What’s Your Carbon Footprint?
Do you feel overwhelmed when it comes to understanding your carbon footprint? If so, you’re most definitely not alone. In this article we’ll help you define what a carbon footprint actually means, and how your different consumption patterns affect it.
A carbon footprint can be dictionary defined as “the amount of carbon dioxide emissions associated with all the activities of a person or an entity” (entity meaning a building or a country). This takes into account direct emissions that result from burning fossil fuels, including activities like transportation and heating, as well as the electricity involved with any products and services consumed. In short, your carbon footprint doesn’t focus on the emissions involved with the production of any goods or services you use, but rather their consumption.
Let’s look at those consumption patterns that contribute most to your carbon footprint. Carbon footprints vary from country to country, which is largely dependent on how developed they are. Generally speaking in the UK, how you use transport and household energy make up the biggest and ‘primary part’ of your carbon footprint. It’s also important to not forget your water consumption here too, which a lot of people do not register as part of their impact.
The 'secondary part' of a person's carbon footprint represents the person’s consumption of goods and services. Essentially, this accounts for any products you buy - from food, to toys and even activities you do in your spare time. For example, if you are buying your clothes online, and these items are being sent from a far away location, both their manufacturing and transportation are counted as part of your secondary carbon footprint.
The considerations don’t end there. The secondary carbon footprint also has to take into account a product’s full lifecycle - in other words, what happens to them when we’re finished using them. It may come as no surprise that plastic products do not perform well here, as you’ll need to consider the recyclability and reusability of the product.
It’s important to understand what areas of consumption are involved in your primary and secondary footprints before you attempt to calculate your own.
If you do want to start assessing your own footprint, there are some really helpful websites online that can help you with the calculations. WWF have launched an Environmental Footprint Questionnaire online, or use the online Carbon Footprint calculator which is free for all individuals and households to use.
Action starts today and with you. For inspiration, have a read of our Top 5 Things You Can Do At Home To Fight Climate Change article.
As Anne-Marie Bonneau (a famous zero-waste chef) says:
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”.