The Global Footprint Network’s carbon footprint calculator is a fun, interactive, and revealing way for people to think about the various things in their lives that impact their carbon footprint. Click on the link above or the image below to take the quiz.

In order to get as much out of the quiz as possible, be sure to respond to the more detailed questions in each section.  In addition, take note of the kind of information the quiz is asking for as you will be asked about those in the reflection question.  And lastly, when you get to the end of the quiz, be sure to “explore scenarios” for reducing your carbon footprint.

Reflection Question: Was there anything surprising you learned having taken this quiz? If so, what was it? When exploring scenarios for reducing your carbon footprint were any of them realistic options for you? Lastly, does learning this kind of information (carbon footprint) or putting in relative terms (e.g. the number earths it would take to sustain life if everyone lived like you) useful or impactful in shaping your knowledge or attitudes towards environmental sustainability? If so, how?

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26 thoughts on “8.5

  1. The idea that if everyone lived like me, it would take more than 4 planet earths to support our lifestyle is shocking. I didn’t realize my life style is so unsustainable. I eagerly looked at the scenarios for reducing my carbon footprint in hopes of finding things I can do to reduce it. However, I was disappointed with the suggestions. I can decrease the amount of planets it takes to support my lifestyle if I use solar panels, which is an unrealistic option since I do not own the building I live in. I can also use appliances that are energy efficient, but the appliances that I have are not near the end of their life. And I can switch to purchasing products that use less packaging or are made out of 100% post-consumer recycled content materials; however, how do I know that my products are made out of 100% post-consumer recycled materials and can all of the products I purchase be made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials? I think it is useful to know my ecological footprint because it makes me more aware of the effect I have on the planet. It will make me think twice when options to purchase energy efficient products or products made out of 100% poster-consumer recycled materials. I would also like to find other ways to decrease my ecological footprint.

  2. Surprisingly, I learned my carbon footprint wasn’t as bad as I anticipated (3.4). While exploring scenarios, I learned that driving less and using metro more would actually raise my footprint by .1 but I could lower it by .1 if I bought exclusively locally grown foods and another .1 by getting serious about recycling. And even if I moved 4 additional people into my home that would only lower my footprint by another .1. This knowledge makes me more conscious of the impact urban living has upon the sustainability of our world and makes me think living closer in line with nature is definitely better for our earth. (Or perhaps move to Bolivia where the average footprint is 2.? and the biocapacity is near 20)

  3. My impact was 4.9 earths which was surprising. What I learned from this however is that my carbon foot print is made larger by the little things rather than the big things. I for example don’t recycle at home (largely because I am not aware of how to do this in VA, Im from Michigan) and I don’t shop at local farmers markets as often as I could. If I did those two things, which are very feasible I could significantly reduce my footprint. Having this awareness makes me feel both empowered and inspired to make or attempt to make those adjustments.

  4. My carbon footprint was 4.3 Earths… I never have thought of my impact like that. This experience was a bit of a wake up call for me because I it showed me that I can be doing a better job in terms of lowering my carbon footprint. I know there are a few lifestyle choices that I can make that would lower my footprint for example eating local. In terms of land, the energy land needed to support my lifestyle far outweighs all the other areas. I feel that this is in part because I live in an apartment building. One more thing that I can do it instead of driving to the grocery store, walk and make more choices like that to lower my carbon footprint.

  5. Surprisingly, I learned my carbon footprint wasn’t as bad as anticipated (3.4). While exploring scenarios, I learned that driving less and using metro more would actually raise my footprint by .1 but I could lower it by .1 if I bought exclusively locally grown foods and another .1 by getting serious about recycling. And even if I moved 4 additional people into my home that would only lower my footprint by another .1. This knowledge makes me more conscious of the impact urban living has upon the sustainablity of our world and makes me think living closer to nature is definitely better for our earth. (Or perhaps move to Cape Verde)

  6. One thing I learned (or re-learned) was how horrible flying is for the environment. I fly a lot for two reasons that I don’t imagine being realistic to change any time soon: (1) for work, and (2) I take roughly 3 cross-country roundtrip trips to go home to California each year to visit family and friends. I’m almost never in a car and I walk and take public transportation almost everywhere in my daily life, and yet my transportation footprint was still 25% of my over all footprint. A realistic suggestion for reducing my carbon footprint was cutting my consumption of animal products in half. This would be definitely be hard, but was more realistic than the others, and entails the dual motivator of this also being healthier for me in many ways.

    Yes, this is definitely an impactful exercise. I did this as an assignment for my econ class as a senior in high school and I still very vividly remember it. I think about still to this day. I believe that my score (4.9 earths) is roughly the same now as it was then, which is sad. I would definitely consider having my students take the quiz — it could be very interesting to see how their scores differ from their counterparts in their parter country (who are in a different country).

  7. I was totally in awe while viewing my quiz results. If everyone lived like me we would need 4.9 planet earths to provide adequate amounts of resources. That’s a lot of resources used and I’m very surprised, so I need to figure out how to scale back to use less resources in my home. My ecological breakdown was the highest percentages used in services of 41%, Foods 21%, Shelter 13%, Mobility 12%,Goods 14%. To support my lifestyle it would take 21.8 global acres of earth’s product area. I was surprised to see how much I travel and the usage of gas mileage is out of control. I see where the needs to cut down on some things are. This quiz was an eye opener for me. I also noticed the consumption of how much meat I eat on a regular basis. I really know the effects on some of the meats we eat, but it’s hard to eliminate them out of my daily diet for the love of it. The question I am pondering on is, How do we eliminate the high adequate amounts of resources that we are using in our home? I think if I focus on the contents of what I just saw in the quiz this information will help govern some of the choices I make on a daily basis. This information was very informative to see.

  8. I always knew I could be doing better, but 3.8 earths?? What a wakeup call. I’m pescatarian and I use public transportation almost exclusively. This exercise was relatively impactful, but there’s few things reasonably within my control to reduce my footprint — I am not a homeowner and am at will of my apartments management company as to whether I have access to energy efficient appliances and building materials. The most impactful change I could make is to go vegan, but I really love food, especially dairy, so this will feel like a huge sacrifice.

  9. It would take 4.7 planets to sustain my lifestyle. I was surprised this was so high because I know that I’ve reduced my footprint from the past. For example, I used to take a plane trip about every month for work and at least once a year for vacation. Now I hardly ever take a plane anywhere (once in the last four years). But at the same time, since I changed jobs two years ago, I started driving to work when I’d used Metro and bus for two decades in D.C. to get to work. I could go to work by Metro but it would take at least a half hour longer each way.

    The exercise reminded me that I can make a difference by changing what kind of food I buy. I need to be more diligent about going to the farmer’s market in Silver Spring, to cut down on the food that is transported long distances. Also, I could cut out red meat without really missing it much. I like fish just as well.

  10. OMG it took 18 planet earths and resources was the highest on my pie graph. I really didn’t think hard about what I eat, or how often i ride with someone. LIFE CHECK for me. I can try eating more veggies and ones that are grown locally. I just brought a motorcycle, so I will be using that more than driving my car. If we were to look at this as being materialistic, I am very materialistic and that is not me at all. I have and will do better. My questions is, how can we get our students to see the importance of this?

  11. 5 planet earths to provide enough resources if everyone lived like me, wow! very surprising. I could reduce the amount of meat/dairy products that I consume, that is realistic for me. Also I drive sometime when I don’t need to. I always think about the environmental sustainability and how reckless humans are sometime. When I was young I didn’t eat to much process food and I walk everywhere. We are in a technology area that is causing humans to be lazy. Children and adults are heavier. I looked at old photos of my family and they were thinner. This is an eye-opener.

  12. Pingback: Week 5 – Environmental Sustainability (Summer 2013) | Peace Learner

  13. Maria Schneider–I was surprised at my own global footprint. I thought that it would be less than it is, and I was surprised to see how much it is linked to my food consumption. I realized that a lot of my footprint has to do with my status as a student (living in an apartment, using public transit and biking, not buying a lot of “stuff”, and my inability to use solar power, afford specific plastics etc). The one scenario that is most realistic for me is that of reducing the amount of meat and dairy I eat by half. I used to be a vegetarian and was good about eating smart, and I am trying to transition into eating a more balanced plant-based diet.

  14. I am surprised that my meat consumption seemed so high. I thought I ate less meat than the average american but it is still very unsustainable. I have done this type of activity before so I was not too surprised by how unsustainable my lifestyle is. I am left wondering– can I live in American without being so wasteful? It seems like living in a developing country would be much easier on the planet (but less easy on me).

  15. It was interesting to see that 51% of my usage was “services” though I’m still not entirely clear on what those encompass. When looking at the options for reducing my carbon footprint, most of those things I already did. When I clicked on reduced the amount of animal products I eat by half, (I eat very little right now) it had almost no impact. Finally, I decided to choose electricity from renewables which is something I am exploring now that I’ve moved. That would help some.

    I think this quiz is somewhat misleading though. For instance, replacing all of your appliances with energy star rated appliances is more wasteful than just using what you have until it dies, however this was a scenario proposed to reduce your footprint. I feel like this quiz doesn’t take into consideration where things come from, just the usage life of them. Also, proposing public transportation is good if you’re targeting audiences that live in big cities, however I think people in big cities tend to live with smaller carbon footprints than those in the suburbs or further out and those people don’t usually have a public transit option. So though it is interesting to see some graphic details on how one lives their life, I’m not sure it’s entirely realistic for Americans.

  16. I was surprised that the “services” I consume are responsible for using the most of the earth’s resources. I’d like to know more about what that means specifically. I’ve realized that my eating habits are really unsustainable, even before taking this quiz – while I do mainly buy unpackaged, local, fresh foods, I still eat lots of animal products, when the truth is that I don’t need to. Seeing this in numbers is good for personally shaming or reminding me… but these kind of simplistic scenarios don’t appeal to me as much as a more nuanced exploration of lifestyle choices.

  17. I was also most surprised with the number of earths it would take to sustain the global population if everyone lived like me. I was also really surprised that all their suggested scenarios did not really decrease the amount of earths need in a significant way. That was pretty disappointing! I think that it is realistic to incorporate some of their suggestions. I can try to recycle better, eat less animal products, and fly less.

  18. I was not entirely surprised by the outcome of my carbon footprint quiz. Moreover, I didn’t find the suggestions to be overwhelmingly difficult or unique. I could simply cut my meat consumption and take public transportation more often. Both of these suggestions are very plausible and something that could be implemented. Overall, I find this information to be very valuable and impactful in making myself more aware of how my actions influence and determine the lives of others.

  19. I learned that it would take 4.9 planets to support my lifestyle if everyone lived like me, and that most of my footprint is in services. The scenarios suggested are quite practical in terms of packaging for consumer products, but I already have appliances that are energy efficient, changing my commute is impractical – and most of my flying is done to return home and see family.

    Putting the information in relative terms is helpful for me. It highlights my own privilege, but it also gives a direct measure of how much I consume. I guarantee, that statistic will stay in my head for a while – and will help guide certain decisions.

  20. Daniel Knoll – I was not terribly surprised by the results of my carbon footprint quiz (5.4 earths to sustain me :/ ) I travel a lot, especially by plane, and eat meat daily, so between those two aspects of my daily living my footprint is pretty high. I was alittle surprised by my “services” section and I’m not entirely sure how that section was calculated. When looking at the recommended actions, I did not see too many options that seemed realistic to incorporate into my current behavior. I suppose I could eat less meat, but realistically I wont change my eating habits. Another recommendation the quiz offered is to increase renewable energy sources, but I don’t know how much control I have over when my energy supply comes from seeing as I live in an apartment complex. I do look for energy efficient appliances and always turn the lights off when I leave my apartment. I think these kinds of tests are useful, and they are certainly eye opening, but too often people (especially college students) see the results but do nothing about it (myself included). Test results like these often don’t translate into tangible actions.

  21. I love meat. So thinking about cutting that out of my diet by half is hard to swallow (insert pun). However, the big picture is important to me, so it’s good to be reminded of this sacrifice and its benefits. I currently try to buy all of my produce and meat products at my local farmer’s market. It’s one of the highlights of my weekend – I savor the escape from grading – but moreover, it makes me feel like a good citizen by buying from local farmers. I also pledged to buy products that use less packaging. This should be easy enough to do. Overall, I found this exercise a little simplistic, but a good reminder nonetheless that the choices we make affect the world in which we live.

  22. I think I was most surprised by how high my “services” percentage was. I’m not even sure I understand completely what falls under that category. The most realistic scenario I chose was choosing to purchase products that use less packaging or were made out of 100% post-consumer recycled content material. At this point in my life, I can’t change a lot of the bigger things like putting solar panels on my house or buying more efficient appliances because I live in an apartment in which all of those things are already pre-determined for me. I can be more conscientious of the products and foods that I buy. According to the calculator, just doing that would mark my carbon footprint down by almost a whole planet!

  23. I was surprised by the number of earth’s it would take if everyone lived like me, and I thought it was interesting to see the breakdown of my ecological footprint. The breakdown helped me to visualized the areas in which I could use the most improvement. Like Beth mentioned, I considered the differences in my lifestyle depending on where I have lived and how each lifestyle contributes in different ways to my carbon footprint. Living in North Carolina there were very few options for public transportation, but living in DC I use public transit much more frequently. Conversely, in NC I found it much easier to buy local. I do think learning this kind of information (even if it is not the first time learning about your carbon footprint) can be a good reminder for everyone to frequently consider their impact and how their choices contribute to their footprint. Taking this quiz and having the visuals encourages me to consider my lifestyle choices and the efforts I can make on a daily basis that lend themselves towards greater environmental sustainability.

  24. Thinking about the difference between living in WA state and in DC is interesting when exploring my carbon footprint. On one hand, living in the city I don’t have a car which greatly reduces my footprint. But, in most other aspects, living in Bellingham, WA (especially with my mom’s influence- a master composter, recycler and carbon master) my general footprint is much smaller. In WA we buy local, have solar power that generates electricity for the house as well as heats the water and puts back energy to the county, and are generally more green. I know that flying is a big part of your carbon footprint, and I do that a lot less now that I’m not in Europe. I think that the information is generally helpful though explanations afterword would be nice. I don’t think the idea of the number earths it would take to sustain life if everyone lived like me produced a very complete idea that I could visualiz.

  25. I think what I was most surprised about was the number of Earths it would take for me; I was surprised to learn my perceived carbon footprint is smaller than it actually is. Putting in in terms of number of Earths made me automatically think about what I was doing that was increasing that number. I knew one of my big ones would be transportation, as I drive about 45 miles a day roundtrip just to and from work. Unfortunately, the suggestion to take public transportation is not an option for me, but I will be finding a new job next year (more related to having more time with my son than consciously deciding to reduce my footprint, but it will be a nice side effect). One suggestion that I could use would be reducing the amount of animal products that I consume.

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