What are Carbon Footprints and How to Reduce Them?

Green India
Green India. (Representative Image)

Whenever one travels by car, charges a mobile phone, switches on the Television or operates the washing machine and likewise other routine activities, one leaves a trail of gases that form in the atmosphere and adds to global warming. The United Nations (UN), in its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), admonished that the released emissions accelerate the process of climate change. The neutralisation has to be done promptly by decarbonising the economy and other measures like environmental taxes to avoid dire circumstances. Reducing carbon footprints is now a key to this issue.

The results of the greenhouse gases produced by human activities are commonly known as the carbon footprint. This environmental indicator measures both direct and indirect emissions of compounds, namely nitrogen oxide (N2O), methane (CH4), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and most significantly, Carbon dioxide (CO2).

Carbon footprint is the aggregate volume of greenhouse gases (GG) resulting from day-to-day economic and human activity. The activity is measured in tons of CO2 emissions and is vital to reach its lower level. It begins with individual collaborative efforts every day. They come from various activities such as producing and consuming food, fossil fuels, manufactured goods, roads, materials, or transportation.

Example: If one has an American SUV from brand A, driven in Germany, or a light Japanese car from brand B, driven in Japan – they both release the same amount of emissions

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), In 2019, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere set a record high. The prevailing levels of atmospheric CO2 are in regards to those of over three million years ago when the earth’s thermometer had a temperature about 3°C higher, and sea levels increased from 10 to 20 metres than they are in these times. The carbon footprint has not ceased expansion; Since 1961, it has risen multifold and logs for 60% of human’s total impact on the environment, Global Footprint Network stated.

Some of the key sectors to reduce carbon footprints 

a) Transportation: One could stop using polluting car journeys as each litre of fuel burnt in a car engine emits more than 2.5 kg of CO2, and prefer cycling, walking, or taking public transport like trains and buses. If driving, one could make other people sit at a common destination or nearby, essentially car-pooling. Also, one could think twice before flying as it is the world’s rapidly increasing source of CO2 emissions. If one does this, opt for offsetting carbons.

b) Water purposes: Start using the washing machine and dishwasher only when they work on their full capacities. One could boil the water which will be required and can cover pots while cooking. Harvest rainwater if there is a way to a rooftop as an alternative to groundwater. In rural areas, set up more hand pumps to save drinking water from flood contamination. One can save an abundance of energy, and the process will be increased. Gather all the cold water from the first few seconds of the shower to water the garden or plants. 

c) Food: Lower the number of animal products consumed and eat local and seasonal produced food, and short travel implies less pollution from transportation. One could think of recycling or composting organic waste as the decomposing biodegradable waste will emit methane in landfills. These GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions have a record of 3% in the European Union.

d) Energy purpose: One should be careful of the house’s temperature, which is just 1ºC and lowers emissions as well as power bill by 5-10%. Also, switching off air-conditioner for the cold as they are highly energy dearer and saving judiciously is an option, and perhaps one could use a fan instead. House’s insulation can be enhanced so that less heat gets released when it is cold and less heat comes in when it’s warm, lowering the requirement to switch on other devices.

Always practice responsible consumption and adopt sustainable habits!