A carbon footprint corresponds to the whole amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced to, directly and indirectly, support a person’s lifestyle and activities. Carbon footprints are usually measured in equivalent tons of CO2, during the period of a year, and they can be associated with an individual, an organization, a product or an event, among others.
The GHGs whose sum results in a carbon footprint can come from the production and consumption of fossil fuels, food, manufactured goods, materials, roads or transportation. And despite its importance, carbon footprints are difficult to calculate exactly due to poor knowledge and short data regarding the complex interactions between contributing processes – including the influence of natural processes that store or release carbon dioxide.
According to WHO, a carbon footprint is a measure of the impact your activities have on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced through the burning of fossil fuels and is expressed as a weight of CO2 emissions produced in tonnes.
How To Measure My Personal Carbon Footprint?
The carbon footprint is a very important means to understand the impact of a person’s behavior on global warming. This is why someone who effectively wants to contribute to stopping global warming, at least on an individual scale, needs to measure and keep track of their personal carbon footprint.
And here is where online calculators come in. For instance, by using the carbon footprint calculators from WWF, TerraPass (includes calculator for companies and events) or the UN you’ll be asked to provide pieces of information such as: how you commute to work, what your usual diet is, how much you drive or fly, the size of your household, or what type of electricity the grid provides you.
The result you’ll get won’t be perfect or very much accurate – and there are several reasons why. First, 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.
How To Reduce My Personal Carbon Footprint?
- Avoid polluting car journeys (each liter of fuel burnt in a car engine emits over 2.5 kg of CO2) and favor walking, cycling or using public transport, especially trains;
- If you are driving, share the ride with others and don’t speed as it uses more petrol and therefore, emits more CO2;
- Reduce the number of animal products consumed;
- Eat local and seasonal produced food: short trips mean less pollution from transportation;
- Recycle/ compost organic waste. Otherwise, methane will be released by the decomposing biodegradable waste in landfills. In the EU, these emissions account for ~3% of GHG emissions.
3. WATER USAGE
- 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;
- Raise hand pumps to protect drinking-water from flood contamination.
4. ENERGY USE – EXAMPLES OF GOOD & SUSTAINABLE BEHAVIORS
- Be mindful of the temperature of your house: just 1ºC less reduce emissions (and your energy bill) by 5-10%;
- Turn down air-con for the cold – they are super energy expensive. Use a fan instead;
- Program your energy devices so that they’re on only while you are (about to get) home;
- 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 that low carbon energy sources are strengthened.
5. WASTE MANAGEMENT – EXAMPLES OF GOOD & SUSTAINABLE BEHAVIORS
- Refuse what you don’t need, reduce what you need; reuse it as many times as you can, re-purpose if you’re not using it anymore and recycle or compost it and 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