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How Big Is Your Company's Carbon Footprint?

Calculate your footprint and follow the big guys who are erasing theirs.

Businesses like Yahoo! (YHOO) and Dell (DELL) - Get Dell Technologies Inc. Class C Report are going carbon neutral. And the entire country of Norway says it will be carbon neutral by 2030.

But going carbon neutral isn't just for the big guys. No matter the size of your company, going carbon neutral can save you money and potentially give your business a competitive advantage.

Let's explore the carbon-neutral craze, starting with the basic connection between carbon dioxide and global warming. Then we'll help you figure out how much carbon your business emits, known as your carbon footprint.

Carbon Dioxide Basics

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a normal part of the air, but it's also one of the major greenhouse gases. At normal levels, CO2 traps some heat in the earth's atmosphere and lets some escape. (This process is known as the greenhouse effect.) But high levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap too much heat in the earth's atmosphere. By burning fossil fuels like oil and coal, we're increasing the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, causing global warming.

By going carbon neutral, companies, countries and

presidential candidates try to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by balancing their emissions with equal reductions in CO2.

But it's not just a feel-good exercise. By reducing your company's consumption of electricity, fuel and resources like paper, you'll reduce your greenhouse gas emissions


cut costs, as several

large companies have done.

What's more, as increasing numbers of

consumers seek out

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environmentally friendly products and services, and large companies strive to

green their supply chains, carbon neutral companies become hot commodities.

Figuring Out Your Carbon Footprint

The first step toward carbon neutrality is measuring your

company's carbon footprint. This measurement (in pounds or tons of carbon) is based on the amount of electricity and fuel your business uses, the amount of fuel your employees use to commute to and from work and the amount of fuel your company uses for business travel.

For example, flying one employee from New York City to Los Angeles for a business meeting would generate 1,920 pounds of CO2. Typically, companies with fewer than 10 employees have annual carbon footprints of less than 70 metric tons of CO2, according to

To find your carbon footprint, you can use an

online calculator or

spreadsheets. Or you can hire a consultant such as

ICF International ,

Sustainable Energy Partners or

Trexler Climate and Energy Solutions. Typically, a consultant will not only help you measure your emissions but also propose a plan to make your company carbon neutral.

Kelsey Abbott is a freelance writer in Freeport, Maine, where she lives with her husband and their dog.