Your carbon footprint is a gauge of your CO2 emissions or the impact your activities have on the environment measured in carbon emissions, it is measured in units, tonnes or kg of CO2. Our carbon footprint is mainly produced through burning fossil fuels for heating and transportation, but also in the production and shipping. We can reduce our carbon footprints with carbon offsetting.
A carbon footprint is made up of two parts: your direct carbon footprint, the things you do directly like drive a car , and your indirect carbon footprint, things like the energy used in shipping goods to your home.
- The direct carbon footprint is a measure of our direct emissions of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels including domestic energy consumption and transportation (e.g. car and plane). We have direct control of these. These are easy for you to change immediately by cycling, car sharing or taking holidays at home. You can offsett your carbon footprint with carbon credits.
- The indirect carbon footprint is a measure of the indirect CO2 emissions from the whole lifecycle of products we use – these are generally associated with their manufacture and eventual disposal. We can offset these by changing suppliers, reducing how much we buy or carbon credits.
A carbon footprint is “the total set of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions caused by an organization, event or product”. For simplicity of reporting, it is often expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide, or its equivalent of other GHGs, emitted.
The concept name of the carbon footprint originates from the ecological footprint discussion. The carbon footprint is a subset of the ecological footprint and of the more comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
An individual, nation or organisation’s carbon footprint can be measured by undertaking a GHG emissions assessment. Once the size of a carbon footprint is known, a strategy can be devised to reduce it, e.g. by technological developments, better process and product management, changed Green Public or Private Procurement (GPP), Carbon capture, consumption strategies, and others.
The mitigation of carbon footprints through the development of alternative projects, such as solar or wind energy or reforestation, represents one way of reducing a carbon footprint and is often known as Carbon offsetting.
Several organizations have calculated carbon footprints of products; The US Environmental Protection Agency has addressed paper, plastic (candy wrappers), glass, cans, computers, carpet and tires. Australia has addressed lumber and other building materials. Academics in Australia, Korea and the US have addressed paved roads. Companies, nonprofits and academics have addressed manufacture and operation of cars, buses, trains, airplanes, ships and pipelines. The US Postal Service has addressed mailing letters and packages. Carnegie Mellon University has estimated the CO2 footprints of 46 large sectors of the economy in each of eight countries. Carnegie Mellon, Sweden and the Carbon Trust have addressed foods at home and in restaurants.
The Carbon Trust has worked with UK manufacturers on foods, shirts and detergents, introducing a CO2 label in March 2007. The label is intended to comply with a new British public available specification (i.e. not a standard), PAS2050, and is being actively piloted by The Carbon Trust and various industrial partners.
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