The ‘Carbon Footprint’ Conscious Multiplying

by Medindia Content Team on  November 30, 2007 at 5:11 PM Environmental Health
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Buying locally-produced fruit and veg, riding bikes or taking the train instead of using private cars, buying carbon offsets and staging carbon-neutral weddings: all are part of the climate-change awareness taking root in many countries.
The ‘Carbon Footprint’ Conscious Multiplying
The ‘Carbon Footprint’ Conscious Multiplying

Individuals keen on reducing their "carbon footprint" -- the dangerous greenhouse gas that each of us emit through our purchases and activities -- can now turn to a multiplying panoply of tools to calculate their pollution, reduce it or compensate for it.

"Our daily habits are responsible for 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions," says France's Agency for the Environment and Control of Energy (ADEME).

Transport alone causes a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, and even though automakers are making efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) in new vehicles, the "clean car" still does not exist outside the research lab.

On journeys of around 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) in France, an express train emits roughly a quarter less CO2 than an aircraft per passenger, according to ADEME.

A bus emits between 10 and 20 times less CO2 than a car, and both are of course beaten for greenness by walking and cycling if distances permit.

If you have to use a car, keeping your speed down can also help to reduce emissions. Very fast driving can increase a car's CO2 emissions by 40 percent.

Another simple energy-saving method is to climb stairs rather than use electricity-lapping lifts and escalators, a practice actively encouraged in Japan and Belgium for example.

Climate Action Network (CAN), an international collective of environmental groups, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, lists "50 Top Tips" by which an individual can make a dent on global warming (

They include adjusting the thermostat so that your home is at a steady 19-20 degrees Celsius (66-68 Fahrenheit), turning off TVs and computers instead of leaving them on standby and, rather than leave the coffee machine on, transferring the hot brew to a Thermos flask.

Individuals and businesses which feel truly bad about their carbon damage -- or are keen on advertising their greenness -- can buy carbon offsets to compensate for their emissions.

Offsets are investments in a carbon-alleviating scheme, such as planting trees or encouraging renewable energy in a developing country.

One popular offset website says you can compensate for the carbon pollution from a medium-sized family car, driven for 20,000 kilometres (12,000 miles) a year, for less than 20 dollars (13.5 euros).

Low cost airline Easyjet offers customers the possibility of offsetting the CO2 they emit when they take one of its flights, and some of its competitors are also looking closely at this.

A British firm, The Carbon Neutral Company ( also offers a "carbon-neutral" wedding gift.

For 30 pounds (61.8 dollars, 41 euros), the bride and groom get two trees planted in their name in "MarryMe Wood," a location in Devon, western England.

Offsets and other forms of trading are slammed by some as amounting to buying the right to pollute and discouraging people from trying to change their ways.

Climate change is even present on the dinner plate. Independent French environmental consultant Jean-Marc Jancovici says anyone serious about tackling greenhouse gas emissions should cut back on red meat.

Producing a kilo (2.2 pounds) of beef causes the equivalent of 36.4 kilos (80.08 pounds) in CO2 -- the same as if you drove around three hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

Environmental campaigners also point the finger at globalisation, as products criss-cross the planet before being sold. Each trip, in fossil-fuel-powered planes, ships and trucks, adds to the greenhouse effect.

Raw cotton grown in the United States is often sent to China to be woven, then re-exported to be printed in the US before returning to China to be turned into a garment that will be re-exported to its final destination, says economist Pietra Rivoli.

A pair of jeans made from Uzbek cotton can travel 23,240 kilometres (14,525 miles) before being worn while a Moroccan tomato is likely to have done 3,238 kilometres (2,023 miles) before landing on a European plate, said ADEME.

Such calculations make developing countries wince.

They point out that locally-produced produce, such as tomatoes grown in Dutch hothouses, often carries a high but hidden carbon cost.

And they argue it is unfair to target products from poor countries which are least to blame for global warming -- and which will suffer most from it.

Source: AFP

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