What exactly is Carbon Footprint?
As a concept in environmental management and safe-keeping of the ecosystem, Carbon footprint is generally used to describe the total set of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by a specific activity caused by an individual, event, product or organisation. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluoro-carbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6).
In the discourse of climate change, footprint is a metaphor for the cumulative impact that something has. And carbon is shorthand for all the different greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
The term carbon footprint, therefore, represents the best estimate that we can get of the full climate change impact of an activity, an item, a lifestyle, a company, a country or even the whole world.
In the UK, the overall impact of the climate breaks down like this: carbon dioxide (86%), methane (7%), nitrous oxide (6%) and refrigerant gases (1%). Given that a single item or activity can cause multiple different greenhouse gases to be emitted, each in different quantities, a carbon footprint if written out in full could get pretty confusing. To avoid this, the convention is to express a carbon footprint in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e. This means the totality of climate change impact of all the greenhouse gases caused by an item or activity folded into one and presented as the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same impact.
The direct and indirect emissions
The palpable confusion around footprints comes down to the differences between ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ emissions. The actual carbon footprint of a plastic ball, for example, includes not only direct emissions resulting from the production process and the conveyance of the toy to the market: it involves also an combination of indirect emissions, such as those generated by the extraction and processing of the oil used to make the plastic in the first place. These are just a fraction of the processes involved. If you give it a deeper thought, tracing back all the things that have to happen to manufacture that toy leads to an uncountable number of pathways, most of which are significantly small. To further buttress this point, let’s try following just one of those processes. The staff in the offices of the plastic factory used paper clips made of steel. Within the footprint of that steel is a small allocation to take account of the maintenance of a digger in the iron mine that the steel originally came from, till infinity. The carbon footprint of the plastic toy comprises the lot, so working it out accurately is no easy task.
Most of the carbon footprint emissions for the average UK household come from “indirect” sources, which is fuel burned to produce goods far away from the final consumer. These are distinguished from emissions which come from burning fuel directly in one’s car or stove, commonly referred to as “direct” sources of the consumer’s carbon footprint.
Calculation of Carbon Footprints
A person’s, nation, or organisation’s carbon footprint can be measured by undertaking a GHG emissions assessment or other calculative activities denoted as carbon accounting.
Specific information are required in determining the carbon footprint of an individual or organisation, as the case may be. These are more or less detailed questions about your diet, transportation choices, home size, shopping and recreational activities, usage of electricity, heating, and heavy appliances such as dryers and refrigerators, and so on. The estimate of your carbon footprint are derived based on the supplied details. There are specific websites that render this service for free.
Once the size of a carbon footprint is known, a strategy can be devised to reduce it.
Reduction of Carbon Footprints
The notable ways of reducing the carbon footprint of humans is to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse and of course Sash Window Draught Proofing. In manufacturing this can be done by recycling the packing materials, by selling the obsolete inventory of one industry to the industry who is looking to buy unused items at lesser price to become competitive. Nothing should be disposed off into the soil, all the ferrous materials which are prone to degrade or oxidize with time should be sold as early as possible at reduced price.
The Sash Window Draught Proofing is another effective method of reducing carbon footprint.
It involves a series of brushes that are glued onto the sashes in order to close up all gaps within the frame. If all gaps are closed then there is no way for air to pass and this is what creates the airtight draught seal.