A carbon footprint (Expressed as CO2e, Carbon Dioxide Equivalent) is the total amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission caused by an individual, event, organisation, service, place or product. Carbon Dioxide and Methane are some examples of GHG. 

The term ‘Carbon footprint’ predominantly has been coined in order to make the responsibility of carbon emissions be noticed and felt at individual, corporate and national levels. 

Imagine if you have come across a statement that ‘Global warming is going to have irreversible actions on the planet’s ecology due to the carbon emissions,’ this just might have made you think ‘So what I can do, the government should do something’, it’s easy to pass on the tasks. Rather if you would hear the statement ‘Your carbon footprint for this month is XX Kgs which is equivalent to losing YY trees’, then it comes to a personal aspect of taking responsibility for saving the planet. 

Also, the reason that standard terms are paramount is in order to define, execute and monitor actions at individual, corporate and national levels. Like if you offset X amount of Carbon footprint on a corporate level you’ll get YY Credits which can further be used for tax benefits, etc, adding more significance due to the standard term.

We can further categorise the causes of CARBON FOOTPRINT in the below three areas: 

Individual – Any person’s individual impact on carbon emissions.
Corporate – Impact of business activities like services or products, on carbon emissions.
Government –  Impact of governmental activities like introducing policies, power plant operations, coal-minings, etc on carbon emissions.

A glimpse of the global carbon footprint can be referred to below to understand the magnitude of problems that might lead in the form of environmental catastrophes: 

 environmental catastrophes

History – Origin of the term ‘Carbon Footprint’

The term was derived from Willam E. Rees’s ‘Ecological footprint’ concept from the 1990s. Carbon footprints are usually reported in tons of emissions per year. 

However, the popularisation of the term on ‘personal carbon footprint’ levels only be observed by a widespread advertising campaign by BP (A fossil fuel company) in 2005, designed by Ogilvy. 
The messages by BP go as ‘go on a low-carbon diet’, ‘39% less CO2 for starters’, and many more can be referred to below:

History - Origin of the term ‘Carbon Footprint’

How to calculate your carbon footprint? 

A lot of government and non-profit organisations facilitate a Carbon footprint calculator which you can use free of cost, one such is stated below:
CALCULATE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT

A Carbon footprint calculator help in calculating Carbon footprint by taking cities and countries for the below activities:

  • Travel
  • Home
  • Food
  • Shopping

Key Factors in calculating carbon footprint? Individuals

  1. Count the members of your household
  2. Consider a Size for your home
  3. Evaluate your food choices
  4. Examine your water consumption
  5. Determine household purchases
  6. Consider how much waste you produce 
  7. Identify the amount of waste you recycle
  8. Tally annual transportation scores

For detailed resources: Refer here Corporates

Step 1: Calculate the Organisation’s operational consumption
Step 2: Identify Operations emission factor
Step 3: Get Total Emission in tonnes of CO2

Total Emission in tonnes of CO2

As a Renewable Energy Procurement consultant/manager, you can also refer to the CDP resources for further CO2 emissions related data by large corporates across the globe and the associated ratings, which looks like the below image preview here: CDP

Governments

If you’re curious about CO2 footprints by a project undertaken by governments and the associated Carbon footprint generated, you can refer to one such case study on ‘Co2 footprint generated by a Road project’ 

Benefits of environmental disclosures: 

Measuring is the key to managing. Climate change, deforestation, water security, and other issues are increasingly being recognized as benefits of taking early action by companies, cities, states, and regions. 

What is the need to reduce carbon footprint? 

Be it for an individual, a corporate or a government, reducing Carbon footprint can mitigate the risk of climate change, which further reduces the adverse impact on the planet’s ecology. Additionally, it also helps in overall economic growth in a sustainable manner. 

As Lisa Jackson, Apple's Vice President for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, said: "Our company operates on 100% clean energy and our supply chain is transitioning to do the same, proving there is no right or wrong choice between a healthy planet and a good business strategy. We'll continue to call for strong global targets that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect this planet for future generations as Apple strives towards 100% carbon neutral products by 2030."

Matt Brittin, Google's President for Europe & the Middle East, said: "We are proud to support this ambitious goal." By 2030, Google wants to run its global operations on zero-carbon energy.  Additionally, we support policies that support climate action and help others reduce carbon emissions through technology and tools."

How Solar Energy can help reduce the carbon footprint? 

As solar panels produce electricity, they prevent us from burning fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases. Earth is also shaded from the sun by them.

Solar Carbon Savings: An Overview
The carbon savings associated with solar energy are different for every household. There is no single home that has the same sun-facing orientation or uses the same amount of energy. Exactly, for this reason, you should trust a local solar installation contractor! In order to design the best solar photovoltaic (PV) system for your home, you need to pay close attention to detail. 
You reduce the carbon emissions of your local power utility by every kilowatt hour (kWh) that your solar PV system produces.
The carbon footprint of each kWh of electricity produced is 0.846 pounds. 
 
Carbon emissions vs. solar power
Let us do some math here. Assuming that your home gets abundant sunlight throughout the year and you offset your daytime electricity usage. An average solar PV system is 5kW which could generate 6,000 kWh in a year (Assumption: 300 sunny days in India). From the above Carbon footprint findings, we can say that you offset  6,000 X 0.846 = 5076 lbs of CO2 every year which is equivalent to 13 trees consuming the same amount of CO2 in a year.

What are you waiting for? Act now!

Read FurtherWhat Are Carbon Offsets?

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