For many years, scientists have warned that a hole in the layer of ozone surrounding the earth will contribute to global warming, and could have serious negative effects on human and environment health. This problem is being addressed through global agreements to stop the use of ozone-depleting chemicals that damage the ozone layer.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, along with other greenhouse gases such as methane and ozone. When calculating an individual’s carbon footprint, methane and ozone are usually converted into the amount of CO2 that would have the same impact on global warming (the equivalent is called a CO2 amount).
Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support your activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide. For example, a car burns fuel and creates a quantity of CO2 calculated by its fuel consumption and the driving distance. When you heat your house with oil, gas, or coal, then you also generate CO2. Even a home heated with electricity emit a certain amount of CO2. When you buy food and goods, the production of the food and goods also emit surprisingly large quantities of CO2.
Your carbon footprint is the sum of all CO2 emissions and CO2 equivalents of other greenhouse gases – all of which were induced by your activities during a given time frame. Usually, a carbon footprint is calculated for the time period of one year.
What is a "good" carbon footprint?
As individuals on varying paths, most agree that life is meant to be enjoyed responsibly. For this reason, there is no perfect number when it comes to carbon footprint. Realistically, the best carbon footprint you can strive for is the lowest one you can personally achieve. It’s a fact that most aspects of everyday life will have some impact on increasing your carbon footprint. In general, carbon emissions rise steeply as people's income increases, yet there are steps we can all take to minimize our negative impact on the environment we share.
The first step is a fun and insightful one: start by using an online calculator to determine your current carbon footprint. From there, consider making lifestyle changes – big and small – that will create a measurable improvement on your carbon footprint score.
As much as possible, buy locally sourced, organic, plant-based, unprocessed foods, and do your best to minimize and/or compost food waste.
- Home Heating and Cooling
Buy energy efficient space heating/cooling and water heating. Take time (and save money!) by sealing your heating and cooling ducts.
- Other Home Energy Use
Home owners and renters alike can take steps to:
- Buy energy efficient appliances and equipment
- Switch to LED lightbulbs
- Wash clothes in cold water and hang them to dry
- Turn off lights and appliances when not in use
Minimize driving. Choose to walk, bike, carpool, and use public transit as much as possible. When appropriate, aim and plan to walk or bike anywhere within 2 miles of your home.
Think before you buy new products, especially resource-intensive or heavily-packaged products.
It’s not possible to stop emitting all carbon dioxide today as total worldwide demand for energy accelerates and carbon dioxide emissions increase. The climate is already changing rapidly. Yet, if that pace is slowed, nature and human beings can adapt more readily. The total amount of change, including sea-level rise, can be limited. While some degree of climate change is inevitable at this point, there is hope and so much that we can do, both collectively and as individuals, to secure the best possible future.
With love and compassion,
Photocred: Sam Bark on Unsplash