What is Carbon Footprint?
With the rising interest in how our countries, societies, institutions and individuals are affecting the environment and leading to rise in greenhouse gases, carbon emissions and their ecological impact, one of the elementary questions before any of these discussions is this- What is Carbon Footprint? A carbon footprint corresponds to the whole amount of greenhouse gases produced to, directly and indirectly, support a person’s lifestyle and activities.
It is the amount of greenhouse gases—primarily carbon dioxide—released into the atmosphere by a particular human activity. The greenhouse gases whose sum results in a carbon footprint can come from the production and consumption of fossil fuels, food, manufactured goods, materials, road and transportation.
How is Carbon Footprint Measured?
It is usually measured as tons of CO2 emitted per year, a number that can be supplemented by tons of CO2-equivalent gases, including methane, nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gases. Now carbon footprint is a very important means to understand the impact of your behaviour on global warming.
So if you are someone who wants to contribute towards stopping global warming, you must measure and keep track of your carbon footprint. When calculating a carbon footprint, a lot of factors are taken into consideration.
For example, driving to the grocery store burns a certain amount of fuel, and fossil fuels are the primary sources of greenhouses gases. But that grocery store is powered by electricity, and its employees probably drove to work, so the store has its own carbon footprint.
In addition, the products that the store sells were all shipped there, so that must also be factored into the total carbon footprint. Beyond that, the fruits, vegetables, and meats that the store sells were all grown or raised on farms, a process that produces methane, which has a greenhouse effect 25 times greater than CO2.
So how do you combine all of these?? There are multiple online calculators from organisations like WWF, TerraPass or the UN.
Why Carbon Footprint Measurement is Not Fully Accurate
The results you get from these calculators may not be completely accurate because of several reasons. One of the reasons is because carbon footprint calculators use standard values that aren’t always right for a multiple of possible situations.
For instance, when you type how many miles you drive on average, a certain reference value for the CO2/emissions/mile will be multiplied by your miles and then by 12 months. However, both numbers are estimations: sometimes you drive more than you actually told the calculator, and perhaps you drive a 4×4 truck and not an SUV as the calculator is expecting.
The same can happen for how much impact your diet has: eating meat is on average very carbon polluting, but it also depends on where you buy it (if it’s local it has fewer emissions from transportation) or how caws are fed. Another reason is also that these estimations usually forget (because it’s very hard to find numbers) to account for goods and services purchased.
But that being said, the results will still be pretty close to what your impact is. And at least they give you some reference number to track against!
Now, the important bit.
How can you reduce your impact?
Here are some simple ways in which you can reduce your carbon footprint and do your bit in saving the planet:
Avoid cars and prefer walking, cycling or using public transport. Each litre of fuel burnt in a car engine emits over 2.5 kg of CO2. If you are driving, share the ride with others and try to not overspeed as it uses more petrol and therefore, emits more CO2.
Avoid flying, the world’s fastest-growing source of CO2 emissions. If you do it, consider offsetting your emissions.
Reduce the number of animal products consumed. Eat local and seasonal produced food: short trips mean less pollution from transportation.
Recycle or compost organic waste. Otherwise, methane will be released by the decomposing biodegradable waste in landfills.
Use the washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full. Boil only the water you will need and cover your pots while you cook: you’ll save plenty of energy and the process will be faster.
Collect the cold water from the first seconds of your shower to water your garden or plants. Harvest rainwater if you have access to a rooftop as an alternative to groundwater.
Be mindful of the temperature of your house: just 1ºC change reduces emissions (and your energy bill) by 5-10%.
Turn down your air-conditioner! They are super energy expensive.
Use a fan instead. Improve your house’s insulation so that less heat gets out when its cold and less heat comes in when it’s warm, reducing the need to use other devices.
Mind the settings you choose: maybe your fridge doesn’t have to be in the coolest setting and your water cylinder thermostat doesn’t have to be set higher than 50ºC.
Unplug your cellphone’s charger as it still drains electricity even when it is not connected to the cellphone. Switch off the lights when you don’t need them and use energy-saving lights such as LED.
Change your electricity supplier for a greener one that provides more green (renewable) energy so help low carbon energy sources are strengthened. This may be a tough one- but try it out!
5. Waste Management
Refuse what you don’t need, reduce what you need and reuse it as many times as you can. Re-purpose if you’re not using it anymore and recycle or compost it when something reaches the end of its lifecycle.
Avoid buying new bags to transport your shopping back home by reusing your shopping bag. Choose products with little/no packaging: this ultimately cuts down production costs.
The current consumption model of our society is exhausting the world’s resources and ecosystem. Responsible or conscious consumption is the need of the hour.