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How much CO2 is a lot?

Wie viel CO2 ist viel?

Wherever climate protection is discussed, CO2 is not far away. Carbon dioxide is THE relevant quantity for measuring our harmful impact on the environment. Environmental protection groups, scientists and politicians alike love to throw around statistics and key figures on the carbon footprint.

But at the same time, no one knows exactly how much CO2 he or she personally uses, how much is okay and what amount is too much. CO2 often remains simply an abstract value that gives us little evidence of a real change in course in our lives. This article offers you orientation on this complex topic and a starting point for your own research.

Carbon dioxide – what is actually the problem?

In a healthy ecosystem, oxygen and CO2 occur equally. Humans breathe in oxygen and (among other things) breathe out CO2. The trees and plants then convert this gas back into oxygen. This way one hand washes the other and the atmosphere remains in balance.

Some time ago, humans began to disrupt this balance. You could say: We light the candle from two sides. Not only do we emit significantly more CO2 through our lifestyle than the earth's flora can absorb, but we also significantly reduce the amount of trees and marine organisms.

CO2 – where are we now?

There are many things we can do about CO2. Three of them are particularly clear:

  1. Protect the seas.
  2. Planting trees.
  3. Reduce our CO2 emissions.

The latter is what we're talking about here. Germany has set itself the goal of reducing CO2 emissions from 11 tons per person per year to 1 ton. 1

That gives us a first indication: anything that is well over 11 tons is rather a lot. There is still potential for optimization here. If you are below this, you are already further ahead than the German average when it comes to CO2. But how do you find out how much CO2 you use?

Pay, please: calculate your carbon footprint

Calculating your own CO2 consumption turns out to be rather complicated in practice. CO2 is created almost everywhere: in our apartment, when we drive to work or buy a pair of jeans.

In all of these activities, other people are involved or go many steps ahead of them. There may be other parties living in your house, the subway needs electricity to operate and the jeans first had to be manufactured and transported in a shipping container with 500 other jeans before they come to your home in a package.

Now it becomes clear: It is almost impossible to calculate the exact value just for you. Which doesn't mean you can't try.

A good starting point is the Federal Environment Agency's CO2 calculator . Here you can enter your diet, travel and consumption habits in great detail. You will be asked about your living situation, how many kilowatt hours of electricity your photovoltaic system generates per year and much more.

If you have taken the trouble to enter all the data almost correctly, you will receive a concrete CO2 consumption as a result. If you don't like what you see, you can develop solutions in various scenarios to improve your carbon footprint.

Reducing CO2 – how can that work?

The CO2 calculator's suggestions quickly make it clear what each individual can do to save CO2.

  • Generate your own electricity, e.g. B. with photovoltaics

  • Pay attention to well-insulated walls and modern glazing

  • Reduce living space

  • Heat less

  • Obtain green electricity

  • Use efficient electrical devices

  • Reduce mileage by car, switch to public transport or bicycle

  • Eat less meat

  • Consume less and more consciously

  • Try to avoid long-distance travel

We already know all of this. But the exciting thing is: The CO2 calculator shows you exactly how much CO2 can be avoided through which measures.

For example, you can consider whether you want to travel 100 km a year by bike instead of by car and see immediately what that will do to your balance sheet in the short and long term. We think this is a good incentive to really change something.


General statements are hardly possible when it comes to CO2. The topic is simply too complex for that. But if you're willing to invest some time and effort in a CO2 calculator, you'll get relatively concrete numbers. These can be quite surprising!

The numbers also provide a good basis for your own measures. You can use them to better assess which decisions have a particularly positive impact on your carbon footprint. It's best to try it out now!

1 Source: Federal Environment Agency