Forget Your Carbon Footprint. Think About Your “Carbon Influence” Instead

Deepti Kannapan
Age of Awareness
Published in
4 min readJan 19, 2023

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

At last year’s COP27 climate conference, nations grappled with how to take accountability for their roles in causing climate change. As individuals, many of us try to take accountability as well by minimizing our carbon footprints. However, it’s time for a better metric to guide our decision-making.

For years, I fretted about my consumption habits. I restricted my menu to groceries I could buy without plastic packaging. I requested reusable mugs at the cafe, only to have the instruction lost in translation between baristas.

I quickly reached the point of diminishing returns, where every new reduction to my carbon footprint cost more effort while further driving home that the system was not set up for widespread adoption of the zero-waste lifestyle.

Most of us know that in the grand scheme of things, our shopping habits won’t make or break the climate movement. Policy, regulation, and corporate transformation are far more impactful. But our own habits are what we can control, so we direct our energies there.

Being individuals, our actions will be individual in scale, and that’s not a bad thing. Every movement has been made up of individuals. The problem is that we are measuring our actions by the wrong metric — our personal carbon footprints.

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Deepti Kannapan
Age of Awareness

Painter, occasional cartoonist, aerospace engineer. Writes about sustainable technology, creativity, and journaling.