Carbon is the fourth-most abundant element by mass in the universe and makes up pretty much all life on this planet. In the human body, we expel it every time we open our mouths to speak or to breathe, and we can expel it other ways as well. It’s in the fuel we put in our vehicles, the plants in our forests, and the diamonds in our jewelry. Suffice to say that carbon is everywhere.

You might’ve heard the term "carbon footprint" in the past couple of years, especially when people talk about global warming. Let’s take a look at what a carbon footprint is and the ways that you can reduce yours.

What Is It?

The generally accepted definition of a carbon footprint is “the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide.”

Since man-made change, global warming, is caused in some way by the release of carbon into the atmosphere, the bigger your footprint, the more impact you supposedly have on the environment. If you’re wondering, the average American household has a carbon footprint of 50 tons.

How To Measure Your Footprint

Measuring your carbon footprint is relatively easy. There are plenty of websites on the Internet that can tell you exactly how your are individually impacting the environment. In the one found on, I found that my individual carbon footprint was 16 tons of carbon per year, while the individual American average was 27 and the world individual average was 5.5.

These measurements take into account where you live and what type of housing you live in, how much driving and flying you do in a calendar year and how well you take care of your vehicle, how much and what types of food you eat, and how often you recycle or compost waste.

If you’d rather go the fashionable, wearable route, there’s a new device similar to the Fitbit that tracks your carbon footprint. Called Worldbeing, the device was created by Benjamin Hubert with the intention of pairing with a smartphone, allowing the user to monitor their carbon footprint the same way they monitor their steps with a fitness tracker. The app will be able to track everything from your transportation decisions, food intake, and energy consumption. The device is still in the concept stage, but you can watch its video below:

Reducing Your Footprint Is Easy

Now that you know what your carbon footprint is, how it affects the environment, and ways that you can monitor it, how do you go about actually reducing it?

  1. Unplug Your Electronics: The Environmental Protection Agency says that “40 percent of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.”

  2. Use Your Thermostat Sparingly: Heating and cooling your home accounts for nearly $1,000 a year, more than half of the average American’s energy bill.

  3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Make sure to recycle your newspapers and junk mail, beverage containers, and other products. Reuse plastic bags and compost food waste and yard clippings instead of adding them to your garbage.

  4. Drive More Efficiently: This means purchasing a car that is good on gas mileage, then keeping that car in as good as shape as possible. Check your tire pressure and air filters regularly, and if possible, carpool, use public transit, bike or walk to work.

  5. Choose Energy-Efficient Appliances and Lightbulbs: Replace old incandescent bulbs with LEDs or more energy-saving bulbs, find the Energy Star label on your next refrigerator or oven, and make sure your clothes washer uses as little water as possible.