What is a carbon footprint?
Nick Brown, executive assistant for sustainability at the University of Arkansas, replies:
A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases, mostly CO2, but also methane, chlorofluorocarbons and a few other compounds, that a person or organization is responsible for as a result of their activities. It’s a new term, because it’s only recently been understood that greenhouse gases and the resulting global warming represent the most important environmental issue of our times. Energy uses, agriculture operations, cement production, consumerism and landfill operations create greenhouse gases, and are therefore the components of our carbon footprints.
Ordinary people can’t do much about cement production, but we can reduce our carbon footprint by:
- using less fossil fuel-based energy,
- reducing consumption of meat and any foods that are produced in distant ecosystems,
- using fewer consumer products (the economy is taking care of this for us!) or seeking products that embody less energy,
- composting organic waste such as food scraps and yard waste at your home and office, and
- working on a green team to reduce the footprint of your company, school, or organization.
Americans have an average carbon footprint of about 20 tons of CO2 each per year. Most of us could reduce our carbon footprint 50 percent by taking these measures.