When we buy dinner, find transportation to work, and even flip a light switch we are either directly or indirectly responsible for the burning emission of fossil fuels and emissions of heat trapping gases like CO2. Your carbon footprint is a measure of just how much carbon dioxide is emitted through your own actions and things like driving and growing food contribute different amounts. A 2011 study by Christopher M. Jones and Daniel M. Kammen in the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science and Technology revealed that of all the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, those associated with household consumption are responsible for up to 80%.
The study goes on to say that the information given to individuals to reduce their carbon footprints is general in nature, even as the science behind the research becomes more sophisticated. Using this science to pinpoint which cities and regions are producing more carbon dioxides than others may help individuals and cities to lessen their impact on the planet.
The study found that while some cities have very low footprints in one area, such as housing, they tend to have larger footprints in other areas, like transportation. Their research also showed that areas with dense populations tended to have a lower carbon footprint than those whose citizens were more spread out.
A 2008 Brookings study entitled “Shrinking the Carbon Footprint of Metropolitan America” found that
“the Mississippi River roughly divides the country into high emitters and low emitters. In 2005, all but one of the 10 largest per capita emitters—Oklahoma City being the exception—was located east of the Mississippi. On the other hand, all but one of the 10 lowest per capita emitters—New York being the exception—was located west of the Mississippi. California alone was home to six of the twenty lowest per capita emitters.”
Research can help communities come together to change their energy usage habits, but you can start now with some simple tips to cut back on your own carbon dioxide production.