Friday, May 20, 2011

Understanding The Carbon Footprint And How It Affects The Environment By Martin Barwise

First of all, the term carbon footprint refers to a measurement of greenhouse gases released by human activities based on the amount of carbon dioxide units that is produced. This helps scientists and government decision makers gauge how severe a particular human activity affects the environment by contributing to the so-called Greenhouse Effect.

You can compute your own primary carbon footprint, by taking into account your fuel consumption in your household and your travel activities per year.

In the first category which is fuel consumption per household, you should factor in the following:

o electricity consumption per year for your household

o natural gas consumption per year for your household

o LPG (liquified petroleum gas) consumption per year by your household

o household oil consumption per year by your household

o coal consumption per year by your household

o and the number of people who live in your household.

For the second category, which involves travel activities per year, you should factor in these:

o total mileage of your vehicle per year (for those who own their own private vehicle)

o total mileage of your second vehicle per year (for those who have an additional vehicle)

o miles traveled on the train per year

o miles traveled on both local buses and underground transportation systems per year

o miles traveled on long distance bus and coach per year

o yearly travel by air, in terms of short-haul return flights, medium-haul return flights, and long-haul return flights.

You can use an online carbon footprint calculator (like that found on and enter in all these factors. The online calculator will do the computing for you so you can see just how extensively your activities affect the environment by contributing to carbon dioxide emissions.

Once you know how your activities affect Mother Earth, you can start taking steps to minimize your contribution to carbon dioxide emissions. This is very important, particularly since African and Asian countries are revving up their economies which means a proportional increase in fuel consumption.

Some things you can do are:

o look for a green energy supplier who will supply power to your household. (A green energy supplier relies on renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric and wind power, which wreaks less havoc on the environment);

o turn off electricity-dependent machines if you really do not need to use them, or at least minimize usage of these items;

o minimize your central heating by up to 2 degrees;

o minimize water heating by up to 2 degrees;

o use a timer for your central heating at home so that it turns off when you leave home;

o only turn on the washing machine and clothes dryer if you have a full load of laundry to put in;

o try reducing water to heat in the kettle if you do not need that much hot water in the first place;

o do not overcharge your cellphone;

o defrost freezers and refrigerators periodically, even before ice builds up;

o try shopping only once a week, making bulk purchases so you can cut down on car fuel consumption;

o and minimize use of the tumble dry function - rather try using a clothesline and the sun to dry laundry.

There are many other things you can do to minimize your carbon footprint. Leave less of a carbon footprint and you will leave behind a more stable environment in the wake of your activities.

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