Carbon Dioxide: Omiting the Footprints

Every day, the U.S. emits the equivalent of about 118 pounds of carbon dioxide per resident. That’s almost 20 metric tons per year which is about five times the number per citizen of the world, according to the International Energy Agency. Now you may be wondering what the importance of carbon dioxide is or why I am even taking the time to discuss it. Well, here is why. Recently, I came across an article in The Wall Street Journal that discussed a new concept called carbon foot printing. This article peaked my interest and caused me to do further research on this topic.

Carbon footprints are the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are emitted into the air when goods are made, shipped, stored and then used by the consumer. It has been discovered that many products’ global-warming impact depends more on how products are made than on how they are actually used. With that being said, the easiest way to cut carbon emissions would be to buy a product less, or use it in a way that is more conservational.

Referring back to the Wall Street Journal article that I discovered, I came across some very interesting points that would be good for any consumer to know. The article compared some everyday items and calculated their carbon footprints.  The article revealed that for every mile a car travels, the average U.S. car emits about one pound of carbon dioxide (annually that’s about five tons of carbon dioxide per year). 86% of those emissions came from actually using the car as opposed to the 4% that was emitted from making and assembling the car. This proves that consumers can lower their carbon footprints by buying a car with better fuel economy and not driving it as much. Typically, the cars with better gas mileage had less carbon emissions as opposed to bigger cars with worse gas mileage. It has also been suggested that another way to minimize carbon foot printing is to keep your car as long as possible since junking a car and manufacturing a new one produces pollution.

An unlikely product that most people would not think gives off carbon foot printing is none other than shoes. Timberland boots, usually used for hiking, can range anywhere from 22 pounds to 220 pounds of carbon emissions. Not only boots, but flip flops tend to have carbon footprints of 22 pounds to 44 pounds.  Normal shoes typically give off about 66 pounds to 132 pounds whereas hiking boots emit anywhere between 154 to 198 pounds. Another thing that drives up carbon emissions in shoes is leather. The average dairy cow produces an amount of greenhouse gas equivalent to four tons of carbon dioxide annually. Most of that is due to the greenhouse gas, methane. A cow’s multiple stomachs produces lots of methane which is 25 times as damaging to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. 

Even something like the type of laundry detergent you use can effect carbon emissions. For a low-carbon load of laundry use liquid detergent instead of powder and wash your clothes in cool water. In addition to this you should hang dry your clothes instead of putting them in the dryer.  Not drying your clothes in a dryer will cut carbon foot printing 4.4 pounds per load. Solid capsules of detergent have the highest carbon foot printing. Powder has a somewhat lower footprint than capsules; however, liquid still has the lowest of them all. This is mainly due to the fact that making solid detergent uses more energy than making the liquid detergent.


A recent study by a Dallas based dairy called National Dairy Holdings, found that the carbon footprint of a gallon of milk in a plastic jug is either 6.19 pounds or 7.59 pounds. The difference is due to what kind of cases the jugs are placed in during the transportation process from the plant to the distribution center. Plastic cases yield more carbon-dioxide emissions than cardboard cases. It has also been found that the single biggest chunk of emissions from milk production comes from all the action in a cow’s stomach.

Beer is a product most college students are pretty familiar with; however, I doubt they are aware of how much carbon dioxide a six pack emits. It has been found that a six-pack alone would release about seven pounds of carbon footprints.  The refrigeration of beer at its stores is where most of the emissions come from. This creates a problem since most stores refuse to keep most of its beer out of the refrigerator for fear of losing customers. The other alternative to this is enclosing the beer with clear doors as opposed to having open beer chillers. Now the store’s biggest concern is whether or not thirsty customers feel like making the extra effort to open the door.

So as you can see, carbon emissions are found everywhere in some of the various products we use on a daily or weekly basis. There isn’t much we can do to avoid this; however, there are things we can do to lessen the amount of carbon dioxide emitted. Once again, preservation of the environment lies in the hands of the consumer.


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