Carbon Footprint & Transportation

Transportation accounts for over 29% of the US greenhouse gas emissions.

Our Take

Taking a hard look at our Carbon footprint can have meaningful impacts on climate change.

Educate Yourself

Quick Facts


13,476 miles is the average number of miles traveled according to the Department of Transportation.


4% of the world's population contributes 25% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.[4]


20 tons is the average amount of Carbon Dioxide the average American produces per year.[4]


822,000 is the number of Olympic-sized pools that can be filled annually with the waste produced by the world.[5]


10% of the annual global carbon emissions are produced by the fashion industry. This is more than all international flights, and maritime shipping combined.[6]

What is happening?

All of us have an impact on Climate Change. So much of Climate Change seems like it’s about changing other people’s actions, but the best place to start is with yourself. By understanding your carbon footprint (aka the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by your actions and possessions), you can decide how you impact the climate. Everything from how and what we eat, how we get to school, where we buy our clothes, and even the phones in our pockets have a footprint associated with them.

The #1 way most people in the U.S. contribute to Climate Change is transportation. Think about how many cars are parked in the average suburban high school parking lot. A ton! According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average, one-way commute time is 26.1 minutes. Take a minute the next time you’re on the highway during rush hour to see how many people are in each car. Analyzing the Census data, The Brookings Institute shows that Americans still depend on their cars, and over 76% of Americans drive alone to work everyday, while only 5% used public transportation[1]. This all amounts to unnecessary CO2 emissions, and that’s just commuting! Add plane travel for work and pleasure and that number goes up.

It’s no secret we’re an electrified society built on convenience. Our energy use is our next biggest sector. Every light we leave on, every appliance plugged into our walls, and every time we turn the heat up on a cold day, the majority of that is generated from fossil fuels.

Those are the obvious ones, but did you know what you eat and what you throw away can contribute to climate change? Our food waste is a large source of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as our diet. The heavier our diets are in red meat, the higher our carbon footprint since producing those foods releases more CO2 than vegetables (read more by going to our Food Waste page!). The clothes in our closet and the desire to have an ever changing wardrobe is another tally on our carbon footprint. Whether you’re a shopper or not, everything you own has a price tag when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Fashion in general has a high price tag with less than 1% of clothing being recycled into new garments.[2] We are creating an environmental disaster all for the newest trend (check out our cause pages on Consumption and Plastics to learn more!).

What are the effects?

The ultimate effect of our footprints is the global issue of climate change. While we can point our finger at other counties and other people, we need to acknowledge and take responsibility for our own actions that emit greenhouse gasses and take an active role in lowering our output. However, our carbon footprint is more than just the greenhouse gas emissions, it also results in the depletion of our resources.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, it takes almost 100 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans! One pair! How many people did you see in jeans today? And don’t get us started on the carbon footprint of the peanut butter sandwich in your lunch box! The reality is that the carbon footprint to get it to you is just one issue, the other is all the carbon we use to make everything from shampoo to donus.[3] With palm oil being an important ingredient in many goods, the amount of rainforests cut down to grow palms is having a devastating effect. Not just on the climate, through tree loss and equipment emissions, but to the millions of species that live in those forests. The fact is, while climate change can feel out of our control, there are certainly things we can adjust in our own lives in order to lower our carbon footprint and help fight the global challenge of Climate Change.

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Cut Back On The Carbon

Calculate your carbon footprint so you know how much you contribute and where you can make small changes that will make a big difference.

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My Family

Change Your Lightbulbs

How Many Families Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb? Lighting is responsible for around 6% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

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My Community

Harness Nature’s Power

Create higher building standards for efficiency and add solar to municipal buildings to help lessen our community’s carbon footprint.

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How You Can Help

Calculate your Carbon Footprint here and have your parents do it too! Learning the ways we can cut back on our carbon footprint is always helpful! You may see that little things you’re doing are bigger issues than you thought. Try turning the tap off while you brush your teeth, taking shorter showers, making sure lights are off when you’re not using them, carrying reusable utensils and straws with you so you’re not using disposable ones, and, yes, even riding the bus, walking to school or riding your bike. All of these things are things you can do easily, and each one helps a little bit to lighten the load! Take the quiz and see what other changes you can make!

Quick Carbon Footprint Calculator!

How Can Your Family Help

Lighting is responsible for around 6% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. According to theclimategroup.org, LED lighting has been recognized as one of the most actionable ways we can reduce our footprint. LED uses much less energy than incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs and they last longer too! So you save on electricity and not having to replace the bulb. Thats a win win!

How Your Community Can Help

By encouraging better local policies for new construction that ensure energy efficiency and better insulation, we can help our community’s carbon footprint and save some money for new residents. Encouraging the community to update existing buildings with solar or switching municipal vehicles to electric could go a long way in lowering the carbon footprint of our communities. Schools, Town Halls and other municipal buildings have an opportunity to not only lower their carbon output, but save taxpayers money in the long run with added efficiency.

Take it Further

Educate Us

Are you or your organization doing something to slow the rise of this cause that TCI should know about or feature? Let us know!

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