What is the CARBON FOOTPRINT and how to calculate and reduce it

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You've probably heard about carbon footprint before. In recent years it has become a concept that we frequently find in news and studies related to climate change and / or sustainability, but what does the carbon footprint specifically refer to and what is it for? How is it calculated and how is it related to the ecological footprint? More and more organizations and researchers worldwide are proposing studies and measures related to the phenomenon of climate change, as well as its causes and consequences. The ultimate goal is to promote the sustainable globalization of different human activities and their environmental impacts.

Let's get to know through this Green Ecologist article What is the carbon footprint, as well as its importance in sustainability and climate change studies.

What is the carbon footprint - definition

The term carbon footprint is used to represent the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere as a consequence of the various activities of production and / or consumption of goods and services by human beings.

It is one of the most important tools in quantification studies of the various Greenhouse Gases (GHG) found in the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases or GHG constitute a permanent layer in the atmosphere that prevents solar radiation from leaving it, thus giving rise to the drastic increase in temperature of the Earth that we are living today.

More and more companies, organizations and administrative units use the Carbon Footprint tool to quantify the GHG emissions they produce in their activities in order to inform consumers or the general population about how they contribute to a greater or lesser extent. measure climate change and demonstrating its attempts to mitigate it, seeking more sustainable production models.

Difference between carbon footprint and ecological footprint

Now that we know the definition of carbon footprint and the context in which it is used, it is important to know the difference between carbon footprint and ecological footprint, another concept widely used in the world of sustainability.

However, the ecological footprint refers exclusively to use that humans make of natural resources. It is an environmental indicator that makes it possible to determine, by means of the human-nature relationship, if the speed with which the different natural resources are extracted and used is appropriate with respect to their capacity to regenerate naturally. That is to say, that ecological uses are made of all natural resources, without exhausting their stocks and allowing future generations to continue using and benefiting from them.

Both tools are very useful to know and be aware of the various factors that are involved every time the human being makes use of any natural resource, as well as the consequences that such actions entail.

If you want to expand the knowledge about this other type of footprint, in these other articles we explain everything about The ecological footprint, an indicator of sustainability and How to calculate the ecological footprint. Now, let's keep focusing on learning a little more about the carbon footprint in the following sections.

How to calculate your carbon footprint

In order to know the greenhouse gas emission related to the main human activities, numerous studies have worked during the last decades to create different models and methods for calculating the Carbon Footprint, among which the calculation of the Product Carbon Footprint (HCP).

This model allows the calculation of all Greenhouse Gas emissions that occur throughout the life cycle of any human-made product (clothing, footwear, beverages, food, furniture, etc.), from extraction from the raw material, through the manufacturing and distribution stages, to the subsequent use that consumers make of the product and finally, during the process of managing the product as waste.

For the quantification of the Product Carbon Footprint, the methodology that is followed is the following:

  1. The objective of the study is defined, as well as the process diagram of the product to be studied and all the stages of said process in which Greenhouse Gases are generated are identified.
  2. The data is collected and the inventory obtained is analyzed, paying special attention to the emission factors of the gases that will be used in the calculation of the Carbon Footprint.
  3. The impacts are evaluated and the GHG emissions are determined, by multiplying the data obtained by a series of emission factors (somewhat technical and complex that are not necessary to understand with a global vision what the calculation of the Footprint consists of. Carbon).
  4. Finally, the results are interpreted by preparing a report on the Carbon Footprint of the product studied and the results are communicated to interested companies, organizations and / or consumers.

Here we explain more about How to calculate the carbon footprint.

How to reduce your carbon footprint - tips

To finish this interesting article on the carbon footprint, we cite several ways that would allow us reduce our carbon footprint in our day to day, by reducing the production and consumption of products that generate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere:

  • Use less polluting means of transport.
  • Travel through ecological tourism (accommodation, transport and leisure activities that respect the environment).
  • Reduce the amount of both red meat and dairy products, since they come from livestock that release the greatest amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
  • Avoid the consumption of foods that are not in season or that come from other countries and even continents, thus favoring local consumption and avoiding the so-called "kilometer foods", which entail the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases during transport. from the production areas to the stores that sell them.

Learn more ideas about How to reduce my carbon footprint in this other Green Ecologist article.

If you want to read more articles similar to What is the carbon footprint, we recommend that you enter our category of Other ecology.

  • Espíndola, C. & Valderrama, J. O. (2012) Carbon footprint: concepts, estimation methods and methodological complexities. Online magazine Information Technology, Volume 12 (1), pp: 163-176.
  • Editorial Team (July 12, 2019) Three ways to reduce your carbon footprint. National Geographic Spain: Global warming.
  • Doménech, J. L. (2007) Ecological Footprint and Sustainability. AENOR Editions, pp: 60-128.
  • Editorial Team (07/23/2019) The huge ecological footprint of meat consumption. National Geographic Spain: Food.
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