“Carbon footprint” is a term that’s used for the amount of carbon that is emitted through certain activities or by an organization. The total amount of greenhouse gases that are produced to directly and indirectly support human activities are generally expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2. For example, when driving a car the engine burns fuel which creates a certain amount of CO2, depending on the distance of the drive and fuel consumption.
Heating a home generates CO2 as does buying foods and other items as their production emitted some quantities of carbon dioxide. Your carbon footprint is the total of all emissions of CO2 that were induced by your activities in a particular time period, usually over one year.
Since 1961, humanity’s carbon footprint has increased eleven-fold. It takes the earth a year and a half to absorb the waste produced in just one year – i.e., we are going in the wrong direction.
UN scenarios have suggested that if the current population and consumption trends continue as is, in two decades we would need the equivalent of two earths to support us. Individuals as well as institutions across the globe must recognize ecological limits and find new options to live within the means of the one planet we have.
There are simple steps that you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.
Stop using plastic grocery bags
In some towns, the use of plastic grocery bags has been completely banned, but if that hasn’t happened where you live, consider purchasing cloth bags to use anyway. It takes awhile to get into the habit of remembering to bring them to the grocery store, but it can have a big impact on your carbon footprint. Keep a few in your vehicle for unexpected shopping trips.
Plastic bags and other plastic garbage that enters the ocean kills as many as one million creatures that live in the sea every year. Currently, the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is twice the size of the state of Texas; it weighs 3.5 million tons and is floating somewhere between San Francisco and the Hawaiian Islands. If every resident in the U.S. tied their annual consumption of plastic bags together into a chain, it would reach around the earth’s equator nearly 800 times.
Turn that switch off
When you aren’t using your television, stereo, computer, lights and anything else that uses up electricity, turn it off. All of these items can use 10 to 40 percent of the power while sitting on standby. Unplug any chargers as soon as they’ve finished charging. Keep your toaster, blender and other appliances unplugged until you’re ready to use them.
Support your local farmers and reduce your carbon footprint by decreasing “food miles.” Local food doesn’t have to travel far which reduces CO2 emissions and packing materials. Choosing food produced closer to you also helps to stimulate the local economy.
Drive less, and when you do, drive a more fuel-efficient car
Consider carpooling to work, take public transportation, walk or ride your bike to work. Do errands in a single trip or pay bills online. When you have to drive, a hybrid or other type of fuel-efficient vehicle is the best choice as less carbon dioxide is emitted.
Recycle more and buy less
Pay more attention to what you purchase. Do you really need that item, or do you just want it? This can help you to save money as well as reduce the need to throw out all of that packaging. With the products that you do buy, remember to recycle as much as you can.
About 80 percent of what Americans purchase can be recycled, yet the recycling rate is currently only 28 percent. By consuming less and re-using old products, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
What will you do today that will make a difference for the future of our planet?
-The Alternative Daily