You’re interested in conservation, and you want to do your part to decrease the waste you’re contributing to the world. You, like many others, have tried to scope your output of physical and gaseous pollution, but have become flustered by the process of dissecting your every activity.

Don’t fear: here is a list of the considerations that should go into your calculations of household pollution for the year. While it is likely there are other, smaller factors you can take into account, these are the main factors.

To Note

When stacking your numbers against the average, do not get sucked into petty comparisons. Each household is unique, and there are bound to be some that cause more waste than others. The age of your house, the number of people living there, and even the climate of the area you’re living in all factor into the numbers you are using. There are bound to be many people polluting more, and many others who are contributing less.

The Factors

To calculate, you should use the standard carbon footprint calculations. These can be found on several sites, and take various lifestyle factors into account. There are simpler and more advanced calculations, and many can give you a comparison with the average household. The following is a very simple list of contributing factors. I will explain how each impact your carbon footprint and other waste outputs. Specific calculators will use different factors.

  1. Travel

The primary focus of this factor is to determine how much you drive and with what vehicles. Driving a smaller, more fuel-efficient car less distance will inevitably result in a lower carbon output for the year. Keep each car’s numbers separate. While it is hard to calculate the exact mileage for the year — unless you are claiming it on taxes — getting your mileage within a couple hundred miles should not considerably impact your calculations.


Also under travel. Try to calculate the amount of public transit you use. For taxis, you can add this mileage to your car travel numbers, while trains or buses should be calculated separately, as they are significantly more efficient than personal vehicles.

  1. Home

To calculate your home output, you will need to find out the amount you are paying for electric, natural gas and/or oil, and water. Look at a bill from a recent month: your water bills should not change significantly between months — barring sprinklers or lawn-watering in the summer and spring.

Heating is tricky, but if you have a leftover bill from a transition month — April or September are both excellent — you can probably multiply those values by 12 for the total yearly cost. If not, use your most recent bill, multiply by 12, then scale the number accordingly. Subtract from the final value if you it is from a winter month, and add to it if it is during a summer month.

Electricity should remain fairly constant throughout the year.

You’ll also want to keep track of how much chemical pollution you contribute a year. Check all your cleaning supplies and see what types of chemicals they contain. My suggestion would be to find more eco-friendly cleaning options, and if you have a lot of wood furniture, your furniture will also keep your furniture shinier and in good condition for longer.

Avoid paper cleaning products and sponges as well. Good microfiber cleaning clothes can be just as effective, if not more effective, for your cleaning needs.

  1. Food/Purchases

What you buy will have a significant impact on your final calculations. Different foods have diverse carbon outputs for production, and for the amount of methane and carbon they contribute to the atmosphere. This step will be immeasurably easier if you have a regular budget for food and other purchases. If not, the calculations are still manageable.

For food, separate your monthly/weekly purchases into the standard food groups: proteins, fruits and veggies, grains, dairy, and snack foods/fats/oils/drinks. Once you have split the values, multiply by 12 for monthly values, or by 52 for weekly.

Do the same for your other purchases, splitting your calculations into purchased goods — anything physical you buy — and services, which is anything else. Goods will naturally result in a higher carbon output, as there is something produced for your use.

  1. Trash

Many calculations do not use this number, but it is an essential addition to your carbon estimate. Assuming you are plugging these numbers into an online carbon calculator that does not account for trash, just compare your own to average and grow or shrink your footprint accordingly.

To calculate, weight your trash for the day, then multiply that weight by 365.

The average household trash output is 1600lbs annually.


These are all the factors you need to calculate your home’s carbon output. The average American dumps or helps dump, 21.5 metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere per year. If you have calculated for the entire household, divide by how many people are in the household and you should have your value.

Americans contribute over four times the world carbon average. By reducing the factors above, you can begin doing your part as a global citizen.

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