Like a thumb, carbon footprint is unique

Monday, June 13, 2011

“Everyone has a unique carbon footprint,” says Christopher M. Jones, a staff research associate at University of California, Berkeley. “There is no one-size-fits-all set of actions that people should take.”

Carbon footprints are a measure of the greenhouse gases released during the production, use and disposal of products and services. The production phase includes all of the processes between the time raw materials are extracted from the Earth until they reach consumers as finished products in stores.

A new study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, considers the carbon footprint of all household economic activity, including transportation, energy, food, goods, services, water, and waste.

The report highlights the carbon footprints of two fictitious households: an upper-income couple living in San Francisco with no children, and a middle-income family with three children living in St. Louis, Mo. Each of these households contributes to the atmosphere about the same amount of greenhouse gases per year, but the sources of those emissions are very different.