Mission: Carbon Footprint Investigation

Your Mission: Lower your carbon footprint by making smarter choices when you shop!

Climate change is a BIG deal and it affects all living things on Earth. You’ve probably already heard that you can help fight climate change by driving less, protecting forests and planting trees, but did you know that you can also help by being smarter about what you buy?

Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) you create through the products you use and the actions you take.

Like you, every product has its own carbon footprint, which becomes part of yours when you use it. It’s impossible to have no carbon footprint, but you can shrink yours by making smarter choices at the store.

Did you know?


metal products, for example, can use as little as 4% of the energy used to make new ones


products will often have a lower carbon footprint than one made far away


made from recycled or biodegradable materials will usually have a lower carbon footprint


or buying used products will avoid all new emissions

As part of its Climate Change Plan, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is also working to drastically reduce its own carbon footprint. It has set out a goal to become a net-zero carbon company by 2040. And it aims to help all of Ontario reach net-zero carbon by 2050.

Together, we can help fight climate by being mindful about our own actions and the future.

Climate change questions

Climate Change is a big deal. Climate Guardian Carson, has done his research and has answers some questions you may have about climate change and carbon footprints.

“Climate” refers to the weather in a specific region, and climate change happens when the weather in that region changes and stays that way for a really, really long time. We’re talking about changes that last anywhere from hundreds to millions of years!

Some climate change happens naturally, like the ice age for example. The problem is that the climate change we are seeing today is happening faster than in the past. Consider this: it took about 5,000 years for the planet to warm by 5°C after the last ice age, and some predictions now say we could see the same 5°C increase in just a tenth of the time!

We use fossil fuels like natural gas, diesel and oil to heat our homes and power our cars. Burning these fuels causes greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) to be released into the atmosphere. These gases then trap heat near the Earth's surface, making it warmer. The Earth can re-absorb and release some of these gases, but we are creating too much and the planet can’t keep up.

Even the food we eat adds to our greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is released by livestock as they digest their food, and the billions of cows raised for meat and dairy worldwide make a lot of gas. More gas trapped in the atmosphere means more warming, and more warming means big trouble for life on Earth.

Climate Guardian Carsonn says: Did you know there are many clean energy sources that can help slow climate change for a healthy planet. Using clean, carbon-free energy sources – like hydroelectric, nuclear and solar – can really help us cut back on the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere!

From wilder weather to melting sea ice, rising ocean levels, droughts, and famine, climate change has an impact on every living thing. For some species like the ones below, slowing down climate change can mean the difference between survival and extinction. 

You can do your part to slow down climate change by shrinking your carbon footprint, and one of the ways to do this is to pay attention to the products you buy. Just take a look at the places energy is used and CO2 is released during a product’s life:

Collecting materials, manufacturing, packaging, shipping to store, shopping, usage, disposal

The best way to shrink your carbon footprint is to use less (and buy less), but sometimes that’s not an option. Ask yourself these questions the next time you buy something.

Most products made of new materials will have a higher carbon footprint than products made of recycled ones. For example, products made from recycled metals can use as little as 4% of the energy used to create new metal products! Natural materials (like wood) can also be a better choice than synthetic materials (like plastic), which are made partly from refined fossil fuels (like oil).

Did your product come in a package? The more packaging it comes with, the more energy was used to create it and the higher its carbon footprint. Products with packaging made from recycled or biodegradable materials will usually have a lower carbon footprint.

The energy used and emissions released during a product’s transportation from factory to store make up a BIG part of its carbon footprint. Think about all the fruits at the grocery store that come from other countries – lots of emissions were released getting these fruits to you. A product made locally will often have a lower carbon footprint than one made far away.

When you reuse something or buy a used product, it means a new product doesn’t have to be made, and no new emissions are released. If you have to buy it new, make sure you’re 100% finished with the old product first!

We know that new products have high carbon footprints because of the energy used and greenhouse gases emitted when they are made, so try to limit your purchases and buy things that you need, instead of things that you want. You can use a shopping list like the one on the last page of this Mission Brief to help keep you on track.

Not all of these questions will work for every product you use (you wouldn’t really want to buy a used apple - eww!) but they’ll help you on your way to reducing your carbon footprint at home.

Take the Smart Shopping List and Tips cutout found in this Mission with you the next time you go to the store with your family so you can keep these questions handy!

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