Determine Your Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world. By making small changes to our actions, such as driving less or not at all, we can start making a big difference.

Daily transportation and business activities contribute a significant portion to greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, fossil fuel reliance, and air pollution. Understanding the way transportation and its effects are a part of everyday life is an important first action step in determining your carbon footprint.

To find your carbon footprint related to transportation, consider:

  • The fuel efficiency of your car
  • How many miles you drive
  • How many miles you travel via airplane
  • How the food you buy has been transported


Fuel efficiency:

Also known as “fuel economy,” fuel efficiency is a measure of how far a vehicle can travel per unit of fuel. In the United States, this is expressed as “miles per gallon” (mpg). Hybrids and fuel efficient cars can reduce carbon emissions for car-dependent households. Greater efficiency in our vehicles means less air pollution and less health impacts for many of our community members. 

You can find your car’s rated fuel efficiency at, or you can calculate your car’s actual efficiency.

From trains to planes and automobiles, transportation currently requires the combustion of fossil fuels and the production of greenhouse gases. If we electrify vehicles of all kinds we make the way for transportation without emissions. Individually switching to an electric vehicle, even on the current electricity grid can reduce carbon by 7,000 tons a year per car. Switching to electric vehicles charged with renewable energy sources takes carbon emissions down to zero. 

Reducing miles driven:

Switching to electric vehicles is not accessible for everyone. Another way to reduce carbon emissions is to simply reduce the number of miles driven in your car. We in Duluth need to commit to improving public transport infrastructure. Our priority for transportation should be building city street infrastructure that works for people of all ages, income levels, and abilities. This means keeping sidewalks clear, installing bike lanes, expanding city bus infrastructure, and activating public spaces that promotes and celebrates the movement of people. Even without necessary infrastructure changes, you can still make an impact in Duluth just by walking, riding your bike, taking the bus, or just staying put when you can.

Airplane travel:

Flying produces approximately 2% of worldwide carbon emissions but the International Civil Aviation Organization projects that emissions from air travel will grow between 300 and 700 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

Try out this calculator to determine the greenhouse gas emissions from your flights. Or check out the Greenhouse Gas and Carbon Footprint Calculators section of the Community Initiatives page for calculators that include flights.

Food transportation:

It is estimated that eliminating the transport of food for one year could save the GHG equivalent of driving 1,000 miles, while shifting to a vegetarian meal one day a week could save the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles. Learn more about which foods produce the most carbon here.

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