Carbon Footprint Reduction Essay Definition

A carbon footprint is historically defined as the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.[1]

In most cases, the total carbon footprint cannot be exactly calculated because of inadequate knowledge of and data about the complex interactions between contributing processes, especially which including the influence on natural processes storing or releasing carbon dioxide. For this reason, Wright, Kemp, and Williams, have suggested to define the carbon footprint as:

A measure of the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emissions of a defined population, system or activity, considering all relevant sources, sinks and storage within the spatial and temporal boundary of the population, system or activity of interest. Calculated as carbon dioxide equivalent using the relevant 100-year global warming potential (GWP100).[2]

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) can be emitted through land clearance and the production and consumption of food, fuels, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, transportation and other services.[3] For simplicity of reporting, it is often expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide, or its equivalent of other GHGs, emitted.

Most of the carbon footprint emissions for the average U.S. household come from "indirect" sources, i.e. fuel burned to produce goods far away from the final consumer. These are distinguished from emissions which come from burning fuel directly in one's car or stove, commonly referred to as "direct" sources of the consumer's carbon footprint.[4]

The concept name of the carbon footprint originates from ecological footprint, discussion,[5] which was developed by Rees and Wackernagel in the 1990s which estimates the number of "earths" that would theoretically be required if everyone on the planet consumed resources at the same level as the person calculating their ecological footprint. However, given that ecological footprints are a measure of failure, Anindita Mitra (CREA, Seattle) chose the more easily calculated "carbon footprint" to easily measure use of carbon, as an indicator of unsustainable energy use. In 2007, carbon footprint was used as a measure of carbon emissions to develop the energy plan for City of Lynnwood, Washington. Carbon footprints are much more specific than ecological footprints since they measure direct emissions of gases that cause climate change into the atmosphere.

Carbon footprint is one of a family of footprint indicators, which also includes water footprint and land footprint.

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An individual's, nation's, or organization's carbon footprint can be measured by undertaking a GHG emissions assessment or other calculative activities denoted as carbon accounting. Once the size of a carbon footprint is known, a strategy can be devised to reduce it, e.g. by technological developments, better process and product management, changed Green Public or Private Procurement (GPP), carbon capture, consumption strategies, carbon offsetting and others.

Several free online carbon footprint calculators exist,[6][7] including a few supported by publicly available peer-reviewed data and calculations including the University of California, Berkeley's CoolClimate Network research consortium and CarbonStory.[8][9][10] These websites ask you to answer more or less detailed questions about your diet, transportation choices, home size, shopping and recreational activities, usage of electricity, heating, and heavy appliances such as dryers and refrigerators, and so on. The website then estimates your carbon footprint based on your answers to these questions. A systematic literature review was conducted to objectively determine the best way to calculate individual/household carbon footprints. This review identified 13 calculation principles and subsequently used the same principles to evaluate the 15 most popular online carbon footprint calculators. A recent study’s results by Carnegie Mellon's Christopher Weber found that the calculation of carbon footprints for products is often filled with large uncertainties. The variables of owning electronic goods such as the production, shipment, and previous technology used to make that product, can make it difficult to create an accurate carbon footprint. It is important to question, and address the accuracy of Carbon Footprint techniques, especially due to its overwhelming popularity.[11]

Carbon Footprints can be reduced through the development of alternative projects, such as solar and wind energy, which are environment friendly, renewable resources, or reforestation, the restocking of existing forests or woodlands that have previously been depleted. These examples are known as Carbon Offsetting, the counteracting of carbon dioxide emissions with an equivalent reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.[12]

The main influences on carbon footprints include population, economic output, and energy and carbon intensity of the economy.[13] These factors are the main targets of individuals and businesses in order to decrease carbon footprints. Production creates a large carbon footprint, scholars suggest that decreasing the amount of energy needed for production would be one of the most effective ways to decrease a carbon footprint. This is due to the fact that Electricity is responsible for roughly 37% of Carbon Dioxide emissions.[14] Coal production has been refined to greatly reduce carbon emissions; since the 1980s, the amount of energy used to produce a ton of steel has decreased by 50%.[15]

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The global average carbon footprint in 2007 was around 5.7 tons CO2e/cap. The EU average for this time was about 13.8 tons CO2e/cap, whereas for the U.S., Luxembourg and Australia it was over 25 tons CO2e/cap. The footprints per capita of countries in Africa and India were well below average. To set this numbers into context, assuming a global population around 9-10 billion by 2050 a carbon footprint of about 2 - 2.5 tons CO2e per capita is needed to stay within a 2 °C target. The carbon footprint calculations are based on a consumption based approach using a Multi-Regional Input-Output database, which accounts for all Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in the global supply chain and allocates them to the final consumer of the purchased commodities. GHG emissions related to land use cover change are not included.[16]

Mobility (driving, flying & small amount from public transit), shelter (electricity, heating, construction) and food are the most important consumption categories determining the carbon footprint of a person. In the EU, the carbon footprint of mobility is evenly split between direct emissions (e.g. from driving private cars) and emissions embodied in purchased products related to mobility (air transport service, emissions occurring during the production of cars and during the extraction of fuel).[17]

The carbon footprint of U.S. households is about 5 times greater than the global average. For most U.S. households (which have a carbon footprint 5 times greater than the global average), the single most important action to reduce their carbon footprint is driving less or switching to a more efficient vehicle.[18]

Direct carbon emissions[edit]

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Main article: Life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions of energy sources

The following table compares, from peer-reviewed studies of full life cycle emissions and from various other studies, the carbon footprint of various forms of energy generation: nuclear, hydro, coal, gas, solar cell, peat and wind generation technology.

Note: 3.6 MJ = megajoule(s) == 1 kW·h = kilowatt-hour(s), thus 1 g/MJ = 3.6 g/kW·h.
Legend: B = Black coal (supercritical)–(new subcritical), Br = Brown coal (new subcritical), cc = combined cycle, oc = open cycle, TL = low-temperature/closed-circuit (geothermal doublet), TH = high-temperature/open-circuit, WL = Light Water Reactors, WH = Heavy Water Reactors, #Educated estimate.

These three studies thus concluded that hydroelectric, wind, and nuclear power produced the least CO2 per kilowatt-hour of any other electricity sources. These figures do not allow for emissions due to accidents or terrorism. Wind power and solar power, emit no carbon from the operation, but do leave a footprint during construction phase and maintenance during operation. Hydropower from reservoirs also has large footprints from initial removal of vegetation and ongoing methane (stream detritus decays anaerobically to methane in bottom of reservoir, rather than aerobically to CO2 if it had stayed in an unrestricted stream).[22]

The table above gives the carbon footprint per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated, which is about half the world's man-made CO2 output. The CO2 footprint for heat is equally significant and research shows that using waste heat from power generation in combined heat and power district heating, chp/dh has the lowest carbon footprint,[23] much lower than micro-power or heat pumps.

Passenger transport[edit]

This section gives representative figures for the carbon footprint of the fuel burned by different transport types (not including the carbon footprints of the vehicles or related infrastructure themselves). The precise figures vary according to a wide range of factors.

Flight[edit]

Main article: Environmental impact of aviation

Some representative figures for CO2 emissions are provided by LIPASTO's survey of average direct emissions (not accounting for high-altitude radiative effects) of airliners expressed as CO2 and CO2 equivalent per passenger kilometre:[25]

  • Domestic, short distance, less than 463 km (288 mi): 257 g/km CO2 or 259 g/km (14.7 oz/mile) CO2e
  • Long distance flights: 113 g/km CO2 or 114 g/km (6.5 oz/mile) CO2e

However, emissions per unit distance traveled is not necessarily the best indicator for the carbon footprint of air travel, because the distances covered are commonly longer than by other modes of travel. It is the total emissions for a trip that matters for a carbon footprint, not the merely rate of emissions. For example, a greatly more distant holiday destination may be chosen than if another mode of travel were used, because air travel makes the longer distance feasible in the limited time available.[26]

Road[edit]

CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre (pkm) for all road travel for 2011 in Europe as provided by the European Environment Agency:[27]

For vehicles, average figures for CO2 emissions per kilometer for road travel for 2013 in Europe, normalized to the NEDC test cycle, are provided by the International Council on Clean Transportation:[28]

Average figures for the United States are provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency,[29] based on the EPA Federal Test Procedure, for the following categories:

  • Passenger cars: 200 g CO2/km (322 g/mi)
  • Trucks: 280 g CO2/km (450 g/mi)
  • Combined: 229 g CO2/km (369 g/mi)

Rail[edit]

In 2005, the US company Amtrak's carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per passenger kilometre were 0.116 kg,[30][31] about twice as high as the UK rail average (where much more of the system is electrified),[32] and about eight times a Finnish electric intercity train.[33]

Sea[edit]

Average carbon dioxide emissions by ferries per passenger-kilometre seem to be 0.12 kg (4.2 oz).[34] However, 18-knot ferries between Finland and Sweden produce 0.221 kg (7.8 oz) of CO2, with total emissions equalling a CO2 equivalent of 0.223 kg (7.9 oz), while 24–27-knot ferries between Finland and Estonia produce 0.396 kg (14.0 oz) of CO2 with total emissions equalling a CO2 equivalent of 0.4 kg (14 oz).[35]

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Several organizations offer footprint calculators for public and corporate use,[6] and several organizations have calculated carbon footprints of products.[36] The US Environmental Protection Agency has addressed paper, plastic (candy wrappers), glass, cans, computers, carpet and tires. Australia has addressed lumber and other building materials. Academics in Australia, Korea and the US have addressed paved roads. Companies, nonprofits and academics have addressed mailing letters and packages. Carnegie Mellon University has estimated the CO2 footprints of 46 large sectors of the economy in each of eight countries. Carnegie Mellon, Sweden and the Carbon Trust have addressed foods at home and in restaurants.

The Carbon Trust has worked with UK manufacturers on foods, shirts and detergents, introducing a CO2 label in March 2007. The label is intended to comply with a new British Publicly Available Specification (i.e. not a standard), PAS 2050,[37] and is being actively piloted by The Carbon Trust and various industrial partners.[38] As of August 2012 The Carbon Trust state they have measured 27,000 certifiable product carbon footprints.[39]

Evaluating the package of some products is key to figuring out the carbon footprint.[40] The key way to determine a carbon footprint is to look at the materials used to make the item. For example, a juice carton is made of an aseptic carton, a beer can is made of aluminum, and some water bottles either made of glass or plastic. The larger the size, the larger the footprint will be.

Food[edit]

Main article: Low carbon diet

In a 2014 study by Scarborough et al., the real-life diets of British people were surveyed and their dietary greenhouse gas footprints estimated.[41] Average dietary greenhouse-gas emissions per day (in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent) were:

  • 7.19 for high meat-eaters
  • 5.63 for medium meat-eaters
  • 4.67 for low meat-eaters
  • 3.91 for fish-eaters
  • 3.81 for vegetarians
  • 2.89 for vegans

Textiles[edit]

The precise carbon footprint of different textiles varies considerably according to a wide range of factors. However, studies of textile production in Europe suggest the following carbon dioxide equivalent emissions footprints per kilo of texile at the point of purchase by a consumer:[42]

  • Cotton: 8
  • Nylon: 5.43
  • PET (e.g. synthetic fleece): 5.55
  • Wool: 5.48

Accounting for durability and energy required to wash and dry textile products, synthetic fabrics generally have a substantially lower carbon footprint than natural ones.[43]

Materials[edit]

The carbon footprint of materials (also known as embodied carbon) varies widely. The carbon footprint of many common materials can be found in the Inventory of Carbon & Energy database,[44] the GREET databases and models,[45] and LCA databases via openLCA Nexus[46]

Cement[edit]

Cement production and carbon footprint resulting from soil sealing was 8.0 Mg person−1 of total per capita CO2 emissions (Italy, year 2003); the balance between C loss due to soil sealing and C stocked in man-made infrastructures resulted in a net loss to the atmosphere, -0.6 Mg C ha−1 y−1.[47]

Schemes to reduce carbon emissions: Kyoto Protocol, carbon offsetting, and certificates[edit]

Carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and the emissions of other GHGs, are often associated with the burning of fossil fuels, like natural gas, crude oil and coal. While this is harmful to the environment, carbon offsets can be purchased in an attempt to make up for these harmful effects.

The Kyoto Protocol defines legally binding targets and timetables for cutting the GHG emissions of industrialized countries that ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Accordingly, from an economic or market perspective, one has to distinguish between a mandatory market and a voluntary market. Typical for both markets is the trade with emission certificates:

Mandatory market mechanisms[edit]

To reach the goals defined in the Kyoto Protocol, with the least economical costs, the following flexible mechanisms were introduced for the mandatory market:

The CDM and JI mechanisms requirements for projects which create a supply of emission reduction instruments, while Emissions Trading allows those instruments to be sold on international markets.

- Projects which are compliant with the requirements of the CDM mechanism generate Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs).
- Projects which are compliant with the requirements of the JI mechanism generate Emission Reduction Units (ERUs).

The CERs and ERUs can then be sold through Emissions Trading. The demand for the CERs and ERUs being traded is driven by:

- Shortfalls in national emission reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.
- Shortfalls amongst entities obligated under local emissions reduction schemes.

Nations which have failed to deliver their Kyoto emissions reductions obligations can enter Emissions Trading to purchase CERs and ERUs to cover their treaty shortfalls. Nations and groups of nations can also create local emission reduction schemes which place mandatory carbon dioxide emission targets on entities within their national boundaries. If the rules of a scheme allow, the obligated entities may be able to cover all or some of any reduction shortfalls by purchasing CERs and ERUs through Emissions Trading. While local emissions reduction schemes have no status under the Kyoto Protocol itself, they play a prominent role in creating the demand for CERs and ERUs, stimulating Emissions Trading and setting a market price for emissions.

A well-known mandatory local emissions trading scheme is the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

New changes are being made to the trading schemes. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is set to make some new changes within the next year. The new changes will target the emissions produced by flight travel in and out of the European Union.[48]

Other nations are scheduled to start participating in Emissions Trading Schemes within the next few year. These nations include China, India and the United States.[48]

Voluntary market mechanisms[edit]

In contrast to the strict rules set out for the mandatory market, the voluntary market provides companies with different options to acquire emissions reductions. A solution, comparable with those developed for the mandatory market, has been developed for the voluntary market, the Verified Emission Reductions (VER). This measure has the great advantage that the projects/activities are managed according to the quality standards set out for CDM/JI projects but the certificates provided are not registered by the governments of the host countries or the Executive Board of the UNO. As such, high quality VERs can be acquired at lower costs for the same project quality. However, at present VERs can not be used in the mandatory market.

The voluntary market in North America is divided between members of the Chicago Climate Exchange and the Over The Counter (OTC) market. The Chicago Climate Exchange is a voluntary yet legally binding cap-and-trade emission scheme whereby members commit to the capped emission reductions and must purchase allowances from other members or offset excess emissions. The OTC market does not involve a legally binding scheme and a wide array of buyers from the public and private spheres, as well as special events that want to go carbon neutral. Being carbon neutral refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference.

There are project developers, wholesalers, brokers, and retailers, as well as carbon funds, in the voluntary market. Some businesses and nonprofits in the voluntary market encompass more than just one of the activities listed above. A report by Ecosystem Marketplace shows that carbon offset prices increase as it moves along the supply chain—from project developer to retailer.[49]

While some mandatory emission reduction schemes exclude forest projects, these projects flourish in the voluntary markets. A major criticism concerns the imprecise nature of GHG sequestration quantification methodologies for forestry projects. However, others note the community co-benefits that forestry projects foster. Project types in the voluntary market range from avoided deforestation, afforestation/reforestation, industrial gas sequestration, increased energy efficiency, fuel switching, methane capture from coal plants and livestock, and even renewable energy. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) sold on the voluntary market are quite controversial due to additionality concerns.[50] Industrial Gas projects receive criticism because such projects only apply to large industrial plants that already have high fixed costs. Siphoning off industrial gas for sequestration is considered picking the low hanging fruit; which is why credits generated from industrial gas projects are the cheapest in the voluntary market.

The size and activity of the voluntary carbon market is difficult to measure. The most comprehensive report on the voluntary carbon markets to date was released by Ecosystem Marketplace and New Carbon Finance in July 2007.[49]

ÆON of Japan is firstly approved by Japanese authority to indicate carbon footprint on three private brand goods in October 2009.

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The most common way to reduce the carbon footprint of humans is to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse. In manufacturing this can be done by recycling the packing materials, by selling the obsolete inventory of one industry to the industry who is looking to buy unused items at lesser price to become competitive. Nothing should be disposed off into the soil, all the ferrous materials which are prone to degrade or oxidize with time should be sold as early as possible at reduced price.

This can also be done by using reusable items such as thermoses for daily coffee or plastic containers for water and other cold beverages rather than disposable ones. If that option isn't available, it is best to properly recycle the disposable items after use. When one household recycles at least half of their household waste, they can save 1.2 tons of carbon dioxide annually[51][unreliable source?].

Another easy option is to drive less. By walking or biking to the destination rather than driving, not only is a person going to save money on gas, but they will be burning less fuel and releasing fewer emissions into the atmosphere. However, if walking is not an option, one can look into carpooling or mass transportation options in their area.

Yet another option for reducing the carbon footprint of humans is to use less air conditioning and heating in the home. By adding insulation to the walls and attic of one's home, and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows one can lower their heating costs more than 25 percent. Similarly, one can very inexpensively upgrade the "insulation" (clothing) worn by residents of the home.[52] For example, it's estimated that wearing a base layer of long underwear (top and bottom) made from a lightweight, super insulating fabric like microfleece (aka Polartec®, Capilene®) can conserve as much body heat as a full set of clothing, allowing a person to remain warm with the thermostat lowered by over 5 °C.[52][53] These measures all help because they reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the house. One can also turn down the heat while sleeping at night or away during the day, and keep temperatures moderate at all times. Setting the thermostat just 2 degrees lower in winter and higher in summer could save about 1 ton of carbon dioxide each year.[51][unreliable source?]

Choice of diet is a major influence on a person's carbon footprint. Animal sources of protein (especially red meat), rice (typically produced in high methane-emitting paddies), foods transported long distance and/or via fuel-inefficient transport (e.g., highly perishable produce flown long distance) and heavily processed and packaged foods are among the major contributors to a high carbon diet. Scientists at the University of Chicago have estimated[54] "that the average American diet – which derives 28% of its calories from animal foods – is responsible for approximately one and a half more tonnes of greenhouse gasses – as CO2 equivalents – per person, per year than a fully plant-based, or vegan, diet."[55] Their calculations suggest that even replacing one third of the animal protein in the average American's diet with plant protein (e.g., beans, grains) can reduce the diet's carbon footprint by half a tonne. Exchanging two thirds of the animal protein with plant protein is roughly equivalent to switching from a Toyota Camry to a Prius. Finally, throwing food out not only adds its associated carbon emissions to a person or household's footprint, it adds the emissions of transporting the wasted food to the garbage dump and the emissions of food decomposition, mostly in the form of the highly potent greenhouse gas, methane.

The carbon handprint movement emphasizes individual forms of carbon offsetting, like using more public transportation or planting trees in deforested regions, to reduce one's carbon footprint and increase their "handprint."[56]

Furthermore, the carbon footprint in the food industry can be reduced by optimizing the supply chain. A life cycle or supply chain carbon footprint study can provide useful data which will help the business to identify critical areas for improvement and provides a focus. Such studies also demonstrate a company’s commitment to reducing carbon footprint now ahead of other competitors as well as preparing companies for potential regulation. In addition to increased market advantage and differentiation eco-efficiency can also help to reduce costs where alternative energy systems are implemented.

A July 2017 study published in Environmental Research Letters argued that the most significant way individuals could mitigate their own carbon footprint is to have fewer children, followed by living without a vehicle, forgoing air travel and adopting a plant-based diet.[57]

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The GHG footprint, or greenhouse gas footprint, refers to the amount of GHG that are emitted during the creation of products or services. It is more comprehensive than the commonly used carbon footprint, which measures only carbon dioxide, one of many greenhouse gases. One of methodologies used for the estimation of GHG footprint is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). A life cycle assessment assesses multiple environmental impact categories, typically including categories assessing the human health, ecosystem and resources impacts, from cradle to grave (raw material extraction, manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal).[58]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^"What is a carbon footprint?". Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2009. 
  2. ^Wright, L.; Kemp, S.; Williams, I. (2011). "'Carbon footprinting': towards a universally accepted definition". Carbon Management. 2 (1): 61–72. doi:10.4155/CMT.10.39. 
  3. ^"The CO2 list (and original sources cited therein)". Retrieved 18 March 2011. 
  4. ^"Graph of the Average Carbon Footprint of a U.S. Household". Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  5. ^Safire, William (17 February 2008). "Footprint". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  6. ^ abList of carbon accounting software
  7. ^"Carbon Footprint Calculators". CO2List.org. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  8. ^"CoolClimate Carbon Footprint Calculator for U.S. Households and Individuals". Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  9. ^"Online supporting data, calculations & methodologies for paper: Jones, Kammen "Quantifying Carbon Footprint Reduction Opportunities for U.S. Households and Communities" ES&T, 2011 (publicly available)". Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  10. ^"Calculator". carbonstory.org. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  11. ^Collin, Robert William, and Debra Ann Schwartz. "Carbon Offsets." Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues, edited by Michael Shally-Jensen, vol. 4: Environment, Science, and Technology, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 1311-1314. Gale Virtual Reference Library, www.pierce.ctc.edu:2055/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=puya65247&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX1762600165&asid=1cdc99a1a9c63a1b80bc1943bef02fef. Accessed 5 December 2016.
  12. ^Corbett, James. "Carbon Footprint." Climate Change: In Context, edited by Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner, vol. 1, Gale, 2008, pp. 162-164. In Context Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library, www.pierce.ctc.edu:2055/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=puya65247&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3079000057&asid=e7c1362a6d136f126eb44525b39ec5ee. Accessed 5 December 2016.
  13. ^Brown, Marilyn A., Frank Southworth, and Andrea Sarzynski. Shrinking The Carbon Footprint of Metropolitan America. Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, May 2008. Web. 23 February 2011.
  14. ^Easterlyn, Jonah. "U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis." How Much of U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Are Associated with Electricity Generation? - FAQ - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). N.p., 1 April 2016. Web. 5 December 2016.
  15. ^Aldridge, Susan. "Coal and Steel." Energy: In Context, edited by Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, et al., vol. 1, Gale, 2016, pp. 111-113. In Context Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library, www.pierce.ctc.edu:2055/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=puya65247&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3627100037&asid=c5505c667ede36bcd7fa5600a94cbc50. Accessed 5 December 2016.
  16. ^Tukker, Arnold; Bulavskaya, Tanya; Giljum, Stefan; de Koning, Arjan; Lutter, Stephan; Simas, Moana; Stadler, Konstantin; Wood, Richard (2016). "Environmental and resource footprints in a global context: Europe's structural deficit in resource endowments". Global Environmental Change. 40: 171–181. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.07.002. Retrieved 19 January 2018. 
  17. ^Ivanova, Diana; Stadler, Konstantin; Steen-Olsen, Kjartan; Wood, Richard; Vita, Gibran; Tukker, Arnold; Hertwich, Edgar (2016). "Environmental Impact Assessment of Household Consumption". Journal of Industrial Ecology. 20 (3): 526–536. doi:10.1111/jiec.12371. Retrieved 19 January 2018. 
  18. ^Jones, Christopher; Kammen, Daniel (2011). "Quantifying Carbon Footprint Reduction Opportunities for U.S. Households and Communities". Environmental Science & Technology. 45 (9): 4088–4095. doi:10.1021/es102221h. Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  19. ^ abcdefghijklmnopBilek, Marcela; Hardy, Clarence; Lenzen, Manfred; Dey, Christopher (2008). "Life-cycle energy balance and greenhouse gas emissions of nuclear energy: A review"(PDF). SLS. 49 (8): 2178–2199. Archived from the original(PDF) on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 4 November 2009. 
  20. ^ abcdeFridleifsson,, Ingvar B.; Bertani, Ruggero; Huenges, Ernst; Lund, John W.; Ragnarsson, Arni; Rybach, Ladislaus (11 February 2008). O. Hohmeyer and T. Trittin, ed. "The possible role and contribution of geothermal energy to the mitigation of climate change"(PDF). Luebeck, Germany: 59–80. Archived from the original(pdf) on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  21. ^Hanova, J; Dowlatabadi, H (9 November 2007). "Strategic GHG reduction through the use of ground source heat pump technology"(PDF). Environmental Research Letters. 2. UK: IOP Publishing. pp. 044001 8pp. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/2/4/044001. ISSN 1748-9326. Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  22. ^"Hydroelectricity". CO2List. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  23. ^"Carbon footprints of various sources of heat - CHPDH comes out lowest - Claverton Group". claverton-energy.com. 
  24. ^"Archived copy"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 15 May 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  25. ^"Average passenger aircraft emissions and energy consumption per passenger kilometre in Finland 2008". lipasto.vtt.fi. Retrieved 3 July 2009. 
  26. ^Gössling S., Upham P. (2009). Climate change and aviation: Issues, challenges and solutions. EarthScan. 386pp.
  27. ^"Energy efficiency and specific CO2 emissions (TERM 027) - Assessment published Jan 2013". europa.eu. 
  28. ^EU pocketbook 2014(PDF). theicct.org. p. 28. 
  29. ^http://www.epa.gov/fueleconomy/fetrends/1975-2014/420r14023a.pdf
  30. ^"table 1.1, figures from 2005. Cf"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 15 May 2013. 
  31. ^"sheet 8, cell C33 (figures from 2002)". 
  32. ^"figures from 2008–9"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 24 March 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  33. ^"figures for 2007". vtt.fi. 
  34. ^Holthof, Philippe (10 April 2009).
The carbon footprint explained
The Vattenfall study found renewable and nuclear generation responsible for far less CO2 than fossil fuel generation.
Average carbon dioxide emissions (grams) per passenger mile (USA). Based on 'Updated Comparison of Energy Use & CO 2 Emissions From Different Transportation Modes, October 2008' (Manchester, NH: M.J. Bradley & Associates, 2008), p. 4, table 1.1[24]

What is Carbon Footprint?

To many, the notion of talking about their carbon footprint is still a novel one and in most instances, bearing in mind that human beings are sociable creatures, the subject of carbon footprints is rarely brought up in conversations. Yet, it’s important to start as early as today to have a conversation about the many ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. Before even reading any further, you can start thinking about ways to reduce the excess waste lying in and around your home. Seeing that space remains at a premium, you can begin by asking yourself this question; what don’t I need. After reading this article you will begin to have a clearer picture of just how much those unnecessary items contribute towards increasing your carbon footprint, rather than reducing it.

The term carbon footprint is defined as the amount of carbon (usually in tonnes) being emitted by an organization, event, product or individual directly or indirectly. Everyone’s carbon footprint is different depending on their location, habits and personal choice. Each of us contributes to the greenhouse gas emissions either by the way we travel, the food we eat, the amount of electricity we consume and many more.

For example, when you drive a car and burn fuel, it generates certain amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. When you heat your house, it also generates CO2 assuming that electricity is coming from coal powered plants and similarly when you eat food, it also generates some quantities of CO2 as the food gets processed.

There are people, organizations and even local governments who have begun talking about the carbon footprint and motivating each other to put in place plans to reduce their carbon footprint. But they aren’t always sure about the most effective ways forward.

They also react with caution (otherwise recklessly) because footprint reductions require a drastic change to lifestyles and current ways of doing things. This short explanation on the carbon footprint guides those still new to the concept.

  • Essentially, the carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the Earth’s atmosphere due to the daily activities of humankind, whether domestically or commercially.
  • It is also known as accumulative sets of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humankind or human-made products. It is argued that there is also no known method of calculating the total carbon footprint because of the large amounts of data allegedly required to do this.
  • This argument of calculation is extended further in the belief that carbon dioxide is still mainly produced by natural elements.

Main Contributors to Carbon Footprint

But climate scientists and global campaigners for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions argue that there is more than enough evidence to suggest that enough damage has already been done. So, they say, whether measurements need to be taken or not, action needs to be taken today. These are just some of the main contributors to today’s carbon footprint.

  • Energy – Here, carbon footprint emissions are collective, coming from a variety of sources, namely industrial processes, transport and electricity and fuel emissions.
  • Industrialization – Since the industrial revolution began during the middle of the twentieth century, CO2 has continued to rise unchecked and at alarming rates.
  • Agriculture – Most agricultural processes within developed and developing nations are still being carried out commercially with the result that mass production of livestock has led to large levels of methane gas being released into the atmosphere.
  • Waste – No matter which process or activity is being carried out, the waste from these is excessive. It is also having a harmful impact on the earth’s natural resources (flora, fauna and the oceans).
  • Human action (and inaction) – Ultimately, the way humankind has become accustomed to doing things every day, keeping pace with the need to do things more quickly and with more convenience, has contributed towards the exponential increase in carbon footprints on an annual basis.

Most Harmful Contributors

Hundreds of companies from around the world are making concerted efforts to reduce their own carbon footprints. But the biggest culprits numbering no more than one hundred of the world’s largest companies have been the most reluctant to change. Also, they continue to resist legislative attempts to do so through legal means.

But they have been responsible for two thirds of CO2 emissions so far. Here are some anecdotal highlights on the reactive and destructive actions of some of these companies.

  • Many of the large energy producing companies are influenced by investor’s contributions and stake holdings from government institutions. In some countries, the state still holds a majority share in these companies.
  • In the last twenty five to thirty years at least half of estimated emissions have come from these oil and coal burning companies alone. In some places, mandated by governments to do so, they are also holding large reserves of fossil fuels. If these are burned, the earth is placed at even greater risk.
  • On the global, governmental scale, the USA, China and India are the largest emitters of human-induced greenhouse gasses, while South Africa is the biggest contributor on the African continent. The argument demanding that developed nations make larger contributions towards reducing the carbon footprint while the world’s least developed nations are given concessions is an ignorant one.

Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

The situation of annual (large) increases in greenhouse gas emissions is serious. It warrants immediate action, no delays and without compromise. Huge gatherings (in their thousands) at conferences designed to have a conversation about the carbon footprint are encouraging.

But some points and opportunities have, to date, been missed. Invariably, groups discuss ways and means to reduce their carbon footprints without adversely affecting their vested interests or the communities or nations they represent. Done correctly, the reduction of carbon footprints is going to change lives.

And it will be for the greater good in the long term. Here are some of the most effective ways to make an immediate impact on reducing your carbon footprint, whether individually, domestically or commercially.

  • Driving – Hybrids may still be out of reach of most drivers, mainly due to its price, but it is a necessary alternative to conventional vehicles run on petrol or diesel. Also, when driving, motorists should avoid heavily congested road networks. How well they drive also makes an impact on reducing their carbon footprint.
  • Instead of driving – The popular and healthy advice is to walk instead of driving. Those who have too far to travel can also use rapid bus transport networks and urban rail networks.
  • Less red meat – Vegetarians are already off to a good start because most of their consumptive waste can be recycled easily. However the greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural produce such as cattle and poultry are substantial. Where there is less demand surely emissions can be reduced.
  • Buy local – Adding to the above remark, buying local, organic produce effectively counters mass-produced agricultural outcomes. There is a dramatic reduction in the amount of plastic being used to package products and fuel usage during long road transits is also reduced.
  • Energy efficiency at home – All appliances that are not being used must be switched off immediately. And all electrical outlets not in use must also be switched off. Hot-water geysers should be switched off for the entire day and only turned on when needed. These are simple, yet practical lifestyle habits which are easy to adopt.
  • Buy green energy – It is quite possible to power your own home with environmentally-sustainable alternatives of energy production without compromising your lifestyle and waiting for national grids to be connected via green energy supply sources. For instance, technology is now available for you to install your own solar power panels.
  • Recycle and re-use – Vegetable produce can be converted into compost (or manure) for gardens, even vegetable gardens. Instead of buying more food containers, plastic containers sourced from the supermarket can be refashioned as ideal kitchen utensils. Also, where plastic waste is no longer required, seek out recycling depots rather than relying on your supplied garbage disposal units.
  • Avail WFH Facility – Do you really need to go to office to complete your daily work? If you have an option to work from home even for couple of days in a week, just opt for it. It will reduce the huge CO2 burden in case you are using your own vehicle for commuting. Do you really need to fly and attend business meetings or conferences.  Why not make use of teleconferences and attend these meetings remotely. It may not be possible every time but even if you are able to do skip couple of meetings in a month, that will make a huge difference.
  • Purchase Carbon Credits – For some companies or private individuals, some emissions are unavoidable. For those, purchasing carbon credits is a worthwhile option. This is done by purchasing these carbon credits from companies who will invest those dollars on their behalf on some renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
  • Plant a Tree – One of the best way to give it back to the environment is to plant trees. Plants absorb CO2 and release oxygen that is then used by humans and animals. According to the Urban Forestry Network, a single young tree absorbs 13 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

The urgency required to react to governments’ slow responses to legislating carbon footprint-reducing initiatives is now widely known. It is also quite easy to implement as the above examples have shown. For those new to the concept of carbon footprint, this introduction also empowers them to act on their own rather than wait for someone to tell them to or for more dire warnings to be made.

Image credit: Alisdare Hickson , David

Rinkesh

Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.

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