Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Preamble
Topics this article covers:
- Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Preamble
What is Carbon Footprint?
The term ‘Carbon Footprint’ was first coined in the early 2000’s by oil company British Petroleum in a fiendishly deceptive marketing campaign designed to shift focus away from the impact the large fossil fuel company’s operations and lack of due diligence had on the environment, and instead let the average consumer calculate how much they were at fault, thereby putting a measure on their own guilt.
Etymology and contemptible commentary aside, Carbon Footprint in the modern sense relates to how much of an impact an individual, household, business, or industry has in contributing to the global release of excess Carbon Dioxide (a greenhouse gas – more on this later) into the atmosphere.
There is an associated Carbon cost for most things we do, especially in the areas of household heating, electricity production and appliances, transport, and agricultural operations. Throughout this series we will take a look at each of these areas and more in order to identify key actions to cut down on Carbon and utilise our resources in a highly sustainable manner.
If you would like to calculate an estimate of your household’s Carbon Footprint you can do so with this carbon calculator from Nature.org
See also our blog on The Carbon Footprint
How CO2 affects the environment
Greenhouse gases; so called because of their concentrated effect of trapping heat – simulating the insulation factor of a greenhouse, are gases that absorb and emit radiant thermal energy. Among these gases are CO2, water vapour (H2O), ozone (O3), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O); all of which are found in the Earth’s atmosphere.
As more and more greenhouse gases get trapped in the atmosphere, more heat from the Sun remains, increasing global temperatures in a process called Global Warming:
Global Warming by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, consider that if there were no greenhouse gasses at all in our atmosphere, the average temperature of Earth’s surface would be -18°C – a tad bit nippy for life as we know it.
Convection is the process heat transfer within a gas/liquid from one region to another and it’s quite difficult to construct a predictive model of how this unfolds on a scale as big the Earth. Anyone who is familiar with chaos theory has an idea of how even the simplest interactions within and between dynamic systems can quickly spiral into uncertainty under the slightest of changes.
For a more detailed look at chaos see here
This much is given: an unbalance in the global temperature will result in drastic changes to the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather conditions such as heatwaves, flooding, drought, and more, this is climate change and threatens to throw current global climates, which we have come to know and manage somewhat, into a chaotic spiral forcing us to adapt to the new coming challenges.
For a real-world scenario of where the Earth could be heading look no further than the planet Venus, where the dense CO2 atmosphere and runaway greenhouse effect has helped surface temperatures reach 737 Kelvin (or 464° Celsius) and a surface pressure 92 times greater than that of Earth.
In each subsequent topic of this blog series we’ll explore different areas of concern regarding our Carbon Footprint and learn about how we can cut it down and utilise our appliances and resources more efficiently.
See also our blogs on:
- Ways you can help the environment as a student
- Public transport
- Sustainable Fashion
- 5 Ways to travel more ecologically
Carbon Offsetting – Too good to be true?
Carbon Offsetting is a relatively new buzzword companies are using to indicate they are promising to do at least the bare minimum to alleviate their Carbon Footprint. This usually takes the form of an optional charge added onto a purchase; that money is then either used directly by the company to reduce or remove greenhouse gases from the air (that usually ended up there as a result of the company’s operations), or is put into a magical “green project” lottery that benefits someone, somewhere in the world.
Unsurprisingly, there has been negative connotations surrounding Carbon Offsetting trends for businesses. Back in March of 2019, Mel Evans, Senior Campaigner at Greenpeace UK said:
“…when compared to ideas like frequent fliers paying more and more heavily for trips abroad, carbon offsetting transport falls very short. Paying lip service to action, and piecemeal measures are not an option.“
While the World Economic Forum is also aware that:
[Carbon Offsetting] “It’s an approach that some say might even cause people to disassociate themselves from the issue and deflect attention from the immediate dangers posed by climate change.“
Green Energy Providers
The main suppliers of 100% renewable energy in Ireland include:
- SSE Airtricity
Whereas older businesses such as Bord Gáis and Electric Ireland (ESB) utilise a mix of renewable and non-renewable energy sources, approx. 41.1% & 65.3% respectively according to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) Fuel Mix Disclosure 2021.
“Ireland is committed to the goal of at least 16% of its energy coming from renewables by 2020. This target, known as the ‘overall renewable energy share (RES)’ target is a mandatory target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED).“
As of 2022, we have not reached this goal, we are at around 13.5%.
For more information to switching to a renewable energy plan check out: this page on switcher.ie
: EcoWorlder, “Who invented the ‘carbon footprint’? the shocking origins,” Medium, 07-May-2022. [Online]. Available: https://medium.com/greener-together/who-invented-the-carbon-footprint-the-shocking-origins-13d940d05f59. [Accessed: 25-Oct-2022].
: Admin, “What do you need to know about thermal energy?,” PMC.SG EDUCATION GROUP, 17-Oct-2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.pmc.sg/need-know-thermal-energy/. [Accessed: 25-Oct-2022].
: “Greenhouse gas,” Wikipedia, 29-Oct-2022. [Online]. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas. [Accessed: 30-Oct-2022].
: “Venus,” Wikipedia, 29-Oct-2022. [Online]. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus. [Accessed: 30-Oct-2022].
: “Greenpeace reaction to the Spring Statement,” Greenpeace UK, 02-Aug-2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/greenpeace-reaction-spring-statement/. [Accessed: 30-Oct-2022].
: “What is carbon offsetting?,” World Economic Forum. [Online]. Available: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/06/what-is-carbon-offsetting/. [Accessed: 30-Oct-2022].
: “Who offers renewable energy in Ireland?,” Best Renewable Energy Suppliers Ireland | Green Tariff Prices. [Online]. Available: https://switcher.ie/gas-electricity/guides/renewable-energy/. [Accessed: 30-Oct-2022].
This series was originally inspired by the handy little pocketbook: How to Reduce your Carbon Footprint by Joanna Yarrow
About the Author
Giuseppe Gillespie is an infrequent Irish writer often forced to write about himself in the 3rd person as he is not famous enough to merit someone else doing it for him. He has informed me (who is definitely not him) that he hopes this could change in future, as well as his fondness for ending things with a preposition, notwithstanding. For more see: gillespie-writing.com
One thought on “Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Preamble”