What does carbon footprint mean? Why is it important in the fight against climate change?

June 30, 2022

What does carbon footprint mean?

The entire world is being impacted by climate change, which is resulting in fast-changing climate conditions and extreme weather events including extreme heat waves, flooding, and heavy downpours. Understanding the sources of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions is crucial in order to take steps to reduce emissions and attain carbon neutrality, as suggested by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the 2015 Paris Agreement. What does carbon footprint actually mean, and why is it important in this situation?

What does carbon footprint mean?

Your daily decisions have an impact on the environment, whether you choose to jet out for the weekend or cook a pot roast. A simple way to describe that impact is through a carbon footprint. Your carbon footprint’s “size” is determined by a number of factors. The main one is the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions a certain activity releases into the atmosphere.

Carbon footprints can be found in people, products, and entire sectors. Your daily commute, the food you eat, the clothes you buy, everything you waste away, and more all contribute to your personal footprint. The environmental burden increases with the size of your footprint.

We must take two actions in order to stop climate breakdown and mitigate its worst effects: protect our finest natural forces in the fight against climate change, including forests, grasslands, mangroves, and tidal marshes, which store significant amounts of carbon, and transition to a low-carbon economy.

Everyone must significantly reduce their carbon footprint in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, from individuals to industries to nations. Here are the details and instructions you need to get going.

How is a carbon footprint calculated?

Measuring not only CO2 emissions but also those of other greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide and methane, which are 25 times more potent than carbon, allows for the estimation of a person’s carbon footprint. Each of these gases’ impacts are added together and given a single value in metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (MT CO2e). Life cycle analysis and input-output analysis are the two most often used techniques for estimating carbon footprints. The entire product’s life cycle, from manufacture to disposal, is taken into account during life cycle assessment. It entails adding up as many emissions paths as is practical.

The second technique, known as input-output analysis, assigns a footprint to a product depending on its price by utilising carbon intensities, which are expressed in kilogrammes of CO2 per dollar spent on the products. The method is much faster and can handle massive amounts of data because it is totally automated. This method’s key drawback is that it is unable to manage product-specific data, such as that related to low carbon sources.

Depending on whether you are dealing with modest or huge volumes of data, you must decide which method to use. To help you calculate your own carbon footprint, there are a tonne of calculators online. However, the results between websites could differ greatly depending on the methods employed. It will give you a rough notion of how much you contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in the environment even though it is merely an estimate. It could also provide you with better inspiration for eco-friendly lifestyle changes.

How can you reduce your carbon footprint?

We release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while going about our daily lives. We can lower our greenhouse gas emissions — carbon reduction — by minimising our carbon footprint. Future generations can benefit from the decisions we make every day regarding our houses, vacations, food consumption, and what we buy and discard. For instance, a vegetarian or vegan diet is better for the environment than one that includes a lot of meat.

Reducing a company’s carbon footprint is essential for compliance and stakeholder engagement. Adopting effective strategies for reducing emissions is necessary for corporate success. Businesses can invest in eco-sustainable activities to the extent that they capture the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions for which the organisation or activities are responsible in order to offset the emissions that they are unable to eliminate or reduce. For instance, giving money to eco-sustainable projects is one approach to make up for emissions if company stakeholders are unable to forgo flying or long-distance travel.

Making the world cleaner and more environmentally sustainable is the duty of everyone, including individuals and the private sector. We don’t think of the internet as a cause of climate change but the internet is responsible for 3.7% of global carbon emissions more than aviation (3%). The electricity used to power data centres, transmission networks and user devices is enormous. Much of that power comes from fossil fuels.

Eco-Friendly Web Alliance (EFWA) has set the standard for eco-friendly and climate positive websites and digital infrastructure. Addressing the climate crisis involves improving how we do what we do by holding in mind global warming, the exhaustion of natural resources and multiple species extinction – and EFWA is leading the way.

What are the estimated carbon emissions of your website? Get your free audit.

Carbon footprint of websites

Eco-Friendly Web Alliance supports our industry peers’ work on researching and developing an up-to-date unified approach on this. While we use our own tools, the methodology is based on this unified approach agreed amongst our industry peers.

Website Carbon Calculator at www.websitecarbon.com is a tool that we recommend, which gives you a reasonably good estimate of carbon emissions of your webpages. The calculation is based on the data transfer that happens when a website is loaded as the amount of data directly correlates with the energy used. Carbon calculator measures the data sent across the wire when the web page is loaded and multiplies it by the energy usage data available. There’s an adjustment for repeat visits by the same users to your website as they may have these files cached on their devices. Another useful tool in this regard is www.ecograder.com.

Join us in greening the internet: We aim to prevent 500,000 tonnes of CO2e from entering the atmosphere within the decade, by reducing the carbon emissions of websites, including yours.

Get your free full website audit from Eco-Friendly Web Alliance.

Carbon footprint by country

According to the European Union’s Joint Research Centre below are the top 10 CO2-emitting countries in the world (Total CO2 in Mt).

  1. China — 11680.42
  2. United States — 4535.30
  3. India — 2411.73
  4. Russia — 1674.23
  5. Japan — 1061.77
  6. Germany — 636.88
  7. South Korea — 621.47
  8. Saudi Arabia — 588.81
  9. Indonesia — 568.27

Written by Team EFWA