In our modern era of a warming climate and ever increasing awareness, there is a myriad of terms that we, as a population, may only be partly aware of. ‘Carbon footprint’ is one of those, and it’s full meaning is something of great importance.
In short, a carbon footprint is an estimate of the impact an activity has on our changing, warming, climate. It is a calculation of several aspects: greenhouse gas sources, notably CO2, methane and nitrous oxide; any influencing carbon sinks; and various forms of carbon storage. Then, for the sake of simplicity, all impacts are tallied and expressed as a single number in terms of CO2 equivalent – that is, the amount of CO2 that would need to be emitted to achieve the same level of warming.
Taking a plastic bottle, for example, it may seem simple to calculate its emissions – they would come from the extraction and processing of the oil to turn it into the bottle. However, there are several uncertainties that come into the equation, including the energy used to extract, refine and transport the oil, and the transport involved in moving the final product. Furthermore, one could try to account for the use of paper in the administration of the plastic bottle company, the electricity their computers use and their use of printer paper. It can, effectively, be calculated to an infinitesimal point.
However, this is far too complex, and the estimation of a carbon footprint is therefore based off what is feasible to measure. Small intricacies may not make the final calculation, but any major contributors, such as fuel usage, general conditions and transport logistics, may come in to play. Given this, the carbon footprint calculation is a very powerful tool when it comes to understanding the impact of your behaviour, be it as an individual or collective, on global warming. Calculation and constant monitoring of your carbon footprint is essential to keeping it as low as possible, thus decreasing your harm to the planet.
There are several incentives to knowing what your carbon footprint is and acting on it. First of all, there is a moral incentive to keep your carbon emissions as low as possible and make a contribution to slow down global warming. Secondly, there is a business incentive, whereby businesses will be more inclined to trade with you and you will attract better people, both as employees and clientele. Finally, depending on your location, tax breaks may be available if you lower (and can prove) that you have lowered your carbon emissions, and are continuing to do so.
If you have any questions about Carbon Benchmarking, or would like to speak to us about your organisation’s carbon emissions, get in touch via our contacts page.