What is a carbon footprint?

Understand the concept of carbon footprint, what it is for and learn how to calculate your

carbon footprint

The carbon footprint is a measure that calculates the equivalent carbon emission emitted into the atmosphere by a person, activity, event, company, organization or government. Many routine activities end up generating atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Imagine that everyone in the city, in the state, in the country and in the world also does similar activities... It's a lot of emission, isn't it? To get a sense of the quantities, all these gases can be converted into measures of carbon equivalent, carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq). When we measure the amount of carbon equivalent emitted into the atmosphere, we have the carbon footprint of a particular person, company or activity. But before we know what it's for, let's understand it better.

What is a carbon footprint?

The carbon footprint ( carbon footprint - in English) is a methodology created to measure greenhouse gas emissions - all of them, regardless of the type of gas emitted, are converted into equivalent carbon. These gases are emitted into the atmosphere during the life cycle of a product, process or service. Examples of activities that generate emissions are the burning of fossil fuels, the cultivation of rice, the creation of pasture for cattle, deforestation, fires, the production of cement, among others.

The carbon footprint is also part of the ecological (or environmental) footprint, defined by Rees and Wackernagel, which is a methodology that measures the amount of Earth needed to support our lifestyle. The carbon footprint is part of this methodology, as a part of the carbon dioxide is absorbed by oceans and forests that are bioproductive areas. The carbon footprint today represents more than 50% of the ecological footprint, being the fastest growing factor since the 1970s, when the carbon footprint was a small fraction of the ecological footprint.

What is the carbon footprint for?

Through the carbon footprint, we can analyze the impacts we cause on the atmosphere and climate change caused by the release of greenhouse gases from each product, process or service we consume. Every human attitude has some impact on the planet, however small it may be, and the contemporary way of life emits much more gases than the Earth is capable of absorbing, that is, we are demanding a lot from its biocapacity.

If you eat a dish of rice and beans, be aware that there was a carbon footprint for that meal (planting, growing and transporting). Knowing our carbon equivalent emissions, directly or indirectly, is very important to reduce them in order to slow down global warming, improve the planet's quality of life, reduce the ecological footprint and avoid overshoot, known as the Earth overload.

Standards and protocols

GHG protocol

It is a widely used method for formulating greenhouse gas inventories; is compliant with ISO standards and IPCC quantification methods; analyzes emissions in the value chains of organizations.

PAS 2050

It quantifies greenhouse gas emissions in the life cycle of a company's products and services in order to manage and reduce them, allowing for product labeling.

ISO 14064

It provides several tools for the development of greenhouse gas emission reduction programs to be applied in industry and government for more sustainable actions.

ISO 14067

It specifies principles, requirements and guidelines for quantifying and reporting the carbon footprint of products (PCP).

How to reduce the carbon footprint?

Changing habits is essential for reducing the carbon footprint. Choose products that have recyclable or recycled packaging, prefer organic food, use returnable bags, be a vegetarian at least once a week (or more than that), compost organic waste, reduce consumption and leave the car at home, replacing it with a bicycle or public transport are some ideas. One liter of gasoline emits 2.3 kg of carbon equivalent into the atmosphere and the manufacture of five plastic bags emits 1 kg. In addition, it is also possible to neutralize carbon. All these actions contribute to reducing the carbon footprint.

How to calculate your carbon footprint and neutralize it

It is possible to estimate the size of your carbon footprint. The website Carbon Footprint allows you to calculate your carbon footprint using some basic information - the figure is approximate, but it helps you get an idea and rethink your everyday choices. The carbon footprint calculator is free but in English.

Some companies, such as Eccaplan , offer the carbon calculation and carbon offsetting service for individuals and companies. Unavoidable emissions can be offset in certified environmental projects. In this way, the same amount of CO2 emitted in companies, products, events or in each person's daily life is compensated with incentives and the use of clean technologies.

Carbon offsetting or neutralization, in addition to making environmental projects financially viable, improves people's quality of life and promotes the sustainable use of green areas. To learn how to start offsetting the carbon emitted by you, your company or event, take a look at the article: "What is carbon offsetting?", watch the video and fill out the form below:

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