A carbon footprint is defined as: The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Basically, everything you do in your day to day life has some sort of impact on the world around you. Whether you hop in your car and drive 20 km to work each morning or instead, ride your bike has an impact on your carbon footprint. Let’s have a look at two regular Aussies and how their carbon foot prints stack up…
Sally vs Mitch
Sally rides her bike to the train station to get to work. She only uses her air con when she absolutely needs to and eats take away food once a week. She also loves to travel and hops on about 30 flights a year. Since she’s a digital nomad she uses her laptop a lot for work.
Mitch drives his car to work, he spends around 2 hours commuting every day. Mitch rarely eats food at home and his favourite meal is a Big Mac. He’s never been on a plane and doesn’t own a laptop, smart phone or tablet.
So, who has the bigger carbon footprint? In reality, our two everyday Aussies probably have a similar carbon footprint. While Sally might ride her bike to the station, the number of flights she takes elevates the total amount of greenhouses gases she produces. While Mitch’s day to day activities add to his yearly production of CO2, over his lifetime thanks to his lack of air travel and gadgets Mitch’s carbon footprint wouldn’t be that different to Sally’s.
What Does This Mean For You?
Basically, your carbon footprint can be calculated on a yearly basis. So if one day you decide to drive to work over the train, it won’t make that much of a difference in the long term. If however, you make it a habit, that’s when it starts to impact your footprint. The same goes for a bottle of water. It’s estimated that the production (therefore consumption) of 1 plastic bottle filled with water creates 1 kg of CO2. While one bottle occasionally, won’t impact your footprint if you buy one everyday for a year that’s 365 kg of CO2 you’ve created just from water bottles.
How to Improve Your Carbon Footprint
While becoming a vegan and riding a bike everywhere will certainly help reduce your carbon footprint, it’s just not a realistic option for a lot of people. There are some things you can do though, starting with your clothes. Choose to shop at second hand stores or make sure the items you do buy you wear longer than one season. Fast fashion is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases and limiting your trips to Kmart and Topshop isn’t that difficult. Then, once you’ve filled your wardrobe with more ethical fashion options, choose to line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer. Running 1 cycle of a dryer is equivalent to turning on 225 lights for 1 hour. Something else you can do for the environment is plant a garden. Now, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate rose garden, even a couple of herbs and veggies will help absorb nasty carbon dioxide. Speaking of food, reducing the amount of meat (especially red meat) you consume can drastically improve your footprint. For instance, the production of 1 kg of lamb meat creates 39.2 kg of CO2. That’s compared to 0.9 kg of CO2 for 1 kg of lentils.
If you want to calculate your carbon footprint here is a handy calculator from the WWF.