Quantifying Carbon Footprint Reduction Opportunities for U.S. Households and Communities

Carbon management is of increasing interest to individuals, households, and communities. In order to effectively assess and manage their climate impacts, individuals need information on the financial and greenhouse gas benefits of effective mitigation opportunities. We use consumption-based life cycle accounting techniques to quantify the carbon footprints of typical U.S. households in 28 cities for 6 household sizes and 12 income brackets. The model includes emissions embodied in transportation, energy, water, waste, food, goods, and services. We further quantify greenhouse gas and financial savings from 13 potential mitigation actions across all household types. The model suggests that the size and composition of carbon footprints vary dramatically between geographic regions and within regions based on basic demographic characteristics. Despite these differences, large cash-positive carbon footprint reductions are evident across all household types and locations; however, realizing this potential may require tailoring policies and programs to different population segments with very different carbon footprint profiles. The results of this model have been incorporated into an open access online carbon footprint management tool designed to enable behavior change at the household level through personalized feedback.

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