Carbon Footprint: What is It and How to Reduce It?

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carbon footprint

With the passage of time and the increase in technological advancements, there have been dramatic changes in the environment which has led to many environmental anomalies. One of which is Carbon Footprint.

The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, which is one of the highest rates in the world.

However, globally, the average footprint is closer to 4 tons. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop under 2 tons by 2050.

This article discusses what is Carbon footprint and how can we reduce it

Carbon Footprint

The emission of total greenhouse gas by an individual, event, organization, service, or product which express carbon dioxide equivalent.

Let us first discuss greenhouse gas

The Earth’s atmosphere is carbon dioxide, water vapors, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

Greenhouse gas is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range causing the greenhouse effect.

carbon footprint 1

These gases maintain the Earth’s temperature.

Since the industrial revolution in 1750, the increases in human activity increased by 45% thereby increasing the CO2 emissions in the atmosphere from 280ppm to 1750 till this date.

This was due to the combustion of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) with additional contributions coming from deforestation and other changes in land use.

The leading cause of methane emissions in agriculture. Moreover, by gas venting and fugitive emissions from fossil fuel.

 

Greenhouse Gas Index

The earth absorbs some of the radiant energy coming from the sun and some of it reflects. The temperature of the Earth’s surface depends on the balance between this incoming and outgoing energy.

When there is a shift in this energy, the surface of Earth either becomes hotter or cooler, therefore, leading to a variety of changes in global climate.

The Earth’s climate changes due to natural and man-made mechanisms which cause a change in global energy balance.

These changes cause heat retention in the lower atmosphere of Earth.

Some greenhouse gas stays in the atmosphere for longer periods of time like CO2 and methane while some stays for a shorter period of time.

Therefore, the longer the gas stays in the atmosphere, the higher changes in the energy levels of Earth.

Sources of Greenhouse Gas

Most greenhouse gases have both natural and human-caused sources, apart from synthetic halocarbons.

The concentrations of existing gases were roughly constant before the industrial revolution.

However, with an increase in human activity after the industrial revolution, there was a significant increase in gases mainly because of the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

carbon footprint 2

Changes since Industrial Revolution

The increase in greenhouse gases can be significantly observed with the changes in the industrial revolution.

For instance, the mole fraction of carbon dioxide(CO2 emissions) has increased from 280ppm to 415 ppm.

The first 30ppm increase took place in about 200 years while from the start of the industrial revolution; the next 90ppm took place within 56 years.

Recent studies show that the concentrations are increasing at a higher rate.

This leads to a carbon footprint that is the number of greenhouse gases due to human and industrial activity.

 

What is Carbon Footprint?

It is the total amount of greenhouse gas emission from the production, use of products, and services.

Greenhouse gases are emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance, production and manufacturing of goods, materials, roads, buildings, etc.

Causes

Human activity is one of the major causes of greenhouse effects. This increases the Earth’s temperature and emits through the use of fossil fuels and other by-products.

The major effects on climate are extreme precipitation, acidification, and warming of oceans.

Due to human’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels, energy usage, and constant deforestation, the number of greenhouse gases is increasing which makes reducing a greenhouse footprint harder to achieve.

carbon footprint 3

The increase in these gases is due to an increase in human activity, whereas some of it is due to natural emissions.

Moreover, due to the increase in CO2 emissions and their accumulation, there is an increase in greenhouse effects that eventually leads to the warming of the environment.

These gases are emitted from fossil fuel usage in electricity, heat, and transportation as well as the byproducts of manufacturing.

The process of fumigation also affects the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

A greenhouse gas footprint is a numerical quantity of these gases that an individual emits.

Measurement of Carbon Footprint

Measurement of undertaking greenhouse gas emission assessment, a lifecycle assessment, or other calculative activities by an individual, nation, or organization, are Carbon Accounting.

Several calculators are available on the internet that is sometimes peer-view by a number of universities and organization that keep the data of carbon footprint.

These keep the record to observe the changes in greenhouse gases and to develop strategies to reduce the carbon footprint.

industrilization

These calculators ask you various questions related to your diet, transportation choices, home size, shopping, and recreational activities.

And usage of electricity, heating, and use of heavy appliances, and so on.

On the basis of your answer to the above question, it then calculates your carbon footprint.

 

To objectively calculate the footprint of an individual, a nation, or an organization, systemic literature was conducted to determine the best way to calculate it.

Different Measurement Principles

There are 13 calculation principles on the basis of which you can calculate the carbon footprint.

Calculation of carbon footprints for products is often filled with uncertainties and it associates with a number of variables ranging from production to shipment and other variables.

Due to its overwhelming popularity, it is thereby important to question and address the accuracy of these techniques.

Calculating the carbon footprint of industry, product, or service, is a complex process as there are many variables.

Most often industries use is Life-cycle assessment where footprint may be one of many factors taken into consideration when assessing a product or service.

ISO i.e. International Organization for Standardization is a family of standards.

They provided sophisticated tools for quantifying, monitoring, reporting, and validating or verifying greenhouse gas emissions and removal.

Another method is the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is a set of standards for tracking greenhouse gas emissions across scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions within the value chain.

The prediction of carbon footprint is a process of possible emissions through the estimation of the above standards.

You can determine the footprint by using emission intensities or carbon intensities and estimation of annual use of fuel, chemicals, or other outputs.

What are Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions?

Direct or scope 1 CO2 emissions come from sources that are directly from the site that is producing a product or delivering a service. These emissions have an agricultural impact well.

For example, for industry, it would be the emissions related to burning fuel on-site of production.

emissions

Indirect carbon emissions or scopes 2, 3 are from sources upstream or downstream from the process that you study.

For instance: these emissions include emissions from transportation of materials, energy outside the production facility, production of waste, end-of-life process, emission that relates to selling a product, etc.

These are all examples of upstream and downstream sources of emissions.

 

Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting is the reduction of carbon and its equivalent education in order to compensate for emissions elsewhere.

One tonne of carbon offset represents the reduction of one tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.

There are two types of offsets.

  • Voluntary offset
  • compliance offset

Compliance offset refers to markets like that of the European Union (EU) Emission Trading Scheme companies, governments, or other entities that buy carbon offsets.

In order to comply with mandatory and legally binding caps on the total amount of carbon dioxide, they are allowed to emit per year.

However, within the voluntary market demand for carbon offset credits is generated by individuals, companies, organizations, and sub-national governments who purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions.

It is done to meet carbon-neutral, net-zero, or other established emission reduction goals.

Reduction of your Personal Carbon Footprint

In compliance with World Health Organization, there are 5 main areas you can work on to improve your personal carbon footprint.

These areas are transportation, food, water usage, energy usage, and waste management.

Lets us learn how we can reduce our carbon footprint.

Learn more about Food Waste here.

Transportation

Avoid polluting cars or use automobiles i.e. fuel economy journeys and favor walking, cycling, or using public transport.

Typically your vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, however, this number also depends on fuel economy, vehicle’s fuel, and the miles driven.

transportation

For example, a diesel car emitting 95g CO2 per kilometer consumes around 3.7 liters of fuel per 100km, while a petrol car consumes around 4 liters/100km for the same CO2 emissions.

Do not over speed while you are driving as it uses more petrol and CO2 emissions.

Food

You can reduce the emission by consuming fewer amounts of animal products. Try to eat local and seasonal produced food.

Recycle organic waste, otherwise, the emission of methane from the decomposition increase in the atmosphere.

Water use

Use a washing machine and dishwasher when they are full. Boil the water you need and cover the pots while you cook food.

In this way, you can cook faster and it saves a lot of energy.

To water your gardens you can collect the cold water from the first seconds of your shower. Moreover, use harvest rainwater if you have access to the rooftop.

Other Steps to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Some of the other steps you can take is:

Energy Usage

Be very mindful of the temperature of your house as just 1 degree less reduces emission by 5-10%.

You can also use house insulation so that less heat gets out of your house.

Switch off your charger when not in use, switch lights in broad daylight, change your fridge settings from cooler to moderate or as per requirement, and change your electricity supplier for renewable energy.

Natural gas although a fossil fuel emits a fewer amount of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

Moreover, its use in power plants produces 50 -6-% less carbon in the atmosphere than coal or fuel.

waste management

Waste Management

Refuse what you do not require, reduce things you need, and reuse things that you can easily recycle at home.

Avoid using plastic bags and choose products that have less packaging.

 

Reduction of Industrial Carbon Footprint

Refrigerant management emits thousands of times the warming potential of CO2 emissions.

You can use land base wind turbines and restore tropical forests by ending the use of land for other purposes.

There is an effect on carbon footprint that affects energy sources, offsite electrical generation, and materials.

These factors change with location or industry. However, you can take some general steps to reduce carbon emission on large scale.

saving the Earth

You can reduce carbon emissions by improving energy efficiency. Some options to increase energy efficiency include:

  • Waste heat recovery systems
  • Insulation for large buildings
  • Technology upgrades

You can choose to use alternative energy projects such as solar and wind energy which are renewable resources.

Reforestation reduces the presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere thereby reducing carbon footprint.

If you conduct a life cycle or supply chain carbon footprint study it can help to identify specific and critical areas for improvement in your business.

You can identify and take steps to reduce your carbon footprint by calculating or predicting high emission areas.

 

Learn more about Carbon Negative Farming

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that extends the UNFCCC that commits the state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The objective of this treaty is to reduce the onset of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Conclusion

The naturally occurring greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of the Earth absorb and reflect the rays coming from the sun. However, due to an increase in the amount of these gases, there was a significant rise in Earth’s temperature.

It leads to global warming and carbon footprints. We can reduce the carbon footprint of individuals, organizations, and industries by carefully planning the process and manufacturing of the products, using reusable electricity resources, etc.

Simple actions add up when everyone joins in. Deciding to take action means you want to make an improvement to your home and make your environment a better and safe place to live.

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