What is a carbon footprint?

Green Karma

To mitigate climate change, is it important to reduce our carbon footprint?

But wait, what is a carbon footprint? The dictionary defines a carbon footprint as “the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or community.” In other terms the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the bulk of production, use, and end-of-life of a product or service. It includes carbon dioxide — the gas most commonly emitted by humans — and others, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming.

The major sources contributing to the increase in the number of our carbon footprints is the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas for electricity, heat, and transportation. In addition, landfill fires, deforestation, etc are other major factors that contribute to air pollution, global warming, etc.

While this gives you a good idea about the carbon footprint and the major cause behind it, let’s now see why we should care about it. 

Climate change isn’t something that is happening due to one major sector, it’s the collective contribution of all of us. But it can be handled or the process can be slowed down by us. The best way to do this is to reduce our carbon footprint by taking into account our everyday carbon emissions into consideration. Think of it like this: nearly everything we do releases some amount of carbon into the atmosphere, but how much depends on a huge number of factors. This means that we can increase or decrease our carbon footprint with our everyday choices.

For example, the packaged food you buy has a carbon footprint attached to it. This is because it requires machinery and resources to grow, harvest, package, and transport it to where you bought it from. Then, more energy is expended when you cook that food, which adds even more to its carbon footprint. But simply,  you could cut your carbon footprints by purchasing the locally produced food. 

The top four emitters in 2017, which covered 58 percent of global emissions, were China (27 percent), the US (15 percent), the European Union (10 percent), and India (7 percent), according to the projection by the Global Carbon Project. The rest of the world contributed approximately 41 percent of global emissions. India’s emissions continue its strong growth by an average of 6.3 percent in 2018. However, the United Nations Environment Programme’s ‘Emissions Gap Report, 2019’, recognized India as among the few countries that are on track to actually lower emission intensity. UNEP’s report expects India to not only track but over-achieve its target by about 15 percent.

How can you help to make a difference? All that is required is to make the correct choice. You can start the process by calculating your carbon footprints. The carbon footprint calculator by Tata Power gives you a rough idea of your carbon footprints. 

Secondly, you need to identify the source of your carbon footprints.  You will need to know the following:

  • Approximately how many miles you travel by car, bus, train, and plane.
  • The energy usage in your home.
  • How much you spend shopping. 
  • What’s the composition of your diet.

Cutting down your carbon footprints, does it mean you stop using a car? Try taking a train, bus, or just go walking. Let’s be realistic, here are some tips to help you bring down your carbon footprint count from the road to the home:

On-Road (Transportation)

  • Go easy on the brakes —  avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration. Driving efficiently can help to reduce emissions.
  • Choose CNG over petrol or diesel
  • Regularly service your vehicle to keep it more efficient.
  • Check your tires. Keeping tires pumped correctly can reduce emissions.

  • Carpool — this way, you’re splitting emissions between the number of people in the car.

At Home

  • Cut down on electricity use. Switch lights off when you leave the room and unplug your electronic devices when they are not in use.
  • Swap to CFL & LED.
  • When you brush your teeth, be sure to shut off the water while you lather up. Don’t leave it running

  • Take shorter showers.
  • Wash your clothing in cold water. The enzymes in cold water detergent are designed to clean better in cold water.
  • Try to buy the majority of your food as local produce.
  • Compost your food waste if possible.

If you liked this post, and decide to make a change. We would love to hear your story in cutting down your carbon footprints.

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