What is the carbon footprint?
You may or may not have heard before of the carbon footprint, depending on how interested you are in things like climate change and the greenhouse effect. The carbon footprint is a type of measurement to indicate something’s influence on the emission of carbon into the atmosphere. This something can be anything specific, like an individual, a household, an event, a factory or product.
For now, we’ll focus on the carbon footprint you leave on the Earth. Do you have any idea how big it is? Can you guess some of the things you do that increase your footprint or the things that minimize it? This article will show you which daily habits enlarge your carbon footprint and will give you handy tips for reducing your carbon footprint. Did you know it’s even possible to create a negative carbon footprint? This happens when you live your life in a carbon neutral way and contribute to carbon-reducing activities, such as planting trees and bushes.
How big is your carbon footprint?
Everyone has a carbon footprint, but how big is yours? There are different activities that have a different impact on your carbon footprint. There are many carbon footprint calculators available online, which use a questionnaire to find out in which activities you participate and how often. This information is then used to estimate your annual carbon footprint, but of course remains merely an estimation.
It is much harder to get a specific carbon footprint for each individual, as you would need a high-tech tracking device following your every move every day.
Practical tips for reducing your carbon footprint
People are becoming much more conscious about the impact they leave on the Earth and want to know about easy, practical ways to reduce that impact. Here are our tips for reducing your carbon footprint!
1. Eat less red meat
This tip is at number 1 because recently the knowledge has been growing about how polluting eating (red) meat is. This is mostly about beef and applies to things like steaks, hamburgers and minced beef. 7,5% of global carbon emissions come from livestock, and the largest part is from cows. It takes an enormous amount of water and grain to produce one kg of beef, so cutting this from your diet would benefit your carbon footprint immensely. Some studies even show that when you don’t eat any meat at all, you could drive to your work every day for a year and still have a smaller footprint than a meat-eater who doesn’t have a car.
2. Don’t travel by plane
Flying is a petroleum-guzzling means of transport, so avoiding airplane travel reduces your carbon footprint enormously. Driving is not great for the environment either, but it’s far less polluting than air travel and is a preferred means of transport. Finally, it also makes a difference when you fly economy class, simply because more people can be fitted in, and the average carbon emissions per person go down.
3. Drive less and drive more consciously!
Driving a car increases your carbon footprint, so driving less decreases it! Take a walk or ride your bike as a means of transport and enjoy the benefits of physical exercise while you make an environmentally friendly choice! When you have longer distances to travel or the weather is not too good, you can use public transport or go carpooling. Look online for initiatives where private people offer a seat in their car for a certain trip they are going to make, for free or for a small fee and save money while you reduce your carbon footprint!
Also, you can browse online to find taxi services in your hometown that solely use electric cars to drive their clients. Or look online to see if your hometown offers electric car-sharing initiatives and “borrow” a car when you need one.
Then finally, when you do need to own a car, get a low-carbon one! Every car has a mile-per-gallon-rating, so you can compare your options. It also helps when you check your driving style, quick accelerating and a lot of braking impacts your fuel efficiency, the climate and your wallet.
4. Insulate your home!
When your home is isolated properly, it can keep the heat or freshness inside for far longer. It will also cost less energy to heat up or cool your home, depending on which climate you reside in.
For colder climates we advise to at least have windows with double or triple glass. Double- and triple-glazed windows have a vacuum-sealed space in between the glazing, with inert gas in it, to trap heat inside your house. Installing double-glazed windows in your house creates twice as much insulation as single-glazed windows, triple-glazed windows insulate even more. Not only does the heat get trapped inside your home, the sounds from outside will stay out better than with single-glazed windows.
Also, double glazing is tougher to break than single glazing and far less easy to open from outside. Besides a lower heating bill, you will get a more secure house, with less noise from outside protruding in.
5. Think about your electricity!
Change your energy provider to one that offers only clean energy. This can also save you money since they may offer you a better deal or a welcome bonus of some sort. Another option is to start providing your own energy by installing solar panels on your roof. Now can be a good time to jump in, since solar panels and the installation are getting cheaper every day.
Another simple tip is to turn down the heat in your home. When you’re cold, put on a sweater or maybe even take a small jog around the garden to heat up your body a little bit! For the summers, you can install an outside solar screen that keeps your house cool without having to turn on the air conditioner. As you may notice on your energy bill, air conditioners use up a lot of energy. Therefore, they have an exceptional impact on your carbon footprint!
Finally, it can be an option to have a geothermal pump installed in your home. Geothermal heat is exceptionally clean, reliable and has a double function. It’s clean because a probe will be installed next to your home which uses the warmer lower layer of the soil to generate heat. So, the heating system uses the naturally present heat of the Earth and a bit of electricity to warm your home, which is also what makes it so reliable. The Earth’s heat is always the same, during winter and summer.
The trick with geothermal heating is that cold water is pumped down into the probe and then comes up again a little warmer. It is then compressed by a gas mixture, which heats the water up to 18 or 19 degrees Celsius and then flows through your central heating system. The best part is that this means that during the summer, your central heating system is still supplied with water of that temperature, and will then cool your home, since it will be much warmer outside!
The downside of geothermal heating is that it has a high first-time installation cost, and that your home needs to be insulated with double or triple glazing for it to function properly. These costs can be returned by the energy savings you will enjoy within five or ten years, so it is a longer term investment. The upside is that you will have a very low heating bill and your carbon footprint from heating your house will be exceptionally low. Also, geothermal adds an attractive factor if you eventually sell your house, because the new residents will not be confronted with the high first-time installation costs, but will enjoy a low heating bill.
6. Replace your lights!
By replacing the lights in your home by more efficient LEDs, you will not only save money on your electricity, it will also reduce your carbon footprint. Some people feel hesitant to replace their lights, because they think the new lights won’t have the same lighting power, warmth or have to “warm up” for too long. Think again! In the past decade energy saving LED-lights have increased in quality and choice, so you can choose from many different light hues, some more white, others more yellow. When you buy new LEDs, they will not have any “warm up” time either. These lights are more energy efficient, but also have a far longer life span than classic incandescent lights. Plus, they don’t heat up as much, so you will not have to fear burning your skin on the lamp.
Another simple tip concerning lighting is to turn off your lights when you are not in a room!