It’s often stated that the next few years will be decisive in our fight against climate change and success will depend on our ability to reduce our carbon footprint. But what does “carbon footprint” actually mean, and what are the actions can we take to help reduce the impact of climate change?
Let’s start by looking at a few terms that are often in the news but can sometimes be misunderstood:
Climate change is defined as a change in climate patterns which, either directly or indirectly, to human activity. Greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere and trap heat, increasing the greenhouse effect and raising the overall temperature of the planet.
Every time you travel by car, charge your mobile phone, switch on the TV or run the washing machine, and many other thousands of routine activities, you leave a trail of gases in your wake that build up in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. It is this trace of greenhouse gases produced by human activities that are known as the carbon footprint.
What about my carbon footprint?
Your personal carbon footprint is what you leave behind as a result of moving about, consuming, eating and using resources like energy. The Nature Conservancy estimates that each inhabitant on the planet produces an average of almost four tons of CO2 every year.
The Nature Conservancy states that we all need to reduce our carbon footprints to less than two tons per year by 2050 which they experts say that this is the best way to ensure that temperatures stop rising.
Calculate your carbon footprint
There are a wide range of simple free tools available to help calculate your personal carbon footprint in just a few minutes. The calculator offered by the UN (footprintcalc) considers aspects of the home — type of housing, size, energy efficiency, etc. — our usual mode of transport and our lifestyle, such as consumption of meat and local products, or management of food waste and technological waste.
Knowing your personal carbon footprint will help you identify and reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions and cut your carbon footprint.
How to reduce your carbon footprint
Reducing your carbon footprint and playing your part in tackling climate change can start with a few simple steps.
- Choose responsible consumption, based on local products and sustainable production. If you are unsure of whether your product can be counted as sustainable, a quick online search should reveal the emissions produced and environmental policies of your chosen brand.
- Travel using sustainable means of transport, such as public transport, or active travel by bicycle or on foot, and buy vehicles that are environmentally friendly.
- Cut energy waste by choosing a 100% renewable energy consumption, buying energy-saving appliances, and controlling your heating and air conditioning.
- Reduce your household waste by reusing packaging and recycling that which cannot be up-cycled or composted. For example, you can use old jars for plant pots, collecting buttons, hair ties and other small items, or as containers to use at your local refill centre.
- When you cannot reuse products, make sure to recycle them in appropriate containers.
- Food waste creates carbon emissions, too, so plan your meals more carefully, make use of your freezer, and be sure to keep an eye on any wilting veg in your fridge.
You can also help reduce carbon emissions by encouraging friends and family to also do their bit. This may be as simple as advising them about recycling and food waste, informing them about the impact carbon emissions are having on our planet, or introducing them to a more sustainable, local brand from which to purchase.