Carbon footprint is the total amount of (CO2) emissions that are introduced into the atmosphere. As a result of human activities that may emanate from a corporation, country, and buildings among others.
It is a measurement that includes direct emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. For transportation, heating, manufacturing, and the generation of electricity.
It also puts into consideration the emission of other greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons.
The term emerged from the concept of ecological footprint. An ecological footprint is the total land area needed to sustain a population or activity.
It focuses on environmental impacts such as the land area used for food production, and water usage. However, it is measured in CO2 equivalent per year or tons of CO2.
It is based on greenhouse gas emissions with respect to consumption. Rather than based on greenhouse gas emissions related to production.
It is quite different from taking account of a country’s per capita emissions.
Carbon footprints take into account emissions emanating from imported goods from a country. Including emissions from international shipping and transport which are not accounted for in national inventories.
This is why the carbon footprint of a country can increase despite decreasing emissions within the country’s border.
In developed countries, household energy usage and transportation contribute the largest amount of carbon footprint for individuals.
There are two types of carbon footprints; primary and secondary footprints.
Primary carbon footprint falls in the category of emissions that individuals have direct control over.
A secondary carbon footprint includes carbon emissions as a result of the consumption of goods and services.
These emissions as a result of food production also fall under the secondary carbon footprint.
The production process of consumer goods and their transportation from one point to the other also adds to the secondary carbon footprint.
For instance, the carbon footprint of a bottle of juice includes the CO 2 that is emitted in the production of the bottle and that emitted in the transportation of the content to the consumer.
Several tools can be used in calculating the carbon footprint of businesses, individuals, and organizations.
The common methods for calculating it include ISO 14064, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and Greenhouse Gas Protocol.
ISO 14064 is developed by the International Organization for Standardization which focuses on greenhouse gas emissions.
Other organizations that have developed their system include the nature conservancy, the U.S Environmental Production Agency, and British Petroleum. These tools are available on the internet for individual use.
You can use these calculators to compare your personal estimated carbon footprints with the world or national average.
There are several ways in which corporations and individuals can reduce their carbon footprints as a way of contributing to the fight against climate change BalancedEarth.org can help you.
One of the many ways is purchasing offsets (this is a technology developed to reduce emissions) to compensate for all or portion of it.
If the amount purchased is enough to offset it, then such an individual or corporation is said to be completely neutral.
Adjusting one’s lifestyle to the use of eco-friendly items or products and improving energy efficiency automatically leads to a reduction in it.
Changing one’s transportation and energy usage can have a significant impact on primary carbon footprints.
Other measures that can be taken to reduce it include using public transport or biking where possible, making use of renewable energy sources, insulating buildings, and installation of energy-efficient lighting.