The Math for Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Our Homes

How Much Carbon We Produce

One of the major ways that our homes emit carbon into the atmosphere is through the use of electricity and natural gas (among other ways). In order to determine the total carbon released from our home’s energy consumption, we must analyze the carbon from both electricity and natural gas use.

Electricity Usage

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), electrical generation in the US produces energy at an expense of .999lbs / carbon / KWH. Additionally, based on the fact that the average American home comprises 2,386 square feet, the EIA estimates that the average American home utilizes 10,972 KWH on an annual basis.

  • 10,972 KWH x .999lbs Carbon = 10,961 LBS of Carbon released from the average 2,386 square foot home each year.

    This equates to 4.6 LBS per square foot.

  • Natural Gas Usage

    According to the US Energy Information Administration, the US uses 5,000,000,000,000 (5 Trillion) cubic feet of natural gas in the residential sector, per year. Estimations predict that there are 125,820,000 homes in the US, and 50% of them use natural gas. Therefore, the average home uses 79,478 cubic feet of natural gas annually.

  • 5,000,000,000,000 / (125,820,000 total Homes x 50%) = 79,478 cubic feet / house

    The average home that uses natural gas is 2,386 square feet. Additionally, the US Energy Information Administration calculates that the carbon produced is 117.1 LBS / 1000 cubic ft of Natural Gas. Therefore, the average 2,386 sq ft home produces 9,298 pounds of carbon annually

  • (79,478 cubic feet / 1000 cubic feet ) x 117 lbs of Carbon = 9,298.92 lbs of carbon /avg house / year

    This equates to 3.897 lbs of Carbon produced annually for each square foot.

  • How Much Carbon Our Trees Capture

    According to American Forests, our trees could sequester an average of 10lbs of carbon per year over the first 50 years of life.

    Total Carbon Vs Potential Offset with Trees

    The total Carbon produced by the energy use of each square foot of a home is approximately 8.497 lbs of Carbon each year.

    We are helping to offset this by planting a tree that will sequester approximately 10 lbs of Carbon per year.

    A 2,368 square foot home produces an average of 20,260 pounds of carbon annually – 10,961 pounds through electric usage and 9,299 pounds through natural gas usage.

    Conclusion

    By planting 1 tree for each square foot, we could capture an estimated 23,680 lbs of carbon each year for the average 2,368-square-foot home. Our pledge could result in negative carbon emissions.

    It should also be noted that these calculations are taking averages of all homes, of all ages across the country. I personally audited my new homes, and found my carbon footprint to be approximately 60% less than these averages on a / per square foot basis. This is due to many sustainable initiatives, increased energy efficiency, as well as a reduction in heat/loss with new buildings. I suspect all new buildings will offset significantly more carbon that they produce in the above example by a factor of 2x.

    *DISCLAIMER: American Forests’ tree planting projects are not certified carbon offsets and are not used to meet formal carbon neutrality commitments. Formal commitments should be independently verified according to widely adopted standards. However, American Forests’ tree planting projects are carefully designed to sequester carbon for decades.

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