The term “carbon footprint” is being used increasingly, but what does it mean?
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gasses produced. This means that anything you do creates a carbon footprint, including breathing. The problem is that some activities produce greater amounts of greenhouse gas emissions than others. So unless every person on earth suddenly stops breathing, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is easier said than done.
How Your Carbon Footprint Impacts the Environment
Your carbon footprint and your environmental impact are inextricably linked.
As we produce greenhouse gasses, we destroy the environment for plants and animals living on earth. Even if you live in an urban area, plants and animals nearby rely on a healthy ecosystem. When humans create too many greenhouse gasses with activities such as driving a car, they interfere with the environment.
In turn, this affects how plants and animals can survive, as there is now a greater amount of greenhouse gases in the air. As a result, some scientists have said that we are entering a new geological era – the Anthropocene – where human activities have such an impact on the earth that they alter land formations and even influence the earth’s rotation.
By now, you’re probably wondering, “so how can I reduce my carbon footprint?”
Small changes in your life can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus your carbon footprint:
- Turn off appliances (computers, televisions, lamps) when you’re not using them.
- Replace older appliances with newer models that are more energy-efficient.
- Replace old incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones.
- Unplug appliances when not in use (charging cell phones, for example).
- Walk, bike, carpool to work.
- Take shorter showers.
- Reduce or eliminate meat consumption (cows produce methane gas).
- Eat local and seasonal foods to reduce the energy used in transporting food.
- Plant a tree! Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle.
How Do I Measure My Carbon Footprint?
Measuring your carbon footprint is a great way to understand how you can reduce it.
You can use an online carbon footprint calculator, such as the one from Cool Australia. There are also smartphone apps available for measuring and tracking your carbon footprint.
Carbon calculators will ask you about where you live, what kind of home or apartment you reside in, how far you drive, what type of car you drive, and so forth.
The less energy you use and the fewer greenhouse gasses your activities produce, the lower your carbon footprint.
Making Your Carbon Footprint Smaller: What You Can Do to Help
If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, you have to take action!
There are a wide variety of ways that everyone can reduce their carbon footprint. We all have different needs and lifestyles, so it’s important to examine your needs before making changes. The general idea is to reduce the number of greenhouse gasses you produce through activities such as driving, heating your home, and eating.
For example, if you live in a cold climate and spend a lot of time driving to work or school, then you must find ways to reduce this as much as possible.
You could carpool with others who live near you, take public transportation, walk or bike instead of taking your car everywhere, carry a reusable water bottle, make sure your vehicle is running properly, repair air leaks around doors, windows, and baseboards of your home, avoid idling your car or letting it warm up for long periods while others need the parking space more.
There are many ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint. It’s important to remember that any contribution can help, and while some changes will be more effective than others, you should always reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible.