In the recent times, ‘Carbon footprint’ has become a frequently used term and concept in major public domain where matters related to threats of global climate have been debated. Individual’s lifestyle is the main contributor towards increased carbon footprint level in the contemporary world today. However, substantial efforts have been expressed in the move to reduce these levels significantly. This paper highlights the significance of carbon foot print various approaches that can be used to reduce the level of carbon foot print.
There seems to be uncertainties in the definition of the term, its actual meaning and what it intends to measure. From ecological perspective, ‘carbon footprint’ stands for a particular amount of gaseous emissions that are considered relevant to climatic changes and related to human production or consumption activities. According to Carbon Trust (2007), ‘carbon footprint’ is the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted due to individual’s daily errands. These errands may include a wide range of actions that an individual engage in throughout the day, from driving a carloads of kids to school to washing a load of laundry. Carbon footprint is normally expressed as grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per kilowatt-hour of generation, which is expressed as (gCO2eq/kWh).
There is growing consensus on the fact that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming. Being the leading cause of global warming, there is need to handle the carbon emissions in order to reduce the impact of global warming. Carbon footprint models facilitate individual’s management and helps in controlling their carbon dioxide emissions level (Druckman & Jackson, 2009). These models facilitates reduction of atmospheric concentration of Greenhouse gases (GHGs) to significant levels. These gases increase global temperatures and as a result impose climatic changes that ultimately result to biodiversity loss, shrinking forests, declining fisheries and freshwater stress. Wide spread melting of glaciers and ice results to rise in the sea level that affects the normal processes in the ports and fishing zone. In addition, floods, drought, hurricanes and storms are likely to increase as a result of global warming (Jones & Kammen, 2011). Carbon footprint improvement plays a significant role in sustaining the well-being of the natural ecosystem.
Carbon footprint, being a quantitative representation of GHG emissions from human activity helps in vital management and evaluation of emissions and mitigation measures (Jones & Kammen, 2011). The computation of individual’s and household carbon footprints is an important tool that enable individuals quantify their own carbon dioxide emissions and relate these to their activities and lifestyle behaviour (Pandey, Agrawal & Pandey, 2011). This provides the chance for environmental efficiencies and significant cost reductions. Reporting on carbon footprint levels to the third party or confession to the public is desirable in response to legislative requirements, or as a vital part of corporate social responsibility, or for boosting resilience in the globe (Carbon Trust, 2007). Carbon footprint models may possibly be utilized in the future as vital apparatus in calculation of carbon taxes, the portioning of carbon units and the foundation for personal carbon trading (Kenny & Gray, 2009).
Once the size of a carbon footprint has been established, different strategies can be employed to reduce it, e.g. through changed Green Public or Private Procurement (GPP), technological advancement, better product management strategies, carbon capture, consumption management strategies, carbon offsetting among others. Expert consensus indicates that carbon emissions must be reduced by 80% by the year 2050 to avoid temperature rise of more than 20 C (Perry, Klemeš & Bulatov, 2008). A significant reduction can be realized through improving carbon footprint on individual and household level.
In order to reduce carbon footprint, it is important to understand the main factors that influences its increase. The main factors that influences carbon footprints in a normal setting include; population, energy and carbon concentration of the economy and economic output (Hertwich & Peters, 2009). The factors should be key targets for individuals and businesses aiming at reducing carbon footprint significantly. Several studies suggest the most effectual way to reduce a carbon footprint is to reduce the amount of energy desired either for production or to cut (or reduce) the reliance on carbon emitting fuels. Carbon emitting fuels includes; coal, natural gas, oil, charcoal and wood. The improvement of carbon footprints through developing alternative carbon free projects, such as harnessing solar or wind energy instead of fossil fuel generated power, represents one method of improving carbon footprint known as carbon offsetting (Weber & Matthews, 2008).
Every person has a responsibility to decrease his/her carbon footprint through various approaches. Individual’s carbon footprint significantly depends on their lifestyle, ranging from the hobbies to the favorite meals (Wiedmann & Minx, 2008). It is possible to reduce carbon footprint by making appropriate lifestyle decisions. Poor driving habits significantly contribute towards high individual carbon footprint. Recent studies have shown that 30% of the variance in miles per gallon is brought about by driving habits (Benjaafar & Daskin, 2013). A person can save more than one ton of CO2 every year through good driving habits which includes; maintaining steady speed, accelerating slowly and smoothly, considering appropriate speed limit and anticipating stops and starts (Druckman & Jackson, 2009). It is also important to ensure proper maintenance of a personal car by ensuring that, oil, air and fuel filters are replaced appropriately according to the schedule. However, personal cars should not necessarily be used in every occasion. If there is no urgency to use a personal car, it is important to make use of public means of transports such as bus and train in order to reduce carbon emissions significantly.
Fig 1. Breakdown of a typical individual’s carbon footprint (Carbon Trust, 2007)
Also, in order to reduce individual carbon footprint, it is important to control eating habits. Studies have shown that vegetarians save at least 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year compared to non-vegetarians (Weidema et al, 2008). It is therefore important for non-vegetarians to control or reduce their meat intake and instead increase vegetable consumption. Also, non-vegetarians can reduce their carbon foot print through the use of less greenhouse gas intensive meat such as poultry (Weidema et al, 2008).
There are several online carbon footprint calculators that can be used to get the approximate value for individual’s carbon footprint. By calculating using carbon footprint.com calculator, my individual foot print is approximately 7.5 global hectares.
It is quite evident that Individual’s lifestyle significantly contributes towards increased carbon footprint level in the contemporary world today. However, appropriate engagement of carbon footprint models can significantly help in controlling carbon dioxide emissions levels that increases the carbon footprint. Such models play an imperative role in enlightening the public on how to manage and reduce CO2 emissions through personal assessment and determination.
Benjaafar, S., Li, Y., & Daskin, M. (2013). Carbon footprint and the management of supply chains: Insights from simple models. Automation Science and Engineering, IEEE Transactions on, 10(1), 99-116.
Carbon Trust (2007) “Carbon Footprint Measurement Methodology, Version 1.1”. 27 February 2007, The Carbon Trust, London, UK.
Druckman, A., & Jackson, T. (2009). The carbon footprint of UK households 1990–2004: a socio-economically disaggregated, quasi-multi-regional input–output model. Ecological economics, 68(7), 2066-2077.
Hertwich, E. G., & Peters, G. P. (2009). Carbon footprint of nations: A global, trade-linked analysis. Environmental science & technology, 43(16), 6414-6420.
Jones, C. M., & Kammen, D. M. (2011). Quantifying carbon footprint reduction opportunities for US households and communities. Environmental science & technology, 45(9), 4088-4095.
Kenny, T., & Gray, N. F. (2009). Comparative performance of six carbon footprint models for use in Ireland. Environmental impact assessment review, 29(1), 1-6.
Pandey, D., Agrawal, M., & Pandey, J. S. (2011). Carbon footprint: current methods of estimation. Environmental monitoring and assessment, 178(1-4), 135-160.
Perry, S., Klemeš, J., & Bulatov, I. (2008). Integrating waste and renewable energy to reduce the carbon footprint of locally integrated energy sectors.Energy, 33(10), 1489-1497.
POST (2006) “Carbon footprint of electricity generation”. POSTnote 268, October 2006, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, London, UK.
Weber, C. L., & Matthews, H. S. (2008). Quantifying the global and distributional aspects of American household carbon footprint. Ecological Economics, 66(2), 379-391.
Weidema, B. P., Thrane, M., Christensen, P., Schmidt, J., & Løkke, S. (2008). Carbon footprint. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 12(1), 3-6.
Wiedmann, T., & Minx, J. (2008). A definition of ‘carbon footprint’. Ecological economics research trends, 1, 1-11.