a variety in today's market.
  • Drive less often — alternative transportation can save you money even as it cuts emissions. Also look for opportunities to use public transit, bicycles, and carpools. Fuel economy decreases rapidly over 60 mph, so if you drive, try not to speed. And keep your tires inflated to recommended levels to increase their lifespan and save fuel.
  • Buy local. When you buy local produce, it doesn't have to be trucked halfway across the country. That shrinks your carbon footprint. Lower your general consumption and choose products that take fewer resources to create.
  • Dispose of old paint, chemicals, and oil properly. Don't put batteries, antifreeze, paint, motor oil, or chemicals in the trash. Use proper toxic disposal sites; your city or county disposal organization can guide you, so give them a call. Never buy more chemicals than you need.
  • Reduce your use of heavy chemical pesticides and herbicides for your lawn and garden. That stuff gets into the water — fertilizer runoff is considered a major contributor to hypoxic "dead zones" in oceans and large lakes, where virtually nothing, including the fish, can live. Wean your plants off of chemical dependency and focus on increasing soil quality with organic mulches, composts, and the properly recommended application of organic nutrients, as well as beneficial soil bacteria and mycorrhiza. Your plants will be healthier for it.
  • Eat less meat. Feedlots concentrate an unnaturally large number of animals and are a major source of organic pollution. In tropical areas, rainforest is cleared for cattle pasture. Local and organic foods reduce the energy costs of transportation and the excessive use of pesticides.
  • Quit smoking. Second-hand smoke is a major indoor air pollutant and health hazard. When you quit, both you and your family will lead longer and healthier lives.

Conserve precious water.

  • Check your home regularly for leaks, such as dripping faucets and running toilets, and fix them. You'd be amazed how much water can be wasted because of "minor" drips — water that is becoming an increasingly precious commodity.
  • Take shorter showers and don't leave the tap running while you brush your teeth. It may seem like small water savings, but a shower a day and a couple of brushings really add up.
  • Filling your high-efficiency dishwasher to capacity with dirty dishes before running it is the most eco-friendly way to do dishes. If you need to do some dishes by hand, don't leave the tap running. Fill a small bowl with soapy water to wash with and, instead of rinsing one dish at a time, wash as many dishes as your (clean) sink can hold before rinsing.
  • Gradually reduce how often you water your lawn. Watering once a week during really tough dry spells should suffice, and if you water deeply rather than more often, it'll be healthier for it. Soggy lawns also attract moles, so you'll be doing yourself an extra little favor by drying it out.
  • Water lawns and gardens only in the evenings or very early mornings. If you water during the heat of the day, most of that water is evaporating and not doing a bit of good to your plants.
  • Plant native or drought-tolerant garden plants. They need less water than grass, can be very beautiful, and create habitat for birds and beneficial insects. Talk to a local nursery to see what fares well in your area.

Preserve wilderness, educate, & advocate.

  • Plant native trees and plants in your yard. Your local nursery can probably help you pick out what will fare best in your mini-ecosystem, and the birds and butterflies, among others, will really appreciate your efforts.
  • Plant native trees and plants in your neighborhood. If you're involved in neighborhood planting of public areas, talk to others about using native instead of introduced species to maintain wildlife habitat and reduce water and nutrient requirements. Many local organizations are involved with the planting of natives and the removal of invasive species in parks; join them and help out — many hands make light work!
  • Take a walk in the woods with friends or family. Teaching our loved ones, especially our children, to love and care for natural spaces is an important part of caring for our future and will help them connect the dots between family recycling efforts and the natural world those efforts protect.
  • Keep your cat indoors; if kitty wants to go out, purchase a harness and a leash and make sure you are on the other end of it while he or she explores. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that over 100 million birds are killed by cats every year. And your cat will probably have a longer lifespan indoors — away from the cars, dogs, coyotes, raccoons, parasites, and diseases that are also lurking outside.
  • Stay informed. Keeping an eye on political and commercial developments that may affect the environment means that you can have an informed say in what ends up happening, whether through voting, sending letters to the city council, or asking a corporation to change their policy.
  • Volunteer or lobby for the environment. Try working locally and globally to save natural places, reduce urban sprawl, lower pollution and prevent the destruction of wilderness areas for timber and oil.

Oh, yes. And don't forget to click every day ...

... to preserve habitat for wildlife, here at The Rainforest Site. Thank you for caring and for keeping it green!

A word about carbon ...

Carbon is a natural part of every known life form on Earth, and it is one of the most common elements on our planet. By itself, carbon is not a bad thing. But humans affect the balance of the world's atmospheric gasses every day by how we live, travel, and choose to consume. Today, our actions are releasing carbon in the form of CO2 at an alarming rate, leading to global warming.

Carbon travels in cycles. When we burn or destroy solid carbon-containing substances, whether by fuel ignition (gas-powered engines, energy from coal, natural gas, and even wood fires) or artificially accelerated decay (burning forests to create pasture for beef cattle), we speed up the rate at which solid carbon becomes gas. Conservation of fossil fuels and natural resources is one way to cut down on the amount of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere, but how do we take the CO2 that is already there and restore it to a solid form? The answer is simple: Plant a tree.

Trees are carbon sinks. They absorb and process carbon much like people breathe oxygen. Through photosynthesis, some of that carbon is converted to solid form and stays that way until the tree dies. By saving existing trees, and by planting more native trees in places where they can thrive, we can positively affect the atmosphere and increase biodiversity.

A final note ...

We can help safeguard the environment by becoming aware of the repercussions of our choices in life. Learning how to change your impact and being proactive in countering the effects of global warming and environmental degradation are great ways to help. Take a moment to breathe the air and to look at the world around you. There are natural wonders everywhere that are worthy of our admiration and respect. We must take steps to preserve and protect that beauty for ourselves and for generations to come.

In addition to all of the things you can do to help, please remember that you can make the world a better place every day here at The Rainforest Site, one click at a time. Thank you!

Don't forget to click to save vital habitat every day! Visit The Rainforest Site, and click today.

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