Updated: Aug 15
Previously, we featured a blog on corporate guilt on the environment and how they redirect it to the customers here on Well Made World. (You should definitely visit that story if you haven't read it, yet.) In that entry, we mentioned how 70% of global carbon emissions are produced by only 100 corporations, mainly from the oil and mining industries. However, we are also not completely innocent either. Which is why this article will argue why we should still care for our carbon footprint and give you information on our biggest carbon footprints.
A conversation published in Vox between Gaby del Valle and Richard Heede, co-founder and co-director of the Climate Accountability Institute, calls attention to consumer accountability:
“They’re [100 top contributors of carbon emissions] producing the fossil fuels we all use. We have traced them to the oil and gas companies that extract and market the coal, so we think they are responsible for mitigating and transforming the carbon economy. But to be clear, it’s the consumers that burn and demand the fossil fuels that these companies provide.
The companies may have some responsibility for their product—for lobbying in favor of the carbon economy, and for getting subsidies and arguing for subsidies—but some responsibility ought to fall on individuals, households, and corporations.”
In this sense, we are responsible for this chain occurrence of using fossil fuels and producing carbon dioxide. Yes, sometimes using fossil fuels and its byproducts or services linked to it are inevitable. Currently, they are the cheapest and most viable option. Considering the current economical state (especially during the pandemic), opting for a more environmentally sound options may be out of the book and not our biggest concern. However, we still need to be aware of our actions and our impact, our carbon footprint, so we can assist in reducing it on other sectors.
Before we continue, let’s first recall what is carbon emission and carbon footprint. To be honest, this term should no longer be foreign to our ears by now. We’ve heard congresspersons, activists, and scientists use this term for a good few years now, but let’s refresh our knowledge.
Carbon emissions are essentially carbon gas that we release into the atmosphere. These gasses include carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as methane (CH4). Combining the aforementioned with nitrogenous oxide (N2O) and fluorinated gases creates what we call greenhouse gases.
Now, we all should be familiar with greenhouse gases. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that greenhouse gases are toxic pollutants that trap heat within our atmosphere, increasing our global climate (inducing what we know as climate change). Carbon emission relates to carbon footprint, which we understand as the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by individuals, households, or corporations.
Now that we’ve established that, how can we reduce our carbon footprint? Or what sectors should we focus on as alternatives to carbon footprint minimization.
Well, there’s a simple answer to this. First, let’s break it down into different categories: electricity, transportation, and residential. FYI, agriculture, land use, forestry, and industry sectors contribute to the carbon footprint chain. Even if these sectors are on a much bigger scale, the choice is still with us, but we'll talk about that in another time.
So, let's start with electricity. EPA suggests that electricity production makes up 25% of 2016 greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second-largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. This immense contribution is simply because a big chunk of our electricity still relies on burning fossil fuels to generate power. We can reduce our carbon footprint from electricity by turning off lights when you’re not in the room or air-drying clothes in the summer. Richard Heede also backs this up in the Vox interview: “Those kinds of things are free, and they save several hundred pounds [in CO2 emissions] per year.”
Next on the list is transportation. One of the most significant emission contributors is private cars. If you’re living alone, having a car may not be the best environmental investment for you. EPA finds that an average private vehicle releases about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Imagine that added to your personal carbon footprint! Not to mention the gasses emitted during production. If you want, you can invest in eco-friendly or electric cars that would cut off a big chunk of your carbon emissions from this sector. A much cheaper alternative, you can ride a bicycle to work or go on public transportation. Plus, it would save you a bunch of gas money too.
Lastly, is residential. We’ll start this section by quoting Richard Heede again: “you get into some things we can do to renovate and retrofit our houses to be more energy-efficient. Replacing showerheads, insulating water heaters, buying more efficient lights, having automatic controls for thermostats.” From that quote alone, we can do so much to increase our energy efficiency at home. We can also change to solar power and use filtered rainwater for showers and gardening. If you’re planning to build your own home, you can even design it to be more sustainable! There is a rising trend in sustainable architecture by using designs that would take advantage of the landscape to create natural cooling system for hotter terrains. Another sustainable design is by knowing the sunlight exposure in your area to use as much natural light as possible during the day to avoid using electricity.
By the end of the day, changing our lifestyle to be more eco-friendly is not that hard. But, unfortunately, some people tend to overcomplicate things by unwilling to let go of the small luxuries that are convenient for them. We need to realize that it is time to adjust. We are reaching a critical point in our climate change, and we need everyone to stand together and change.
So, what do you say? Let’s reduce our carbon footprint together!