Carbon Footprint

Carbon Footprint is a term we’re hearing more often in Australia and there is extensive information available on definitions and offset options. This hopes to give you a simple understanding on what a carbon footprint is, how you can calculate and improve it.

What is it?

According to the Carbon Trust Uk “a carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by a person, organisation, event or product.”

Basically a Carbon Footprint is the measurement of how much greenhouse gas is emitted directly or indirectly due to your actions. The Kyotol Protocol has identified the following 6 gases as being part of the Carbon Footprint:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Who has a Carbon Footprint?

Any person, group of people, event or product has a carbon footprint and it is measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). CO2e is calculated by multiplying the emissions of each of the six greenhouse gases by its 100 year global warming potential. Generally you will see a Carbon Footprint measured in tonnes of CO2.

What can I do to improve it?

Once a carbon footprint has been calculated steps can be taken to reduce it or offset it. On a smaller level one way might be by reducing the amount of power it takes to make a product or finding/supporting alternative energy sources like wind power. Another of the options might be to support a project that reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases in the short or long term (i.e tree planting or renewable energy). Companies and governments might offset a large amount of carbon by purchasing approved carbon offsets.

Here’s an example. If your Carbon Footprint is 6 tonnes of CO2 per year you could offset this by planting trees. Carbonfootprint.com claims that a broadleaf tree will ‘breathe in’ 1 tonne of CO2 over its 100 year lifecycle. According to this example, planting 6 trees will bring your carbon footprint back to neutral. Purchasing carbon offset options really should only be done after all possible internal emission reductions have been examined and ammended.

A couple of quick tips to help you reduce your footprint on a individual basis day to day are:

  • Reduce your waste (most of what you throw out goes to landfill)
  • Recycle products and buy recycled products
  • Buy locally produced foods and products with less packaging
  • Reduce the amount you drive

This Carbon Footprint Calculator can be used to find out your personal Carbon Footprint. Fill in your info on each of the tabs below to see your carbon footprint.

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