Is it vaguely possible for explaining “Carbon Footprints” to be fun and exciting? I doubt it. This is not exactly a fun and exciting topic, but it is possibly the most important issue our planet and our global economies have ever faced.
So here is the deal, its an important concept and considering that you’re probably already paying some sort of Carbon tax on the car you drive, your overseas flights and by 2015, some level of Carbon tax will probably find its way onto the price tag of almost everything you purchase. It’s a worthwhile concept to understand and will over the next five years play an increasingly important role in our daily lives.
In short, your Carbon Footprint is a measure of your impact on climate change. Your carbon footprint is the measurement of all the different things you do that adds “greenhouse gasses” to our atmosphere. For most individuals, this will be focused around the fuel you burn to drive your car, the electricity you purchase (remembering that coal needs to be burned to generate your electricity) to the flights you take and consumer items you purchase.
The simple way to view your Carbon Footprint is as a broad measurement of your contribution to air pollution. And as with any waste product, from your garbage to sewage, removing it comes at a cost and needs to be paid for.
I’m not going to go into “how to measure your Carbon Footprint” as that is likely to open up a bag of nauseating math’s and boredom. What’s more important is why you should be considering your Carbon Footprint; understand your contribution and how to reduce it. If you’re insistent on finding out what your footprint is, we have a couple of handy Carbon calculators on our website www.etc-africa.co.za (click on Ballito Green > Carbon calculator)
For most individuals and businesses, 90% of your carbon footprint is from travel and electricity, coincidently, probably two of your biggest monthly expenses too. Managing your Carbon Footprint becomes a measure of your own efficiency and helps you make environmentally friendly choices.
So, what can knowing your Carbon Footprint do for you?
A half decent Carbon Footprint assessment will identify your wastage areas, parts of your business or lifestyle where you waste stuff. This may sound basic, but in most cases, companies and individuals dig up surprising results that allow them to make huge positive changes. For example, for years, Wal-Mart, the US giant retailer, thought their biggest Carbon Footprint came from their truck fleet, which makes sense, Wal-Mart must burn a huge amount of fuel to transport all their goods around. But no, upon doing their first Carbon audit, they found the biggest contributor was their chillers and fridges. Armed with this knowledge, Wal-Mart worked on their refrigeration efficiency and made a huge reduction in their overall pollution and overhead costs.
My point is, it doesn’t matter what you think of the environment, of climate change or conservation, if you’re not managing your Carbon Footprint, you’re just missing the boat totally. Your Carbon Footprint, at it’s core is about the environment and climate change, but at a day to day life level, it’s about being efficient and that’s never a bad thing.
So what can you do? The best thing for individuals is to understand what items or activities have the biggest impact on climate change. On this note:
• The car you drive is probably one of the biggest decisions individuals can make with regards to your Carbon Footprint and slowing climate change. Hummer not cool, Hybrid, very cool.
• Buy locally produced goods. Those lovely, sweet Kiwi fruits you see on the shelf that had to travel 15 000Km’s to get to your plate, bad news.
• Cut down on electricity use. Switch off lights, turn down your geyser, cook on gas instead of electric stove, just switch stuff off.
• Air conditioners, not only contribute a lot of Carbon due to their heavy energy requirements, but the gasses that your air conditioner is re-filled with have an impact almost 1000 times that of Carbon Di-oxide.
• Meat, we have discussed the methane in cow’s farts before. The beef industry is responsible for almost 17% of all greenhouse gasses!
• Recycle. You save almost 90% on the production of a can made from recycled aluminum vs. a can made from scratch.
• For business owners, get a baseline Carbon Footprint Audit done. It’s not expensive and gives you a lot of business intelligence to work with to help you reduce your impact and overheads, plus it makes a wonderful unique selling proposition.
For the individual, this is the tip of the iceberg, as climate change talks carry on around the world and we see more devastating impacts of climate change, such as the super hurricane that decimated the Philippines in recent weeks. The pressure is on governments are making legally binding commitments to reduce Carbon Emissions, we can expect to see a lot more on this topic in the years to come.
If you would like more detailed information on measuring your Carbon Footprint, Carbon Credits or technicalities of the subject, please feel free to drop us a line any time or visit our website at www.etc-africa.com.
Words: Duncan Pritchard
Picture: Phillip van Niekerk