What is carbon footprint and how can we reduce it?
What is Carbon Footprint?
“Carbon Footprint” is defined as the total amount of “Greenhouse Gases” emitted by either an industry or an event or a product or a household or even a person. Since the calculation of that data is practically unfeasible, the conventional way of determining the carbon footprint of a system or an activity is the emission levels of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Methane (CH4).
“Greenhouse gases” is the collective term given for a certain group of gases which are responsible for causing “Global Warming” or the “Greenhouse Effect”. Some of the greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapour and ozone. They have a physical property of absorbing and emitting the radiation from the sunlight. Although they contribute in supporting a life sustainable environment on earth, over emission of greenhouse gases causes the temperature to exceed its normal limit. This situation where the earth’s temperature rises above its normal range is termed as “Global Warming.”
HOW ARE CARBON FOOTPRINTS MEASURED?
Carbon footprints can be measured through a Green House Gas emission assessment. Several online carbon footprint estimators are available online.They predict the carbon footprint in tons based on the type of household or industry you belong to and add or subtract units based on a questionnaire of regular activities. Then, they compare the values to the average and suggest options to reduce carbon emissions. Companies, on the other hand, undergo annual assessments to review their carbon emissions. They then can adopt better technologies, processes, better product management and low consumption strategies according to their results.
The base value of carbon emission is primarily determined by the state that one lives in. Certain states depend just on coal to produce their electricity whereas the other states use a certain portion of renewable energy sources for their power output.
The question asked here are mileage, age, make and model of the household vehicle(s) one uses. The mileage of the vehicle when calculated with the approximate distance travelled gives the output of the total amount of fuel that has been used. This amount when multiplied with the emission factor of either petrol or diesel gives the total weight of the emitted greenhouse gases.
PUBLIC TRAVEL EMISSIONS
Public travel emissions are mostly concerned about the air travel. An approximately generated value of emissions is added to the footprint. It has different values for long and short duration flights.
EMISSIONS AT AN INDUSTRIAL LEVEL
Low carbon emission values are now a marketing strategy for most industries. Some companies have started to advertise their footprint values on their labels. These labels appeal to the customers who themselves would like to minimize their carbon emissions. These labels specify the carbon footprint of the production, packaging, transportation and disposal of that product.
REDUCING CARBON FOOTPRINTS:
Observing the results from the carbon footprint calculator, one will notice that the maximum emissions will arise from the transportation side. Therefore using fuel efficient cars or hybrids will decrease emissions. Even preferring to walk down to a destination, use of a bicycle or public transport will cut emission levels. Next in line is the household power consumption. Use of star rated energy appliances and efficient insulation and energy saving lighting like using CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) will also save a lot of emissions. Government regulations need to be installed in order for these affect to a larger scale.
REDUCTIONS BASED ON ENERGY SAVING METHODS
Certain eco-friendly and economic measures ensure that our emissions will be shortened. Recycling, organic food habits, reduced use of fuels etc. reduce the annual emissions to a significant level.
“Carbon Offsets” are made in order to compensate emission of greenhouse gases by reducing or offsetting emissions elsewhere. On a household level carbon offsets can be achieved by the use of alternate energy sources like wind energy, solar energy or hydroelectric energy.
On the industrial level of it, carbon offset techniques are used to make profits for companies. Carbon offsets are measured in metric tons of Carbon dioxide equivalents (Carbon Dioxide and Methane). One metric ton of carbon emission treated as one carbon offsetunit. A global protocol called the Kyoto Protocol restricts the carbon emission based on the size of the industries of different nations. Some industries have carbon emissions lower than that prescribed by the Kyoto protocol can save a certain amount of carbon offsets and sell these units to the industries which exceed the prescribed value. For example, if ‘A’ and ‘B’ are two industries and the prescribed value of carbon emissions being 10 carbon offset units. Suppose industry ‘A’ predicts an outcome of 7 metric tons leaving 3 metric tons to spare and industry ‘B’predicts an outcome of 11 metric tons which shoots over the prescribed value by 1 metric ton. In such a case, ‘B’ can purchase one of the 3 spare units of ‘A’ to support it’s over emission. Following such a strategy promotes lower carbon emissions which will slow down the rate of climate change.