What is a carbon footprint?

The term ‘Carbon Footprint’ is something that you’ve probably heard bandied about quite a lot, particularly in regard to environmental issues. Lower is better, and higher is bad, but the specifics can be a little bit murkier than that.

What exactly is a carbon footprint?

Academically, the term carbon footprint refers to the ‘the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or community.’ Whilst this is a somewhat straightforward definition there is actually a lot more involved.

What produces a carbon footprint?

Your carbon footprint is produced whenever you use something that releases Co2 into the atmosphere, that could be driving a car, cooking your dinner, or heating your home. Whether it uses oil, gas, or coal,as that fuel is burned the Co2 is produced.

What you might not know is that even things that don’t typically use fuel can contribute to your carbon footprint. For instance, if you buy food from the supermarket then at some point in the production of that food, whether it was electrical heating lamps, hot water, or electrical equipment in an abattoir, energy will have been used and the chances are that it emitted some form of carbon.

Almost everything can contribute to your carbon footprint, either directly or indirectly.

How is a carbon footprint calculated?

The simplest way to calculate your carbon footprint is to calculate your Co2 emissions based on your fuel consumption. Typically, one litre of petrol will result in 2.3kg of co2 emissions and 1 litre of oil will result in 3kg of co2 emissions, and so on.

Using this scale, you should be able to work out a base level for how large or small your carbon footprint is.

If you want to go a step further then it can get a little bit more complicated. For example, every five plastic carrier bags or every two plastic water bottles you use will add 1kg of Co2 to your footprint. Certain things will also surprise you as to just how much they add, such as the average cheeseburger adds roughly 2.6kg of Co2 to your footprint.

This may seem like a lot but when you consider that this is calculated from establishing a farm, raising the animal, processing the animal, cooking the burger, and serving it to you, plus all of the travel required in between, it soon adds up.

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to calculate a perfect carbon footprint, due to a lack of data surrounding the specifics of your life but it is possible to work out an average. The average carbon footprint of someone in the UK is 10 tonnes. Roughly the equivalent of 24 million balloons full of Carbon.

How do you reduce your carbon footprint?

Co2 emissions are one of the root causes of climate change and the destruction of the earths ecosystem, as they are among the leading instigators of the greenhouse effect. However, there are several ways with which you can help to reduce your carbon footprint.

For one, you could start by aiming to use public transport, or better yet, walk whenever you have the opportunity. Travel is one of the leading causes of Co2 emissions and by eliminating any unnecessary travel you can help to alleviate this.

Similarly, you should turn off any electrical appliances when not in use. The standby mode on your television may produce less Co2 than leaving it on, but turning it off completely will produce a lot less. Similarly, you can try to use less plastic bags, or buy bags for life, the same goes for water bottles.

There are lots of ways you can help to reduce your carbon footprint and many of them are simple and easy to integrate into your daily routine. Take the time to do a bit of research and find out how you can do your part.








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