A carbon footprint, according to www.carbonfootprint.com, is
a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment, and in particular climate change. It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases produced in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation etc.
The carbon footprint is a measurement of all greenhouse gases we individually produce and has units of tonnes (or kg) of carbon dioxide equivalent.
When our footprint is calculated, we can see that it is made up of a primary and secondary footprint.
The primary footprint consists of our direct CO2 emissions (through domestic consumption etc). This is a footprint that we can control.
The secondary carbon footprint measures out our indirect emissions. This is important because the entire cycle of the products and services we use is counted. This measures the contributions that our consumption make to the environment. The more environmentally friendly our consumption, the less potent this toe of our footprint will be.
In order to calculate our exact impact on the environment and correct it, we need to know what our individual contributions to the environment are. Once we have a proper understanding of both our positive and negative impact, we can take an informed decision about which direction we should be going.
WWF has a very good online calculator, which is easy to navigate through. Questions about individual consumption are easy enough to answer; a rough estimate will give you an accurate enough reading too. This is a great place to start.
Divided into categories ‘Food’, ‘Home’, ‘Travel’ and ‘Stuff’, this calculator asks the right questions without forcing you to spend a long time thinking about them or calculating your response properly.
It works off the assumption that many who take it are not aware of exactly how many miles of air travel they have completed in the past year, nor are they totally sure of how much energy their home uses.
As a result, the calculations may not pinpoint you exactly, but it does give you a great idea of where you stand vis á vis the rest of your region and world.
Each question comes with an information tab. For example, the question
How often do you buy locally produced meat, vegetables and dairy products?
comes with a simple suggestion as to how buying local produce reduces your footprint and is good for you.
Buying local food will generally result in a lower footprint. For example, every tonne of strawberries we fly into the UK from north Africa or the Middle East releases more than four and a half tonnes of CO2, whereas the same amount of locally grown, seasonal, strawbs will only release 17kg – one-three-hundredth the amount!
Buying more locally grown food can reduce your food footprint by about 10%.
However, it is vitally important that we don’t ignore the value of fairly traded products as a means of income for producers in developing countries. Therefore when you do buy produce from overseas try to buy from fairly traded sources.
With quick and easy questions; an informative guide to the important contributions each of these eco-friendly habits can contribute to the world; and a calculation that slots individual spending into categories, makes the World Wildlife Fund’s calculator a smart and useful tool for those without the time to devote to detailed surveys and calculations.
If you have 10-15 minutes, answer their quick questions to get a rough idea of where you stand. It can be found here: http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/
Carbon Footprint.com’s calculator, on the other hand, is much more detailed. The questions are designed to get as close a reading of your personal footprint as possible. The benefits of this particular tool are that if you know how much energy you consume personally, including travel, home energy etc, this is perfect. The readings are accurate and reflect your exact contribution to the environment.
The added benefit of this versus the WWF’s calculator is that CarbonFootprint.com (http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx) gives you information about how to offset your emissions at each stage.
The calculator also pinpoints how your geographical location affects your footprint – as we know, certain parts of our world are more responsible than others for environmental damage.
You can pick which of your consumption should be reduced, and they’ll tell you exactly how to control this without having to sacrifice your routine and habits.
For example, to offset 3 return flights from Budapest to London, this is what they suggest:
A combination of WWF and Carbon Footprint’s calculators should give you a perfect calculation of your individual footprint; your region’s contributions to the environment; ideas on how to offset every single one of your potentially damaging habits; and why your answers and eco-friendly habits are important.