Carbon output is the leading factor in climate change; find out more about what you can do about this

Are You a Carbon Polluter?

Of course you are, we all are! A great deal is talked about reducing one’s Carbon Footprint. We are repeatedly told that, unless we do so, the Planet will become a hothouse and we will experience catastrophic consequences.

That is scary especially as we have been warned that we have very little time left to do so. This, when many of us do not even know what is meant by the phrase, and if we did what we can do about it, or how to measure it and determine whether we are a polluter or not. Hopefully this article will help resolve the conundrum.

Carbon Footprint is the term used to describe the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and other “greenhouse gases” released into the atmosphere by individuals, communities and organisations, both directly or indirectly.

A diagram showing the Greenhouse effect
“The Greenhouse Effect” in: “Introduction,” in: US EPA (December 2012) Climate Change Indicators in the United States, 2nd edition[1], Washington, DC, USA: US EPA, p.3. EPA 430-R-12-004. – Public Domain Image.

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) absorb heat from the sun. The greenhouse effect is a natural process that warms the Earth’s surface. The energy absorbed warms the atmosphere and the surface of the Earth, and maintains the Planet at a temperature which allows life on Earth to exist, absorbing GHGs naturally, to and from the atmosphere, through the Planet’s biomass (e.g. trees, plants, and algae).

The problem is that human activities (e.g. destroying forests, burning fossil fuels, and raising cattle) not only reduce the natural process of absorbing GHGs, but also increase their concentration in the atmosphere.

This imbalance enhances the greenhouse effect which contributes to the warming of the Planet.

It is therefore important that our society finds out what its Carbon Footprint is and takes action to reduce it as soon as possible.

Measure Your Carbon Footprint

Measuring your Carbon Footprint not only shows how much GHG you are generating, it helps identify areas for improvement and can be used to track your progress as you bring it down.

QE recommends you use this link to calculate your own or your family’s Footprint: It is very user-friendly. Your final result may show up something like this: (images from the WWF’s Carbon Calculator)

Image from the WWF's Carbon Calculator showing 131% carbon footprint
Image from the WWF's Carbon Calculator showing 100% carbon footprint

The fact that the Committee on Climate Change’s recent report states that we need to aim for 0.7 to 1.6 tons per person per year by 2050 shows what huge changes in lifestyle are required if we are the meet those targets.

How you can Cut Your Carbon Footprint

If you are above target, here is a list of things that you might like to consider to reduce your footprint:

Car Emissions

  • Don’t drive. Walk, cycle, use carpools and public transportation.
  • Drive an electric vehicle.
  • Driving style – slow down.
  • Ensure proper tyre pressure and engine tuning.
  • Combine errands to make fewer trips.
  • Remove excess weight and wind resistance (roof rack) from your car.

Air Travel Emissions

Home Emissions

  • Insulate your home, loft, cavity walls and double glaze your windows.
  • Use energy efficient appliances.
  • Use LED energy efficient bulbs. Turn off lights when leaving the room.
  • Don’t set your thermostat too high or too low.
  • Install solar PV and solar thermal panels. Consider ground and air source heat pumps.
  • Buy green electricity from providers such as Bulb, Good Energy, Ecotricity, OVO, etc.

Other Carbon Cutting Options

  • Use water-efficient shower heads, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines. More water use often leads to more energy use.
  • Compost your green waste and food waste.
  • Buy locally produced food and eat a diversified diet with less meat and dairy. This reduces methane from cattle as well as the use of fossil fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides, and the fuel required to produce and transport it.
  • Buy organic as it reduces your impact.
  • Don’t buy food that is shipped by air.
  • Support clean energy projects: solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and biomass.
  • Reuse and recycle.
  • Buy used products and resell or recycle items you no longer need.

Offsetting Carbon Emissions

Carbon offsetting is good, but should not replace steps to reduce your carbon emissions. Carbon offsetting and carbon emissions reduction should be done in tandem.