What Is A Carbon Footprint?

What Is Carbon Footprint?

You have probably heard the term ‘carbon footprint’ in the media several times over the last two decades. While the term is now relatively widespread, its meaning is often misunderstood. However, with climate change seemingly here to stay, it is a term that now has more relevance than ever before.

Carbon Footprint definition

Put simply, the term ‘carbon footprint’ is used to describe the amount of carbon dioxide emitted as a result of our use of materials and our day-to-day activities. It is a term that has been coined to give ordinary people a way of gauging how their actions affect the environment – and what can be done to modify those actions. By assessing your own carbon footprint, you can play your part in cutting greenhouse gases and reducing the effects of climate change. Reviewing your gas and electricity suppliers could help you to reduce your footprint and save you money.

Most of us have a primary and secondary carbon footprint, which both combine with those of others to create potentially damaging accumulations of greenhouse gases. Your primary carbon footprint involves activities that are causing carbon dioxide emissions directly, which include driving your car, heating your home and turning on your lights. Your secondary carbon footprint involves indirectly causing carbon dioxide emissions through activities such as buying consumer packaging and the consumption of certain foods.

What Does A Carbon Footprint Really Mean?How can you reduce your primary carbon footprint?

If you have a car, ask yourself if your journey is really necessary. Can you walk or cycle to the local store? Can you share a car with colleagues for the trip to work? Is there public transport available? While you may think that a short trip won’t do much harm, a concerted effort by society to change our daily habits can have a significant effect on carbon emissions. Another good way to reduce your primary carbon footprint is to avoid domestic flights. Although commercial airliners produce less carbon dioxide per mile travelled, the gases they do emit are at high altitudes, which are more damaging than those emitted at ground level.

One of the most effective ways you can make a difference to your carbon footprint is to sign up to a green tariff with your gas and electricity company. This will cost you a little more, but at least you will have the peace of mind in knowing that your money is going towards investment in renewable energy sources such as wind and tidal power projects. Other simple ways to reduce your primary carbon footprint include switching to energy-saving light bulbs, installing solar panels to your home, using natural methods of washing and drying your clothes and closely monitoring your use of water.

How can you reduce your secondary carbon footprint?

A great deal of carbon is emitted during the production of consumer packaging. Wherever possible, try to buy loose fruit and vegetables, or consider reusing packaging wherever possible. Also, look for the ‘recycled materials’ logo on the goods and food products you buy. A huge source of carbon emissions is the production of bottled water. Buy a water filter and some reusable containers to significantly curtail your secondary carbon footprint with one simple action.

You should also check where your food comes from before purchasing it. Food that is imported from abroad will have either been flown in or transported by container ship – both methods of transportation rely on the burning of oil. Instead, try to buy your food locally from farm shops and regional producers. Even the smallest of changes to your daily habits can have a positive impact on the environment. If everyone commits to reducing their own carbon footprint in some way, society can make a real difference for the good of the entire planet.

Sam Travers is an eco-warrior of sorts. He works for a green charity and blogs regularly with help and advice for those looking to make the planet a better place. 

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