13 Aug Definition: Carbon Footprint
Google defines carbon footprint as “the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person or group”. This metric is defined using a measurement of tons of carbon dioxide. When evaluating your personal carbon footprint or that of your business carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas taken into account, methane and ozone production are factored into the equation and their effects are converted into equivalent tons of CO2.
It sounds very complicated but long story short: any time you use energy created from fossil fuels you create greenhouse gasses, most often CO2. If you think you have eliminated your carbon footprint by converting entirely to electricity you are mistaken; even electrical power plants create CO2. Manufacturing and production of foods and products that you buy have also produced CO2. Your carbon footprint is the sum total of CO2 emissions attributed to your activities over a specified amount of time. A carbon footprint is usually calculated for one years’ time.
The best way to fully understand your carbon footprint is to determine your fuel usage for the year. This is the total of heating fuel, gasoline and/or diesel fuel. Your fuel consumption makes the biggest impact on your carbon footprint. Once you have determined how much you have used you can do an internet search to find a calculator that will convert your usage into tons of CO2 emitted. The Environmental Protection Agency has one on their website. Most online calculators will ask you a series of questions in addition to your amount of fuel consumption to help determine a more precise amount of your carbon footprint.
A carbon footprint helps you understand how your behavior effects the environment. It is amazing how much CO2 is created by simple activities. Take a few minutes to research random activities and you will be amazed. The production of a single 1/3 pound hamburger patty creates more than 3kg of CO2. When you think about the billions of burgers served every year you can understand more easily how quickly it all adds up.
Once you understand your personal impact on CO2 production you can make calculable efforts to reduce it. Turning lights off or down when they aren’t necessary, walking a few blocks to the store, or walking your kids to school in the morning will make a difference. Encouraging carpooling and public transportation among employees, keeping personal and company vehicles properly maintained and starting recycling protocols are all simple changes to make.
Photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson