The 20th and 21st century have seen ginormous revolution and advancements in the field of industrialization and technology. The volume and amount of technological products and services that we use today and the vast scale of industrial development have surely made our lifestyle luxurious and hassle-free, but this face of evolution has surely taken its toll on the environment. Here, we discuss what is carbon footprint, the causes, how it affects climate change and a few ways and methods to decrease it.

What is Carbon Footprint?

According to WHO, “A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact your activities have on the amount of carbon dioxide produced through the burning of fossil fuels and is expressed as a weight of CO2 emissions produced in tonnes”. The New York Times describes it as “A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production, use and end-of-life of a product or service. It includes carbon dioxide — the gas most commonly emitted by humans — and others, including methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global warming.” These emissions are a result of an individual’s usage of basic amenities like transportation, housing and food and other technologies. For millions of years, these greenhouse gases present in proportion in the Earth’s atmosphere have kept the climate warm and conducive for habitation, but their huge emission levels have ended up heating the Earth beyond safe limits and have drastically affected its climate. Greenhouse gases trap heat released mostly from human activities like burning fossil fuels for heat, electricity, transportation, industries as well as agricultural, commercial and domestic activities. These unwanted levels of greenhouse concentrations cause complex shifts in the normal environmental cycle, leading to climate change and rising temperatures on the planet. Climate change has adverse effects on the environment resulting in extreme weather effects, shifting wildlife populations, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, change in precipitation, ocean acidification due to acid rains and a number of respiratory diseases from smog and air pollution due to entrapment of carbon dioxide, monoxide and other gases in the atmosphere.

How can we bring about reduction in the carbon footprint?

Well, a lot of efforts will go into almost restoring the natural balance of the environment and climate. But as they say, charity begins at home! Every individual can take small steps to reduce their carbon footprint and make a huge difference in the years to come. For instance, we can keep a daily check on our personal and household carbon footprint via Carbon Calculators, make a plan based on the provided reduction recommendations, and act upon solutions like limit unwanted use of electricity, heat and other products. LED lights are known to use 85% less energy and run 25% longer than conventional incandescent lights. Switching to energy efficient sources will surely help reduce our greenhouse emissions. Choosing to buy sustainably also helps. We can minimize the use of resources emitting greenhouse gases, reduce discarding non-biodegradable products and create awareness amongst our colleagues and co-workers about the same at our workplace.

Various reports stated that carbon emissions from transportation surpassed emissions from electricity generation as a top source of greenhouse gases. Going carless for a year could save about 2.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to 2017 study from researchers at Lund University and the University of British Columbia — that’s a little more than a roundtrip transatlantic flight. So, to reduce these emissions effectively, we can minimise the use of personal vehicles, keep maintenance of the vehicles regularly, travel by public transportation as much as possible or car-pool to the workplace, or invest into a better option – electric (green) vehicles!

A lot of energy is used up for our food production and consumption methods. We can reduce this energy usage by eating better and less processed food, lessening wastage, using decomposable plates and utensils rather than plastic ones, etc.

On a greater scale, optimizing industrial processes and changing to more sustainable ways of manufacturing goods, adopting renewable energy sources for daily use and creating policies to bring about reduction in the carbon footprint are necessary to reverse detrimental effects to the environment and climate in the coming decades.

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