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Carbon: Why Do We Care?

7 December 2007

The first step of the Minnesota Energy Challenge is calculating the carbon footprint of your home. You are probably already familiar with the term “carbon footprint” – there seem to be calculators all over the web that promise to give you your footprint. But what is a carbon footprint, and why does it matter so much?

Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) your household emits annually. We calculate this by looking at the amount of electricity and natural gas your home uses annually and information on your transportation: what mileage your car gets, if you drive, and how often you drive it.

So, why is a carbon footprint important? Well, it’s easy to forget that every time you turn on a light, make coffee, listen to the radio, surf the web, go grocery shopping, make a purchase, turn on the radiator – you get the idea – every time you use energy, you’re impacting the environment. Here in Minnesota, the vast majority of our electricity still comes from burning coal. And burning coal produces carbon dioxide, which is a huge contributor to global warming.

So, the bigger your carbon footprint and the more energy (electricity, natural gas, gasoline) you use, the more you are directly contributing to global warming. Yikes.

It’s not all bad news, though. If we can impact the earth negatively through our choices, than through the right choices we can make a difference. By focusing on reducing your carbon footprint, you can make a definitive positive impact on the environment and help fight global warming. Take the Challenge to discover just how much money and energy you can save through simple actions!

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