Climate change is one of the most significant green issues we face and using a carbon footprint calculator is a useful way to understand your own impact on the environment. There are some excellent calculators online which are comprehensive yet straightforward to use.
Carbon, CO2 or Carbon Dioxide?
These three terms are often interchanged when talking about carbon emissions The correct scientific term is carbon dioxide or CO2, however this often gets shortened to carbon. When referring to carbon emissions and carbon footprint, we are talking about carbon dioxide or CO2.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
The term carbon footprint is used to describe the net amount of carbon dioxide that an individual emits into the environment over the course of a year. This takes into account all aspects of living, such as emissions from a car, flights, and household appliances.
Carbon emissions are the harmful gases we release into the environment as a natural part of our day to day lives. Travel, household appliances and numerous other activities emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means that it contributes to global warming or the greenhouse effect. Reducing carbon emissions is essential to slowing down and stopping global warming.
Carbon can be reduced by using more fuel efficient cars and household appliances, investigating alternative fuel sources such as solar and wind power and reducing the number of miles that products travel before they are sold.
Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas, however it is the one that has the most negative effect on the environment and contributes most to global warming. It is important to reduce all greenhouse gases, however reducing carbon dioxide will have the most significant effect.
Carbon offsetting is the term used to describe any positive steps that are taken to reduce the carbon dioxide in the environment. These include the planting of trees or the preservation of woodland. Trees are important as they reduce CO2 by a process known as carbon sequestration, meaning they breathe in CO2 and exhale harmless oxygen.
What is a Carbon Footprint Calculator?
A carbon footprint calculator is a system that allows individuals and organizations to work out their carbon impact on the environment. These are often online tools that have been set up by green organizations, governments and other interested bodies.
The important thing about using a calculator to work out your carbon footprint is to identify any areas that need addressing. For example, look at areas where carbon emissions can be reduced or, if it is impossible to reduce emissions, how carbon can be offset.
Calculators that are used to work out carbon footprints of individuals and organizations use a few key facts and these generally require information about the number of miles traveled, usage of household appliances and flights taken during the course of a year. It is useful to gather this information prior to using one of these useful calculators.
There are many online calculators, some are based in the U.S., others are international. It is useful to look at a number of calculators and see which is best for you. Many of these websites offer a range of other resources that are useful for learning how to reduce a carbon footprint.
Using a calculator to work out your carbon footprint is only the beginning of the journey, however it is a very important step. Using this information, a road map can be drawn indicating the best way to reduce carbon emissions and help slow down global warming and the greenhouse effect. This will have a positive effect both now and for the future of our planet.