Giovanna Trabasso  /   07/12/2021

What is Carbon Footprint and How Can I Reduce Mine?

Carbon footprint might sound to you like another ecology buzzword. In the fight against climate change, many people get confused about what’s actually happening, the appropriate terminology. With so many different ways of calling the same thing (climate change, global warming, climate crisis, and so on), we don’t blame you for being confused! Carbon footprint, however, is important to know when aiding in the fight against our current climate crisis.

In the simplest terms, a carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases released by you. It is known as a “carbon” footprint because these greenhouse gases are mainly carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases occur both naturally and synthetically. Natural gases other than carbon dioxide also include methane, nitrous oxide, and even water vapor! Fluorinated gases occur synthetically. These gases cause global warming by trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Everyone and everything has a carbon footprint.

This is why it’s so important for all of us to be aware of our efforts to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s think about it through a scenario. You just dropped off your kids at school and are driving to work. First, you stop at a Starbucks’ drive-through for coffee. You then get stuck in traffic for an extra fifteen minutes because it’s a Friday prior to a long weekend and many people are on their way to the beach. You get to work and your usual spot is taken by a co-worker. Because of the long weekend, busses and trains are running on a different schedule and your friend who usually takes the bus had to drive. It’s a very hot Summer day so the AC in the office today is higher than usual.

You and your kids share a carbon footprint for the duration of their drive to school. When they get to school, the school has its own carbon footprint as do all kids, teachers, and staff. The Starbucks you grab your morning coffee from had its own carbon footprint, as does its staff. Because of the long weekend, every car that got you stuck in traffics has its own carbon footprint and just increased your own for keeping you stuck in your running car. Your friend who had to drive their car instead of taking their usual bus just increased their carbon footprint as well. Your company has its own carbon footprint and the stronger-than-usual AC can increase it.

It’s a vicious cycle. Actions we do lead to global warming and global warming lead to changes in habits that increase carbon emissions. The United States is currently experiencing one of its hottest Summers. For some people this might mean more time spent in nature, avoiding the indoors. However, for others, this can mean taking cars on commutes instead of public transport, staying indoors with ACs, and avoiding the outdoors and shared spaces.

In 2020, we were all met with a mandatory change in habits.

COVID-19 brought along a global pandemic and with it the need to stay inside. Remote working and learning became the new normal and the meaning of home was never the same. This massive shift that discouraged commutes and kept entire families in one place brought along the hope of reduced carbon footprints. COVID-19 did, in fact, lower the global CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions fell by 6.2%, 2.3 billion tonnes, during the first half of 2020. The United State alone saw a 13% decrease in its CO2 emissions. With travel restrictions, the aviation industry brought along a 48% reduction from their 2019 emissions.

To many, these numbers show that in reducing commuter emissions alone, we can slowly march towards a greener future. Unfortunately, that’s still not enough. The second half of 2020 and COVID-19 restrictions began being lifted already saw an increase in carbon emissions. Even so, the already no great decrease in emissions came only due to mandatory stay-in-place orders. While many were excited about the carbon emission decrease in 2020, it’s unrealistic to take it as a win for sustainability and simply not enough.

The good news is that there are many ways to decrease your carbon footprint.

The easiest and most common solution is to reduce rethink your commute. Carpooling or biking are great alternatives to reduce the number of cars on the road, helping both traffic and decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases. When going on vacation, be conscious of the ways you choose to travel. Maybe traveling by plane is not your only or even most economical option. Rethink the way you move and you’re already on track to lowering your carbon footprint.

Other easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint include using and buying less plastic. keeping your lights off and devices unplugged when not in use. Include more veggies in your food and less red meat. Maybe even grow your own in your own backyard! Consider selling your unwanted clothes and items online, to thrift stores, yard sales. This way you can make an extra buck and also keep your items out of landfills. The options are endless and even the little things count. Find a carbon footprint calculator online to see your most troubled areas and begin reducing your carbon footprint in small steps. Together we can get to a better, greener planet!

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