First off, what is a “carbon footprint” exactly? The Carbon part of Carbon Footprint refers to the greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide, that are emitted into the atmosphere from human activities. This also includes things that are considered natural, like cow farms or when bodies of water “burp” carbon dioxide into the air, but turn out to have come about via human influence.
The Footprint part of Carbon Footprint refers to the “impression” we leave as humans on the planet via the amount of greenhouse gases our lifestyle results in. For example, if one were to drive a large truck that was 40 years old, the emissions from such a vehicle would emit more hazardous exhaust than a modern 2-door car, thus having a larger carbon footprint.
Decreasing Your Carbon Footprint
Despite what would seem to be an insurmountable cultural system in which the gears keep turning and the elements of which are uninfluenced by the common person, there are a variety of ways that anyone in our modern world can decrease the impact they have over the general carbon footprint our society produces.
Most greenhouse gases are a result of gas-burning engines that come from automobiles, airplanes, trains and factories. Compared to consumer automobiles like sedans, minivans, small trucks and so on, industrial automobiles like big rigs, airplanes, freightliners and trains produce a much larger carbon footprint. So how, in the face of this, does one who perhaps has no direct impact over these large industrial machines actually do their part and decrease the amount of CO2 their actions directly, or indirectly, cause to come about?
The easiest element one can have action over pertaining to the world of transportation in general is to drive a more modern car, one that has been built to meet modern emission standards, versus an older car which would have worse emissions. Get your car serviced regularly to make sure that everything is working properly and keeping to modern emission standards.
If possible, take public transportation more than driving yourself, or even take use a zero emission vehicle like a bicycle or a scooter. A good way to see the impact of this would be to imagine everyone riding a bus or a train instead driving themselves, alone, in their cars on the freeways. How much more congested would the roads be?
To reduce the need for large trucks which are moving across the country constantly, transporting goods manufactured somewhere else, a good idea would be to buy things from local businesses wherein the goods they sell are made locally.
One aspect of the carbon footprint we all leave that is easily overlooked is the power consumption in our homes. To curb this, do things like installing more energy-efficient bulbs and turning off the lights in rooms that are not being sued at the time. Keep the thermostat at a more average range of temperature so that the AC or heater is not in need of being on constantly. One could even go the extra mile and have solar panels installed on their home to further reduce the need to have power sent to them via the power company.
So as to reduce the need for water purification plants needing to work more, take shorter showers and do not leave the faucet running. Wash your dishes when it is truly needed as opposed to maybe every day.
Doing these types of things will require a lifestyle change that some may feel is uncomfortable , but only at first. Living more sustainably will help you feel better about your impact on the planet and inspire others to do so. Individual efforts may not seem to have much of an impact on the overall carbon situation, but as a collective whole, massive changes can come about if, as a society, we began to adopt more and more carbon-saving practices, sacrificing perhaps a bit of comfort that we are normally used to.