How to calculate your carbon footprint

Let´s talk about carbon footprint. What exactly does it mean? Where does it come from? How can we approximately calculate it? and what can we do to reduce it?

Carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gases directly or indirectly produced to support human activities, usually expressed in units of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per annum (tCO2pa)

Well, it is how we measure the impact of humanity and its behavior on the environment.  And it is not just concerning industries and big corporations. It is concerning all of us. Because we all produce a carbon footprint. Yes, me and you, even when we are buying apples at the supermarket.

No, I am not crazy. Have you ever thought about how you get to the supermarket?
car? bus? truck? bicycle maybe? by feet? even better. This is a choice that influence your carbon footprint.

As well when you choose which kind of apples for examples.
Have you ever thought about the way these apples were cultivated?
intense agriculture? use of pesticides? bio? organic? biodynamic?

And more, have you ever thought about how those apples arrive at your supermarket?
where do they come from?
Let´s suppose you live in Germany like me now, I go to the supermarket and there I find these perfectly shaped apples from New Zeeland. How do they get here in Germany?
they can not fly obviously and tele transportation is not yet at the point of shipping apples from the other side of the world to Germany. So, we use flights, boats and trucks.
And how are they powered?

Fossil fuels.
Bingo.

So, the moment we or industries on our behalf burn fossil fuels for electricity, heating, transportation etc. they contribute to increasing carbon emissions, their carbon footprint as well as your carbon footprint the moment you choose to buy apples from New Zealand.

Let´s now have a look at how countries behave.

Here you can see the total carbon emissions of each country just to get an idea.

footprint1

Funny, isn´t it?

if you want to go deeper please visit carbon footprint of nations for a more precise overview and remember to select the footprint measure to “total footprint”.
All this data is a sum of the individual share of carbon emission related to the household and our behavior (transport, holiday, food…) and the share we have in maintaining public infrastructures, industries and products.

Therefore I decided to calculate mine.
I actually thought to be quite good, really, I mean, compared to my peers I buy few and selected things, I cycle (that is quite obvious right?), I never buy processed food, mostly organic and bio products or from the farmers but when I have seen the result I got scared.

Online you can find several carbon footprint calculators, but most of the ones I tried took into consideration just few countries (and therefore their actual background).

But I found this one quite trustworthy.

My result was shocking.

Screen Shot 2017-01-10 at 19.53.24

My carbon footprint was incredibly high, much more than expected, and higher compared to the world target.
I realized that what really increments it, is related to the household, transportation (especially flights and cars) and “secondary” activities mostly related to food and products we buy (based on the actual situation of the country I live in).

I know this calculator can not be 100% precise, it is impossible I guess, unless you track down all your expenses and make a perfect research about each single item or activity.
Anyway, it is shocking.
I mean, I do nothing crazy, I try to live as light as possible because I feel good in doing so but it is not enough.
It gives you an idea of how big the problem is.

It is huge guys, huge.

When I did this calculation for the first time I was asked to reduce it by 15%.

How to reduce your carbon footprint?
Man, I am not such a bad consumer and still I live in a city, I need to make a living, to learn and be curious and open to different cultures so, the solution can not be just about cutting and reducing everything to zero. That is not possible and neither make sense for humanity to develop.

Here I completely understood that I can already do small things to help our eco system, yes, but it is our society, us all, which needs to shift its focus and change. Because everything is interconnected and if we want to make a difference we have to act together.
But we need to start somewhere and I start with my choices.

I figured out I can still improve my habits and I made a feasible plan based on my actual condition:

Household
I do not own the apartment where I live so there are some things I can do and others which could be done but need time and preparation as well as participation so I decided to first concentrate myself on what I can do now.

  • I checked the energy provider and it is quite good as part of their electricity comes from renewable resources. But here I can choose a different company and look for 100% sustainable energy provider (there are not so many I know).
  • I need to be super careful about electricity consumption. I am already, but I am sure we can do better. For example when we have to buy appliances we can choose the most energy efficient ones and change current bulbs to LED ones.
  • what about heating? it depends really where you are, and live, there are plenty of different solutions but when it comes to my situation I can not choose the heating system myself, because it is centralized but I can invest in isolation (as well as cozy blankets). Luckily our apartment was well renovated and its insulation is very good.

Transportation
then I realized that here I do not need a car, we have one but we do not use it and either we decide to power it with bio diesel or we use it as less as possible. So we walk, cycle, use public transportation, carpooling options, travel by train or bus and limit the usage of flights. All of this without forcing ourselves to stay stuck all the time where we are. We can be curious anywhere.

Secondary
Food. I think to be already quite good with food as I try to buy regional food, or from a reasonable distance and from organic and biological cultivation. I do not buy processed food and I do not eat red meat. But I realized I actually can have my vegetable garden on the balcony.

Here the result based on the assumed plan
Not really outstanding, isn´t it?

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 17.23.35

This is the first and immediate plan we can all actually apply and I am sure many of you already do that.

What it is your carbon footprint? and what would you do about it?

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