Carbon footprint is often described as 'the measure of impact that human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide'. In other words, carbon footprint is simply a gauge of the carbon dioxide emissions; the impact that any human activity has on the environment measured in carbon emissions.
Normally, carbon footprint is measured in units, tons or kilograms of CO2. While carbon footprint is mainly produced through burning of fossil fuels for heating and transportation, it can be reduced by carbon offsetting. Carbon footprint is largely categorized into two parts:
Direct carbon footprint: This is a measure of the direct emissions of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels which includes domestic energy consumption and transportation. As such carbon emissions are under our direct control, it is easier to offset the carbon footprint with carbon credits.
Indirect carbon footprint: This refers to a measure of the indirect CO2 emissions like the energy used in shipping goods. They are generally associated with their manufacture and eventual disposal. This can be offset by either changing suppliers or reducing consumption and thus earning carbon
Reduce carbon footprint at home
The wellbeing of Mother Earth depends on our care. The more electricity, gas and fuel we use at home, the higher the level of personal carbon footprint. Simple changes in the behavior patterns around our house and neighborhood can significantly reduce the carbon footprint.
- It is estimated that on an average, a household dedicates 5% to 10% of its energy budget to lighting. A simple way to save energy is to replace the incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb.The latter delivers the same amount of light as the former, but much less energy is spent producing heat, making the fluorescent bulbs more efficient. And lesser energy spent means lower electricity bills too. Some simple effective ways to reduce electricity would involve:
- Turn off appliances when not in use. Fit in energy saving bulbs.
- Turn down the water heating setting, as even a reduction of 2 degrees can make significant saving.
- Turn down the central heating system even if just by 1 to 2 degrees C.
- Ensuring the central heating timer setting, as there is no need for heating when the house is locked after its occupants are away for work.
- Even while staying in a hotel, turn off the lights and air conditioning when leaving the room.
- Replace old refrigerator, which is over 15 years old, with new one with energy efficiency rating of 'A'. Similarly, old boiler can be replaced with a new energy efficient condensing boiler.
- Above all, it would be wise to sign up with a green energy supplier who will supply electricity from renewable sources such as wind or hydroelectric power. This will reduce carbon footprint contribution from electricity to zero.
- Reducing unnecessary travel is one of the most effective ways to reduce CO2 emissions. According to the Energy Information Administration in the US, transportation accounts for 33% of CO2 emissions. Some efficient ways for a more carbon friendly travel would be to:
- Car pool to work or for the kids school run
- Use public transport more often.
- Walk or cycle for short journeys.
- If possible, plan to work from home one day a week.
- Weekly shopping can be done in a single trip.
- Buy fuel efficient cars.
- Properly pumped tires and clean air filters ensure that the car runs smoothly and energy efficiently.
- Recycling is another great way to save natural resources that are direly needed for future product manufacture. Paper, food scraps and electronics and other throwaway items can be recycled whenever possible. For instance, composting can help reduce the amount of food waste in the garbage and create nutrient rich fertilizer in the garden. Grey water can be recycled.
- Even the friendly PC and laptop consumes considerable amount of energy even while on a stand by or sleep mode. Turning off the computer and using a power strip are two ways to be energy smart at home. Alternatively, it would be wise to buy laptops that use less energy than desktops.
- Unplugging items such as toaster, blender and other home appliances is another intelligent option.
- The dishwasher, washing machine should be filled with full load as this saves water, electricity and washing powder consumption.Fill the kettle with only as much water as needed.
- Planting trees around a house can make a world of difference. Trees absorb CO2 and produce oxygen as a by-product. A single tree can provide enough oxygen for 2 people for their entire lives. Planting a tree can help save the planet in the process. Plant a bamboo or green fence if there is room enough. These grow quickly and absorb more CO2 than a rosebush.
- Certain buying habits, if curtailed, can help reduce secondary carbon footprint. Buy foods that are in season locally. Buy products made close at home instead of those made in the distant lands as this would reduce the need for trucking. It would be good to buy organic produce and not packaged products.
Reduce carbon footprint at work
These days more and more organizations are resorting to video conferencing and telepresence to reduce carbon footprints. Telecommuting enables people to work from home while still being fully engaged in the work place. Video communications saves time, money and carbon emissions and also increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. It helps unite purchasers, clients, sales staff and professionals in real time without travel.
Older vehicles in offices can be improved by fitting continuous regenerating traps and wind deflector kits. Maintaining correct tyre pressure is imperative to reduce fuel consumption. Bio diesel, LPG and electricity can be considered as alternative to fossil fuels as these cut CO2 emissions by reducing the frequency of deliveries.
In offices, dripping taps and costly leaks should be dealt with promptly. The water used to flush toilets can be limited by switching to dual flush models. Towel reuse schemes can be used in hotels for
guests and restaurants can use filtered tap water instead of bottled water. Grey waste water can be used to water plants or flush toilets.
It would help to swap single use items like plastic cups and opt for reusable options. Buying in bulk saves money and reduces landfill. Similarly, it would be good to liaison with suppliers to reduce packaging and instead seek environmentally friendly packaging. Biodegradable items suitable for composting can be encouraged.
Recycling lowers the cost of waste disposal and recycling products like aluminum can help raise money for charities.
Organizations like the Carbon Trust provide energy efficient loans. Alternative energy sources like solar power can be used to heat water. Another way to reduce heating costs is to install a ground source heat pump.
Switching to power generation from sustainable sources like wind power and investing in solar panels and wind turbines can be thought of. As such financial assistance including grants are available for companies to proceed in this direction.
Even building designs at places of work can be made greener and organizations like The Carbon Trust offers free site surveys and research and consultancy to enable sustainable and efficient buildings. Low
cost ways to improve building efficiency include improving insulation and fitting draught excluders on windows.
Ideally the staff in the organization can be encouraged to participate in the green programs and it would be best to have 'green champions' among staff to oversee progress.
Tips to reduce carbon footprint
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- At home it would be ideal to seal windows and doors with weather stripping. This can keep cold winter winds out and summer air conditioning in.
- Sturdy foam insulation especially in the garage and attic is necessary to save home from wind damage.
- Instead of using a gas powered leaf blower for the lawn, use a broom. This is a sure way to get exercise.
- Separate the waste generated at home/work into recyclable and non recyclable. This will enable proper authorities pick up each carefully.
- With regards to clothes and garments, take them out of dryer as soon as they are dry. It is not necessary to run the dryer more than strictly necessary. Periodically the dryer vent needs to be checked from blockage. This can save energy and prevents a fire. Remember, that at least 85 to 90% of energy used to wash clothes is used to heat the water and when appropriate, switch to cold when doing the laundry. It would be ideal to recycle old clothes and give to charity clothes that no longer fit.
- Bills can be paid online and automatic deductions facility can be used. This can reduce the use of paper and gas to deliver the outgoing mail. It also saves several dollars a month in postage. This way trees can also be saved from the paper mills.
- Buy more recycled products. In fact recycled paper uses 60% less energy to produce and each ton saves 7000 gallons of water and 17 trees.
- In the US more than $ 5 billion is spent a year on fossil-fuel derived fertilizers that leak chemicals into the ground. These accelerate the release of greenhouse gases. Instead why not make own
compost fertilizer in a personal mini compost heap, which also does not smell?
- And all those planning to get married can go in for a 'green wedding'. Buy the cake from a local bakery, order seasonal flowers and choose a local vintner for good wine at the wedding.
- Energy tax breaks for cars, insulation, skylights, exterior doors and windows are available. These can be well claimed. One can claim up to $ 300 for new heat pump, up to $ 2000 for solar water heater, $ 2600 for a Toyota Prius and $ 4000 for Honda Civic GZX and so on. Check them out.