Counting Carbon: Calculator Highlights How to Reduce Impact

Renewable-energy sources such as solar help offset the carbon footprints of communities in Tennessee and around the world. (Pieter Morlion/Flickr)

An environmental group has set up a website that not only measures a person’s carbon footprint but also shares ways to reduce and even offset that footprint.
Conservation International’s Carbon Calculator gives an overview of how people’s habits affect the environment – everything from commuting style to diet to the number of airline trips taken each year – and offers tips for reducing emissions, such as taking the bus or meatless Mondays. But Shyla Raghav, climate change lead for Conservation International, said it may not be possible for someone to completely neutralize their carbon footprint.
“We wanted to offer everyone the possibility and the option to offset their emissions,” she said, “which is essentially purchasing carbon credits from projects that have been able to demonstrate a reduction in emissions.”
She said the average American’s annual footprint is 21 tons of carbon. The Tennessee Valley Authority has two programs that allow people to purchase renewable-energy credits to help offset carbon pollution from the power they use. The Green Power Switch Program is for residential customers and the Southeastern Renewable Energy Credit program is for commercial accounts.
In light of setbacks in the fight against climate change, such as President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Accords, Raghav said climate change has become a personal issue for more people.
“Climate change is really a global, collective problem that each of us really needs to internalize and respond to in our own way,” she said.
She noted that people also have the power of the ballot box and can elect officials who support a shift toward a renewable-energy power grid, for instance. Conservation International has a project in Kenya, where credits support a forest that absorbs carbon dioxide and help conserve an area with the world’s highest density of elephants. There also are projects in Peru and Madagascar.
The Carbon Calculator is online at