by Rowland Joiner, Becketwood Member
I take size thirteen in shoes but my carbon footprint is something different. A carbon footprint is the way of measuring the sum of emissions of carbon dioxide and smaller quantities of similar gases caused by a particular activity (like cooking) that consumes fossil fuels in any given timeframe. So the “footprint” for an individual is smaller than Becketwood’s footprint, and the footprint over one day is one tenth of a ten-days’ footprint. The amount of fossil fuel that is required to produce energy is simply converted into the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere and measured in a kg footprint. (Stay with me.)
So if you drive a car, for every gallon of gas it consumes, 8.7 kg of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere. That’s its carbon footprint. If the car uses diesel fuel, then the result is even greater, 12.2 kg. Since car production worldwide has grown from 1960 to the present day by 370%, and is still growing, that means an ever-increasing amount of CO2 is being pumped out.
Apparently production of a single cheeseburger produces 3.1 kg (not guilty!). When we warm our home, take a shower or whatever, then every 500 KwH of electricity we use means that somewhere 215 kg of CO2 has been released into the atmosphere. But if some form of renewable energy like a wind turbine or solar panels generated the same amount of electricity, then almost zero CO2 is released. A good deal? Yes. (Google of course gives examples and tables that you can see for yourself.)
Although greenhouse gases like CO2 do occur naturally, these are small amounts that trees, for example, can absorb without upsetting the balance of nature. Human activity in so many shapes and forms demands enormous amounts of energy, which in turn produces enormous amounts of CO2 leading to global warming and causing damage and imbalance in the natural world we all live in.
So my air travel from MSP to LON to see my children and their families, together with all the other planes that fly here, there and everywhere, requires X amount of energy, and I can learn what my share of it is, what my carbon footprint is. And the same goes for heating our home, using my computer, charging my phone, having a coal or a wood fire, buying food that has been produced two thousand miles away. There is a cost to everything and it is not simply cash.
Probably my shoe size will not increase but the total size of the world’s carbon footprint grows and grows and threatens the planet’s future and the lifestyle we all enjoy. The answer is obviously to leave a smaller footprint. We have to reduce the output of CO2, which means changing some of our ways and burning less coal, for example, and using cleaner sources like sunshine and wind to produce the energy our modern world needs. The planet can only put up with so much of the CO2 stuff, so we should take these actions before we cause too much irreparable damage.