What comes to your mind when you hear about Climate Change and carbon footprints? News reports, Greta Thunberg, Paris Climate Agreement and maybe even the emission from your car. It was also the key matters discussed this year at the Davos summit. But we need to understand that Climate Change is a lot more than just a trending item of discussion in the media. Despite all the attention, people are still failing to understand the practical aspect of the constantly-worsening climate issues.
With its ever-increasing population, humanity has been demanding more and more resources from the Earth which has resulted in an enormous increase in the carbon emissions. Sadly, our planet is not left with enough bio-capacity to neutralize these carbon emissions. While people look at the bigger picture of the Climate Change, individual contribution to the problem goes largely untracked. Carbon emissions are caused by every single human being existing on this planet. We leave behind our carbon footprints everyday without even realizing it. There’s a big proportion of people who do not understand the seriousness of the matter.
Carbon footprints are a simplified measure of the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by a person, organisation, event or even a product. Whatever we do leaves a carbon footprint behind, whether it’s commuting to work, making an omelette or turning on the lights. Multiply that to the total number of persons existing on this planet. Now you can understand why global warming and climate change has taken over so fast. The contribution comes from everyone and at all times, irrespective of age, race, class or region. We are all individually responsible for it too.
But thankfully, that’s not the end of it all. It is possible to counterpoise the carbon emissions through carbon neutrality. However to ensure that, we first need to keep a track of our carbon emissions. This can be achieved by tracking carbon footprints which measure the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by a person, organisation, event or product. Our carbon footprints are a precise reflection of our impact on the environment. But you might ask – how is it possible to keep a track of one’s carbon footprints throughout the day for every single activity?
It may not seem that easy at first but don’t give up already. Take an example of weight watchers. When someone is trying to decrease once calorie intake, he/she keeps track of the number of calories consumed with each food eaten through the day. Likewise, a carbon footprint watcher must keep a track of the carbon footprints left behind with each activity done everyday. This way you can find which one of your activities are low on carbon emissions and which ones are higher (thus to be avoided). You can take help from sites like Carbon Footprint, Resurgence, Choose Climate and CNCF. These sites provide easy carbon footprint calculation for different activities. There are also several carbon footprint tracking apps easily available for both android and iOS. Apps like Zero Carbon, United Nations Environmental, Oroeco, EcoCRED, My Little Plastic Footprint and The Extra Mile are some good options to go with. These apps will let you know about the carbon footprint left behind by you with each activity. But what next? How to reduce your carbon footprint?
For that you must first have an idea of the carbon footprint that you leave behind. Here’s an example of my carbon footprint (in grams of carbon emissions per day) before I started cutting down.
- Daily car travel – 10 kms – 225 g
- Breakfast – 2 Eggs – 560 g
- Office electricity – 9 hours – 450 g
- Lunch – Chicken Salad (1 serving) – 1396 g
- Dinner – Rice and Dal (1 serving) – 346 g
- Home electricity – 14 hours – 670 g
Overall, I was leaving behind a carbon footprint of 3647 grams each day. As per my lifestyle, I figured out I can cut a significant amount of the emissions by making some little changes everyday. Here’s how I reduced my carbon footprints:
- Instead of taking an Uber to work, I switched to public transport (e.g. bus)
- I switched to a vegetarian diet (Cereal instead of eggs and soya instead of chicken). Vegan diet is even better, and probably best scalable solution to address climate change.
- Used home heating at alternate hours instead of continuously
- Stay closer to nature, use less fridge, air conditioners etc.
This brought down my total carbon footprint to below 3000 grams/day. But I still had a significant carbon footprint per day. To offset that, I have set certain goals. These include:
- Planting around 50 trees in a year/4 trees each month
- Buying carbon credits worth $50 (₹3568) every year
- Invest in houseplants and community kitchens
This plan works well for individuals. However, corporations would require a more extensive approach. Here are a few suggestions.
- Rely on natural heating and cooling of the workspace
- Install solar panels for power generation
- Giveaway some carbon credits from the profits made every quarter
- Encourage employees to giveaway a few carbon credits from their monthly salary
- Turn off lights and devices when not in use
- Use office buses for employee commute
- Make free vegan food options available in the office mess/pantry
- Plant at least one tree/person on all team outings
With these methods, you can get rid of a lot of excessive carbon emissions throughout the day. What most people don’t realize is that simple acts like eating meat, traveling by a car, taking flights to other cities and using ACs are some of the biggest contributors to global warming. If we keep these activities in check and use our resources only as much required, we can help a great deal in reducing our carbon footprint. But this cannot happen by merely talking. While everybody is complaining about carbon emissions and climate change, nobody actually is ready to do something concrete about it.
What we need are radical changes at the most basic level of our everyday life. Lifestyle changes such as using less water, cooking on medium and low flame, eating less (or no) meat, using LED lighting and solar panels and using more public transport can help reduce our carbon footprint significantly. Whatever we do, we must mind its impact on the environment. Did you know AC installation is not allowed in Paris keeping in mind the effect ACs have on the environment? These are the kind of implementations that are needed for actual results.
The climate change problem is not something that can be resolved overnight by some magic wand. This issue needs to be solved strategically and differentially (as in engineering). Engineers break down bigger problems into smaller sets of problems with differentiation. They then resolve the smaller problems and once all resolutions are achieved, they integrate these resolutions and achieve the one required solution to the problem. The Climate Change issue needs to be broken down to the level of individuals, companies, governments and organisations/institutions. Solutions must be developed for each of these and only then collectively the overall solution would be achieved.