My Carbon Footprint
When it comes to assessing the carbon footprint of a person or product, things can often begin to get confusing, disheartening, and downright depressing. But it need not all be doom and gloom. While large scale reduction of our carbon footprint as a whole will require fundamental change in government decision-making on an international scale, there are still plenty of ways YOU can make little changes to everyday life to help lower your carbon emissions.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
A carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide emitted by something (such as a person’s activities or a product’s manufacture and transport) during a given period. As well as carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide and other fluorinated gases. The carbon footprint of an individual will always be far lesser than that of a company or corporation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference in how you live your day-to-day life.
When trying to reduce your carbon footprint, it’s important to consider a number of factors. When it comes to consuming products, you need to look at how exactly a product has been produced, and also how it has been transported. But it’s not just about consumption. Your carbon footprint is also greatly impacted by how you travel, how you work, and generally how you live.
So when we talk about “carbon emissions” what is it exactly we mean?
Well, carbon itself is an element that can be found pretty much everywhere. Carbon is in the ground we walk on, the food we eat, and, of course, in the air that we breath. Carbon is even in the chemical make up of every human body. However, it is not necessarily carbon that is the problem, but carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide is a gas that occurs naturally, and is harmless in small doses and necessary for our ecosystem to survive. Plants use carbon dioxide, or CO2, to produce carbohydrates in a process called photosynthesis. In turn, photosynthesis is necessary for all humans and animals to survive, to continue, and so since humans and animals depend on plants for food, photosynthesis is necessary for the survival of life on earth.
CO2 is a gas that is naturally occurring in our atmosphere, and is one of the aforementioned greenhouse gases. When the sun sends solar radiation to the earth in the form of light to warm the surface of the earth and the oceans, the earth then radiates its own heat back up in the form of infrared rays. This then helps to keep the planet at a normal temperature. But when the planet’s carbon emissions are too high, our CO2 levels increase, thus increasing temperature, and bringing about what we know as global warming.
When we look at worldwide carbon emissions, things aren’t looking good. In 2018 alone, CO2 from human activities produced a whopping 43.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The UK are gradually making moves to reduce the country’s carbon footprint, but still manage to produce approximately 351.5 million tonnes. In 2007, the emissions of the UK reached its peak at a rate of 977 million tonnes carbon dioxide per annum. Since then, at the last recording of data, emissions have reduced massively. But there’s still more that we can be doing.
Climate change is a huge issue in today’s society, and occurs as a consequence of human activity. Climate change is a significant, long term changing of the earth’s average temperature. While we can address the weather of a place every day when we walk out of our front doors, the climate refers to a more long-standing pattern. At the present, the climate of the earth is increasing in temperature, and has been doing so periodically since the 1970s.
Global warming is a consequence of climate change. Currently, the temperature of the earth is constantly increasing, and if we continue on this pathway, it’s only a matter of time before there will be devastating consequences for the earth and all its inhabitants. Global warming is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels, creating greenhouse gases that are pumped back into the atmosphere.
Natural carbon emissions occur from plants and animals, but the burning of fossil fuels is why we have too much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, and thus we need to be aware and reduce what we consume. Because we as humans extract, transport and burn more fuels than would naturally occur, we contribute to global warming by giving off more CO2 than is healthy for the planet. Similarly, for reasons of agriculture or produce, we cut down forests of trees that would usually offset the effects of climate change by absorbing the CO2. Moreover, once the trees are felled, they are usually burnt or they decompose, which in itself creates more CO2 and only adds to the problem.
So in order to change this we have two options: you can prevent the situations that create these carbon dioxide emissions, or when prevention cannot be done, we can offset the effect of our emissions.
Why Should We Care?
So it’s all well and good waxing lyrical about the causes and the cases of carbon emissions and climate change. But why should we care? Why should we be the ones who have to make the difference?
Well the answer is, if you wish to have any sort of future for the younger generations, we need to pay attention and take action. The future of the planet is on the line. The situation with climate change has progressively been getting worse since the industrial revolution, and we have to sit up and take notice, before it gets too late.
Already, we are experiencing rising sea levels, heat waves that in turn cause droughts, and extreme weather that cause severe destruction to communities. And it’s usually the most deprived areas of the world that are affected most by these situations, so it’s our social responsibility to make change for the better, not just for ourselves.
What is Average Carbon Footprint UK?
There are a number of different institutions that are able to calculate the annual average carbon footprint of a Brit, but the consensus is that, as of 2018, the average Brit will give off around 9.84 tonnes of CO2 per year. Again, this may sound like a ridiculously large number, but previous years have certainly been worse. Over the past decade, carbon emissions from the UK have dropped significantly, by roughly 29%, largely due to the reduction of the burning of fossils fuels, such as coal. Whilst this is just a broad view of how much we as a nation produce, there are also many sites where you can find a carbon footprint calculator and assess your own emissions. You may be surprised what you find.
Now entering the 2020’s, the UK and the rest of the world are headed into what the UN have called “a decade of action”, a time in which we must “cast our eyes into the future with hope” but also “demand change and constructive solutions”. For global change, this must be done on a widespread structural level, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference.
What is My Carbon Footprint?
Using an online carbon footprint calculator is always a good place to start, but to really be aware of the carbon dioxide that you’re emitting, you have to be conscious of your actions, and make decisions with an eco-friendly agenda. The main things to assess are your housing situation, the food that you eat, the products that you purchase and the services that you obtain.
How to Measure Your Carbon Footprint?
To decipher the amount of energy you use from home, you must look at three separate categories: the energy you use, which can include natural gas, electricity and LPG. Then you have to look at the amount of water that you use in your daily life, and finally the amount of waste that you will be producing. You can find more about how to calculate your home usage here.
When it comes to commerce and the products that you buy, calculating your carbon footprint would ideally involve adding up all the footprints of the products you purchase. However, this can be very time consuming and not always helpful, so instead we can focus on the expenditure of the groups or corporations who create the products that we buy and create an average estimation for each group.
Finally, in terms of waste, recycling and reducing waste is a key way in which you can reduce your carbon footprint. Composting when possible is important, to keep organic waste out of landfills and to reduce the amount of methane gas that is produced and then released into the atmosphere. Methane gas traps over 21 times more heat in the atmosphere than CO2, and so it is important to negate the effects of methane as much as possible.
How Can I Reduce My Carbon Footprint?
There are many ways in which you can reduce your carbon footprint, some more cost effective than others, and some that are easier to adapt to. However, if you are conscious of the way you are living, small changes to your day to day life can have a massive impact on your own personal carbon footprint. Here are five ways in which you can make a small change, to make a big difference:
Say no to plastic. Plastic can be incredibly harmful to our ecosystem, which is why we should try to cut it out from our day to day lives as much as possible, and completely if we can. Unlike other materials used to make goods, plastic on average takes around 1000 years to decompose, and thus mountains of plastic garbage are accruing throughout the world, and the piles are only getting bigger. Furthemore, plastic is found in around 90% of the world’s sea birds, and it is a massive hindrance for wildlife as a whole. The sooner we move into a plastic-free society, consuming from companies going plastic free, the better off all parties will fare.
Change your diet. Whilst this might seem one of the hardest changes to make, mixing up your diet will have a huge effect on offsetting your carbon footprint. In terms of carbon dioxide, a vegetarian diet will give off around half the carbon emissions that the diet of a regular meat eater would emit, a vegan diet even more so. And while it may be better to cut out meat completely from your diet, even reducing your consumption, particularly of red meat, can have a big difference, as well as purchasing from eco-friendly food stores.
Travel Consciously. When we talk about travelling consciously, the mind often jumps to forgoing flying for overland travel such as trains, buses or share-cars. And whilst this is super important, it is not always possible to avoid flying. But there are many other ways to travel eco-consciously. Packing only what you need ensures that every kilo counts when you’re flying, and no added emissions are being produced. Travelling via public transport, avoiding the purchase of bottled water and buying local produce will all contribute to keeping a low carbon footprint.
Ethical bedding and eco-friendly mattresses. Most mattresses in today’s market are produced with polyurethane foam, viscoelastic foam and latex foam, which like other plastics take centuries to decompose. Furthermore, you’ll find a variety of anti-eco-friendly chemicals – petroleum-based polyurethane foam, toxic fire retardants, nasty pesticides, and other dangerous chemicals, that can be harmful, particularly to infants. But nowadays, there are plenty of options for organic mattresses, such as our range of Una Mattress organic products – you can learn more about eco-friendly bedding solutions here.
Shop second-hand. The final tip comes into the mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle. Shopping second-hand offers a multitude of benefits: aside from the fact that what you’re purchasing is usually far cheaper, not to mention usually a lot more unique than what you can find in most high-street stores, it is also a great tool in reducing your carbon footprint. The more second-hand shopping we do, the less waste we create, and the better it is for the planet.
There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint, but the most important thing is to be conscious of your actions, and to be aware of their consequences. While it may feel like we have a mountain to climb in regards to rectifying the situation we currently find ourselves in, it’s important to remember that every little action counts in making a difference.