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From the Spring 2009 Conservationist for Kids

Carbon Footprint Image

Your Carbon Footprint

By Gina Jack

Carbon is in every living thing. When plants and animals die, decomposers break them down. The carbon is released as carbon dioxide.

Millions of years ago, some plants became buried. They didn't decompose, so the carbon in them was never released. After many years they turned into the coal, oil, and natural gas we know today as fossil fuels.

Every time fossil fuels are burned to provide energy to get things moving (fuel for the car), to make things work (produce electricity), or to heat our homes, the carbon in them is released.

What happens to carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels?

It goes into the Earth's atmosphere, where carbon dioxide naturally exists already. It can stay there for a very long time - a thousand years - before it is taken up and used by plants in photosynthesis. We're adding carbon dioxide faster than it is being used, for the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere is increasing. The result is a changing climate.

What is your CARBON FOOTPRINT?

It is a measure of the greenhouse gas from your daily energy use. Reduce your energy use and shrink your carbon footprint!

We all need carbon!

Carbon is an element if every living thing. Rocks and minerals made of fossilized animals and plants have carbon in them. There is carbon in the food we eat. And there is carbon in you