Carbon Footprints

We hear a lot nowadays about our “carbon footprint”, but what does it mean, and what do we need to do about it?

A carbon footprint is the amount of “greenhouse gases” a country, a business, a product or even ourselves as individuals are responsible for emitting. A greenhouse gas is produced every time we use energy which has been produced by burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the carbon-based compounds, coal, oil and gas. When we burn these compounds the resultant gases change the make-up of our atmosphere and trap the suns heat in a layer around the earth, making the planet hotter.

A carbon footprint is usually measured in tonnes of CO2, or carbon dioxide gas, the main greenhouse gas. You will have noticed in the news that the earth’s environment is changing due to the climate change caused by greenhouse gases and the rise in temperature of the planet. We are hearing about many more natural disasters and changes in normal weather patterns. Even in Bali we have seen evidence of climate change with the shift in rainy season and dry season. Last year rainy season started late, his year it has gone on longer than normal. In order to stop climate change we each need to work towards reducing our personal carbon footprint, and we also need to demand of politicians, businesses and manufacturers that they do the same.

As individuals we are responsible for changing our behaviour. The three areas we use energy are in our homes, travelling and what we use and buy. Of these, around 45% of your carbon footprint comes from the things we use and buy. Approximately 27% each comes from the other two categories. These amounts depends upon your lifestyle though, and you can work out your personal carbon footprint online on http://www.climatecrisis.net/takeaction or http://www.dft.gov.uk/ActOnCO2 . These sites are for US and UK respectively but you can get some idea of your CO2 emissions, and it’s a good idea to look round the sites too.

When you identify where your major uses of energy are, then you can think about how to reduce them. So if you find that you travel a lot, in cars, on airplanes etc. then you can try to reduce this. If it is something you can not possibly reduce then the websites mention how to neutralise the effects of the energy you expend. Being “carbon neutral” is the ultimate aim; paying the environment back for the energy you expend. You can explore this further on http://www.carbonneutral.com .

So what simple things can we start to do now to reduce our carbon footprint? Just starting to be more aware of your energy expenditure will help. Most of the ways to reduce your footprint will also save you money at the same time as saving the environment.

Travel
Think about your car/ bike journeys. Do you need to nip out to the shops for one item, or can it wait until you do a larger amount of shopping? Avoid so many flights by planning your business trips less frequently but stay longer, or take a holiday within the country instead of flying out. Can you car share or even ride a bike to work instead of taking the car alone?

Home Energy
It takes more energy to make a battery than the energy it will give you back. Use rechargeable batteries and save money too. Increase the temperature setting on your air conditioning by just one degree, you won’t feel the difference but the environment will. Better still use fans instead, they are better for your respiratory system than air-con too. Switch off electrical appliances instead of leaving them on standby. Sending your clothes to the laundry means they are tumble dried. Wash at home and line dry in the sun to save money, energy and avoid your clothes getting ruined all the time! Only boil the amount of water you need for your cup of tea or coffee, reducing energy by around 30%. Make sure your fridge is not too cold and using extra energy, or too warm and your products are spoiling, causing waste. Even the way you cook your food has an effect. Think of the energy used to bake a potato rather than boil it.

Things You Use and Buy
Have a mindset change and stop the commercialism trend. When you buy try to be more consciously aware. Do you need what you are buying, or you just want it? There is a big difference in terms of unnecessary energy being expended. We may keep thinking, well, its’ the big manufacturing companies that are really spoiling the environment. They are responsible for releasing the majority of the greenhouse gases and polluting the environment. But they are manufacturing to demand; our demand. If we didn’t buy so much, they wouldn’t make it. To reduce your footprint one easy thing to do is to chose locally made/ grown products. Does it really make sense to eat a banana from Thailand? So much fresh produce is available within Bali, and you are supporting local people by buying it. Ultimately it is better for you too. Plus when you think of all the extra energy needed for packaging, storage, and flights needed to get you a banana from Thailand, you can imagine how much larger your carbon footprint would be when you eat it.

By taking action to reduce your carbon footprint, and by encouraging others to do the same you are acting to save yourself money, and to help save the environment. For even more information on climate change and carbon footprints, please watch the informative film documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” narrated by Al Gore. Thanks for reading this column.

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