We have realized this for quite some time now, but the human presence on the planet takes its toll. Industrialization has led in the last two centuries to an increased consumption of natural resources, which as we all know are finite, and cannot be eroded without any kind of control. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions have increased, with all the risks to the environment, starting with the damage caused on flora and fauna. We must also not forget the phenomenon of global warming, which is bringing various climatic upheavals to every corner of the Earth.
In order to understand what humanity's real weight on the planet is, a particular unit of measurement, the so-called carbon footprint, was born. This is a unit of measurement that takes into account how many natural resources humans consume, and allows us to understand how much our presence and our actions impact the environment.
By keeping this parameter low, we can thus build a more sustainable development, trying to limit the negative influence of us humans in the habitat around us. Let's look in detail at the carbon footprint what it is and how it can be calculated.
Carbon footprint: what it means
In our introduction we briefly explained "carbon footprint" what it means. This unit of measurement is calculated in tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). The amount of carbon dioxide is an ideal means of being able to measure our impact on the planet, because it is a molecule that is obtained as a result of most industrial processes, and it unfortunately promotes the phenomenon of global warming. CO2 is emitted not only by industries, but by most human activities: for example, it is the main waste released by the gasoline engines of our cars.
That is why it is crucial to try to decrease the value of the carbon footprint in the coming years. Achieving this will make a real difference on what the Earth's future will be. How can we decrease our carbon footprint?
Much depends on institutions and big business, which will have to do their part first, promoting more eco-friendly production and consumption processes.
We ordinary citizens can still do our part, for example, by choosing to make our commutes greener, with hybrid or electric cars. In addition, the importance of thermally insulating one's home should not be underestimated, so as to reduce consumption in both summer and winter.
How it is calculated
How is the carbon footprint calculation done? To carry it out, parameters defined by an international body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have been introduced. Usually the carbon footprint calculation is not done on individuals, but on the entire population of a specific country or geographic area. By collecting this data we can understand what the main sources of pollution are, and act with regulations and initiatives to reduce emissions and consumption.
In this regard, an attempt is made to analyze in detail both the carbon footprint generated by products and that generated by organizations. In this way it is possible to calculate the environmental impact of the entire life cycle of an object or business activity.
Let us begin by analyzing how the footprint of an individual product is calculated. Usually the measurement is done starting from the extraction of raw materials, continues throughout the production process, and goes all the way to the final disposal of the object. Alternatively, analyses can also be carried out on individual process steps.
On the other hand, as far as organizations are concerned, emissions are divided into two specific categories, direct and indirect. We have emissions that depend directly on the activity of the company itself, and those that depend instead on other companies, whose activity is related to the operations of the company we are analyzing.
Can we calculate our individual carbon footprint?
There is a very precise and thorough tool available on the Web that allows us to calculate our individual carbon footprint. Just search the search engines for Carbon FootPrint Calculator, made by the Global Footprint Network.
On this platform we can enter various data about our lifestyle, and then the system will make an estimate of our impact on the environment and resource consumption.
The questions asked by the system are divided into six major sections, where several areas dedicated to travel stand out. We have the Car, Motorcycle, Flight, and Public Transportation sections available. We are asked to enter the number of miles we travel each year by each of these means of transportation, and in the case of cars and motorcycles also the type and energy efficiency.
Another very important section is the Home section, where we have to enter all the main characteristics of our home, such as the fuels used for heating and consumption divided by the number of people in the household.
Finally, we find the Secondary section, which concerns a whole series of activities, actions and habits that we perform during the year, such as the type of spending or even how we spend our free time.