Carbon footprint. We hear this a lot in reference to the environment. But what does it mean? Why is it important? And how do we act in a way that minimizes the effects that a carbon footprint has?👣
The LastObject blog is intended to go more in depth on bettering our impact on the planet, especially in regards to zero waste. But hopefully this article helps begin to lay out how our daily lives affect our footprint.
We’ll be going over:
- What people mean when they say carbon footprint
- Some things that affects our carbon footprint and the solutions
- 🛍Spending habits
What is a carbon footprint?
When we step on sand, dirt, mud, or maybe white carpet with dirty feet (oops), we leave a footprint. 👣
Everything we do, no matter how small, affects the world around us, especially the natural world. Every time we eat something, buy something, get in a car-plane-or train somewhere, we are using resources from the planet. This could be viewed as our footprint in a more general way, not specifically carbon related.🌎
Oftentimes, when we require something made, built, moved, or shipped to us, it will add to our carbon footprint. This is because these things emit carbon dioxide and other carbon emissions when made.
Now, why does this matter? 💨Carbon dioxide, like other gases, is a greenhouse gas. Which means it is at the epicenter of climate change focus. Putting too many greenhouse gases in the air affects climate, habitat, the survival of species, and that includes us humans.
What impacts our carbon footprint?
Every Single Piece of food we eat requires things like land, water, energy, and fossil fuels to grow and raise.
🌾Switching land over to be farmed, emissions from livestock and fertilizers, and emissions from farm equipment can often be the largest causes to a carbon footprint. And this isn’t even mentioning our ecological footprint which is more encompassing.
⚡️As we move up in the food chain, the more energy and resources we tend to consume. If we think about it, plants require simple things like water, sun, and nutrients from the soil. And of course, different plants require different amounts of those things. So when we eat those plants, we are requiring those resources.
🐄However, when we eat animals like cows, pigs, and chickens, those animals don’t only require the essentials like land, sun, and water, they also require plants for food, and those plants require their own resources.🐖
As we work our way up the food chain, even to animals that eat animals, this requires even more resources!🐺
Because of this, different foods have different carbon footprints. Beef has arguably the biggest carbon footprint. This is due to the land required for cows which leads to more deforestation as well as the emissions associated with cows, their manure, fertilizers, and machinery.
Eat less meat and more veggies!🥦
Plants have much less of a carbon footprint than animals do. And while some plants require a lot more 💦water or land than others, they will never compare to the resource demand of animals.
Food packaging, single use: paper, plastic, and glass, food waste, other packaging, and unwanted products all add up to our waste. All of these things that we throw away have emitted carbon during their manufacturing.
🌯Some things like food will also emit methane from being oxygen starved in a landfill, as we’ve learned from a composting article. Globally, one third of all food grown and raised is thrown away and wasted. So all of those resources and emissions we talked about earlier have been all for nothing.
Paper, plastic, metal, glass, etc. All requires energy to make.⚡️That energy (for now) comes in large from fossil fuels, which are a major emitter of carbon. These materials also emit various gases during manufacturing.
Whether it be perfectly good products being thrown out or single use products, the resources used are wasted because of our neglect to be mindful.🤯
Reduce our consumption of packaged products and single use products. In regard to food packaging, this can be done by purchasing more bulk foods and produce.
🚮In regards to single use products, the best way to reduce these is by asking ourselves whether we even need them or not. If we do need the certain product, there is most likely a reusable alternative. LastSwab and LastTissue are both alternatives for those who find their single use versions useful.
A lot of food waste comes from both: grocery stores sending food to the landfill instead of donating or reducing prices, as well as from our own homes.
Encourage grocery stores to #donatenotdump or choose to buy straight from farmers if that is accessible to you.✊
🛩We are humans and we like to move! Some of us travel for fun, some for work, some of us simply because we have to.
If we are getting into a car, bus, train, or plane, we are adding to our carbon footprint.
🚙Different modes of transportation have different footprints. Cars typically have the largest footprint since they are gas powered and there are so many of them.
Trains can oftentimes be electric. Same with buses.⚡️ And a great thing about them is they don’t take up as much room as cars since there is often only one or two people per car.
Of course, the electricity for certain modes of transportation probably comes from fossil fuels, so there is a certain carbon footprint associated with that. This will get better the more we switch to renewable energy.
🚶🏽♀️Walk and bike whenever possible. And if you plan to move in the future, consider the proximity of things for walkability and bikeability.🚲
Try and take public transit such as busses or trains.
Avoid flying whenever possible.🙅♀️
If a car is essential in your life, try to have one that is fuel efficient or even better, electric! Carpool whenever possible, and go easy on those RPM’s.
This is a rather broad topic that impacts our carbon footprint. Our consumption habits can impact our carbon footprint in multiple ways.
🪑First, in the amount that we consume. If we are a part of society, chances are we will be purchasing clothes, living in a house, using tools and technology, etc. There will always be stuff in our lives, but where we can adjust is within the excess.
As we know, every product we buy demands resources and emits carbon somewhere along the way.🛤 Additionally, everything must be shipped as well, which has a massive carbon footprint in the form of emissions from trucks, ships, planes, and trains!
The more unnecessary things in our lives, the bigger our carbon footprint.
The necessities don’t have much room to shift as far as quantity, but they can shift in quality and sustainability in production.✅This leads into the second way our consumption can impact our carbon footprint: the companies and products we support.
Not only does it matter being more intentional about how much we bring into our lives, but so does what we bring into our lives, or what we support.🥤
Different companies care more or less about sustainability, the treatment of the planet, as well as people. When we purchase a product from a company, we are helping it grow. Different companies also produce products with different levels of quality and eco friendly-ness.🌎
Two different businesses could make the exact same product but one could have half the carbon footprint simply due to manufacturing and sourcing.
The same goes for different amounts of quality. And when something is of lesser quality it must be replaced more often which leads to a higher carbon footprint. Not to mention it is more costly for the consumer. 💰
Work towards being more intentional about the amount of things we bring into our lives. Oftentimes, we consume at the level we do because we are trying to fill a void. The only problem is, the void we are trying to fill cannot be filled by material possessions.
The intentionality must extend to who we give our money to and what variety of products we choose to purchase. Support companies who are doing the real work of making a more sustainable future.
Purchase products that are made as eco friendly as possible while maintaining the highest level of quality. Of course, these products must also work for you.
That’s a wrap, for now.
🙇🏻♀️For those reading this and thinking there’s no way this is all that makes up our carbon footprint, you’re right to think so. While these here make up a very sizable chunk of our carbon footprint, footprints and environmental impact are far more complex.
Everything we do has an effect on the planet and probably on other people. This can be overwhelming to think about every single action we take. That’s why it’s important to dull it down to some pretty impactful things like we just listed.🙏🏼
Wherever we start with adjusting our carbon footprint, the most important thing we can all do is be more intentional about our actions in life. Whether that be for our own health, the planet’s, or others’.💚
Written by Aaron Burr
A writer dedicated to working solely with companies on a mission to help the earth and people on it.