What Does Carbon Footprint Mean?
The term “carbon footprint” is used to denote the amount of carbon dioxide produced by your daily activities and use of material goods.
Since CO2 is the most common of the greenhouse gases, you can determine your personal participation in Global Warming. It also gives you a starting point on how you, yourself can prevent global warming, simply by changing some of your habits.
A carbon footprint consists of direct, or primary carbon production, and indirect, the secondary footprint.
Your primary footprint comes from your personal activities that result in carbon dioxide emissions – things like your car burning fossil fuels, the energy you use to heat and cool your home, the electricity consumed at home or work, etc.
Ways to Reduce Your Primary Carbon Footprint
Walk or ride a bicycle on short errands. It’s amazing how much more of your surroundings you can take in when you’re on two feet or two wheels, rather than in a gasoline powered, stereo-blasting, air-conditioned vehicle. Life is good. Take some air into your lungs.
Use public transportation when available. Carpool. Consolidate your errands so that you’re not criss-crossing the city or countryside.
When you buy your next car, consider a hybrid or electric vehicle. Even if your electricity is produced by burning coal, an EV leaves a smaller carbon footprint than a fossil-fueled vehicle. Calculate your car’s carbon footprint (or would that be wheelprint?).
Avoid Flying. Even though commercial jets produce less carbon dioxide per passenger per mile traveled than motor vehicles, it’s produced at high altitude where it can do much more harm than it would at the Earth’s surface.
Sign up for renewable energy at your electric company. It will probably cost you a few cents extra per kilowatt, but won’t raise your electric bill by a great deal. And you’ll feel better knowing you weren’t the cause of burning dirty coal.
Even better, put solar panels on your roof, and generate your own electricity.
Use the sun to heat your water. Solar water heating can save a large percentage on your power use (and your bill), whether electric, natural gas, or fuel oil.
Use a solar clothes dryer – a clothesline, weather permitting.Use passive solar energy in the winter by opening your drapes or blinds during the day, and closing them before sundown. The opposite applies in summer: close shades in the heat of the day.
Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. They require much less electricity than the standard incandescent bulbs.
Living a more sustainable life style is commendable and continuously evolving. Many homeowners have installed a flow meter to help regulate and monitor their water consumption as another to promote this way of living.
Ways to Reduce Your Secondary Carbon Footprint
Avoid unnecessary packaging in consumer goods. Tell your grocer or other merchant you won’t purchase items that are overly packaged or use harmful ingredients or processes in the packaging.
Look for the “Made of Recycled Materials” logo on packaging. At the very least, make sure you’re able to recycle at least most, if not all, of the materials used for containers or wrappers.
Try to stay away from those little bottles of bottled water. If you don’t want to drink tap water, invest in a good quality water filter and a stainless steel water bottle. It takes 47 million gallons of oil to produce the plastic water bottles used in the US each year. And who knows how much to transport the bottled water from remote pristine locations to warehouses, distributors, and finally the store where it can be purchased.
Eat local. It’s hard to get everything locally, of course, but you may be surprised to find out just what you can find.
Eat really local. Plant a garden and grow your own food. Grow sprouts in your kitchen. Plant fruit and/or nut trees on your property. In addition to providing food, the trees also consume carbon dioxide for their entire lifespan. That means carbon negative food!
Cut down on the amount of meat you eat. Besides the stories of “bovine flatulence” causing global warming, there’s also the matter of petrochemically-produced grains that are used as livestock feed. Most of the corn grown in the United States goes to feed cattle, and grain is not even a natural food for cows. Buy grass-fed meats and wild caught fish instead.
Look for locally produced goods first instead of automatically buying imported items. It helps your local economy, too. This one could be a tough call, because there are a lot Fair Trade goods that support rainforest renewal and other “Global Cooling” activities. Weigh your options.