Bigger is usually better.

Big pools, a big house and big cars are usually considered measures of success. All three, however, add up to something that is not so great: a big carbon footprint.

A person’s carbon footprint, a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide, is becoming a great concern. While the impact of global warming might still be debatable, most can agree that producing an inordinate amount of waste is not good for anyone.

There are two kinds of carbon footprints to worry about: primary and secondary.

A person’s primary footprint is the production of greenhouse gasses by direct actions, like driving a low-mileage car, flying often or any other activities that use nonrenewable fossil fuels that pollute the air.

Tips for reducing a primary footprint are simple: drive less, walk more. Ride a bike, get a higher mileage car and don’t travel excessively. Carpooling is another great way to reduce a primary footprint, as is purchasing a hybrid vehicle. All options offer another incentive, as well: less money spent on gas.

A secondary carbon footprint is a little trickier. These types include bottled water – plastic comes directly from oil and does not biodegrade well; Phoenicians are horrible offenders – buying non-local food, eating red meat or purchasing imported clothing. Each of these actions requires a large amount of fossil fuel to produce and/or ship, making each extremely wasteful.

Ways to reduce a secondary carbon footprint include: using a refillable water bottle instead of multiple plastic ones, cutting down on red meat and purchasing food and goods from local retailers. Farmer’s markets are great places to start shopping for local food, and food this fresh usually tastes much better.

Other ways to offset include the aptly named carbon offsetting. This process involves activities such as planting trees (voluntary carbon credits) or investing in the retirement of certified carbon credits, which are typically purchased by businesses to offset their own pollution. Every dollar spent on retiring certified carbon credits makes it more expensive for big businesses to pollute – a penalty many hope will prompt the largest energy wasters to develop more efficient practices.

Now, no one expects everyone to start walking to work in handmade clothes and foraging for food in the mountains, but even a little bit goes a long way to reduce smog, improve air quality and cut down on landfill waste.

Calculate your own carbon footprint at a variety of websites, including carbonfootprint.com

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