Jason Barauskas, Region 4 West KC Rep
December 9, 2014
What is a Carbon Footprint?
The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
What contributes to my carbon footprint?
There are a number of different factors used to calculate your carbon footprint. I will walk you through the factors (referenced in the nature.org carbon footprint calculator). To start, you would choose how many people are in your household, and whether you want to calculate your individual carbon footprint or that of your entire household.
The next factor to consider is your home. Where your home is located my increase or decrease your footprint – some states generate cleaner electricity than others (using water, wind, or solar energy as opposed to natural gas). When thinking about your home, you must also consider steps you have taken to decrease your impact. Are you using energy efficient light bulbs and appliances? Are you heating/cooling your home efficiently by installing a programmable thermostat, using proper insulation, or reducing drafts by windows and doors?
Perhaps the most obvious activity that may contribute to your carbon footprint is travelling. How often do you drive and how fuel efficient is your vehicle? Changing your air filter and checking your tire pressure regularly can reduce the impact driving your vehicle has on the environment. Think about how many times in the past year that you have flown. One long flight (2 hours or greater) can add 2.2 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or more.
Another factor to consider is how your food and diet impact the atmosphere. It is more sustainable to eat vegetables and starches than it is to consume meat. According to the Meat Eater’s Guides, “Eating a four-ounce steak is equivalent to driving nearly seven miles.” While on the flipside the most eco-friendly meat is said to be chicken. However, ensuring that your food is locally sourced and organic can greatly reduce the addition to your carbon footprint.
Finally, we need to consider the amount of waste we generate and what we do with that waste. Are you recycling and is it being recycled locally? If the materials need to travel a long distance to be recycled we may be negating the benefits of recycling in the first place. Composting your food waste can also help to reduce your carbon footprint.
What can be done on our university and college campuses?
Professional staff – carpooling or other travel alternatives (public transportation, walking, cycling), considering green options when purchasing program supplies, using electronic/digital methods to avoid printing agendas/memos/etc.
Students – encouraging behavior change amongst students (purchasing a permanent water bottle as opposed to bottled water), recycling (if available, if not start a campaign to get recycling on your campus), energy and water conservation competitions (have a no or low-tech, lights out party as a program)
The fact is there are numerous ways that we can make a difference on our campuses. There is no one magical fix. We need to do what we can to take the steps towards reducing our emissions and being as sustainable as we can!
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