All of us must have heard the word 'carbon footprint' in our schools. We are all taught about it in our science classes, but not many of us have bothered to remember this word or to act upon it after writing our school's final exam.
Guessing that most of us must have lost all touch with the things we learned in school, I believe it is important to brush up on a few facts, and more importantly, change some things about our daily lives that will make a big impact on the world around us.
Carbon Footprint: Breaking It Down
Let’s start by understanding what a carbon footprint actually is. A carbon footprint is defined as the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization or a community. In essence, it is being aware of how all the things you do each day - from your transportation decisions to what you eat for dinner – and what output of greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels are necessary to complete those actions. Fairly straightforward, but the really important and difficult part starts once we have understood what this term means.
Each decision we make is related to using energy that was generated from somewhere, most often from the use of fossil fuels. These fossil fuels being burned to produce everything from your water bottle to the petroleum in your car release greenhouse gases- molecules that trap the world’s heat, damage the ozone layer that protects us from the sun and ultimately contributes to the crisis of global warming- something that affects each and every one of us.
The irony of the situation is that although all of us understand the importance of reducing our own carbon footprint, not many of us choose to act upon it.
The increase of carbon footprints is like a chain reaction. Small activities involved in our daily life which might seem harmless, if we add them all together, are actually sucking the life out of our environment. The worst part is that we will be the ultimate victims of all the torment that we are causing to the environment. But not to fear.
On this year’s International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, let's take a pledge and become partners in reducing our carbon footprints as individuals, communities, and organizations.
Let us take a look at a few ways that can help us achieve our goal:
- The first and the foremost rule is the rule of four R's. It’s old, but indescribably important. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Refuse. Just by following a few simple steps you can execute these principles in your daily life. Reduce your purchasing habits of things you don’t need (for example, get yourself a reusable water bottle instead of buying one on the go every day). Reuse what you can (have leftover grocery bags? Use them as your lunch carrier). Recycle we know, but seldom do because we see it as inconvenient- all you really need though is a second bin, and you’re good to go). Refuse means you make purchase decisions based off of how environmentally friendly a product is (for example, if it has a lot of unnecessary packaging, choose a brand that has earth-friendly packaging).
- Avoid traveling by individual cars or bikes. Take public transport whenever you can and in case you cannot, carpooling is your best bet. It reduces the amount of fuel used per individual and in turn reduces the pollution caused.
- Another mode of transport that we are heavily dependent on these days is air travel. We must understand that air travel is one of the largest producers of pollution and harmful gases. In addition to air pollution, jets add to noise pollution also. So we should travel wisely whenever we need to travel by air. A simple solution is traveling by economy. This will help reduce the harm caused by one individual as the economy accommodates more than business class or first class.
- We also need to spread maximum awareness about this topic. There still are many people in the country who are not aware of the harm they are causing the environment. For example, if you go on Hampta Circle trek, you will find that the women in Jagatsukh village of Himachal Pradesh still use wood fuel to cook for their families on a daily basis. The Indian Government is doing their bit by making LPG cylinders (cooking gas) more accessible but we must also do our bit by helping the government spread awareness. Trash burning is another extremely harmful practice that can be curtailed. When your friend throws their used soda bottle on the ground, let them know it’s not okay.
- It is very important that we must advocate a solution to a serious problem that stands in front of us. We must get in touch with local authorities of our community and take conscious steps which will help in recovering from the loss that we have piled up for ourselves. Make the government talk about such things, get in touch with them and help them know what’s important so that they can help you in turn.
- With today's technological advancements, it has become much easier to conserve energy and reduce the harmful effects of energy consumption on the environment. Use electricity more efficiently by using appliances which have a higher star rating. Show brands that this is something you care about. If you buy it, they’ll make more of it. Use LED bulbs. Make it a habit to switch off all appliances, lights, and fans when they are not in use.
- Try to use as much local produce as you can for your daily food needs. We don’t think about this much, but transporting the goods that we purchase consumes a lot of energy and pumps a lot of harmful substances back into the environment from which we produce our food.
- Most importantly, if you see anyone undertaking an activity that will harm the environment, take steps to have a conversation with them and help them understand the harmful effects their actions have.
These simple steps can be very easily incorporated into our daily lives, and if we successfully reduce our carbon footprint, we will create a better world for ourselves and our children to live in.
If there is one thing that we must always remember, it is that "we have not inherited nature from our ancestors, we have borrowed it from our children."
If all of us join our hands and work towards a common goal, the day is not very far away when our environment will flourish and we will be able to live better, healthier lives for generations to come.