The carbon footprint, what it is and how it is measured

By Sandor Alejandro Gerendas-Kiss
Published on September 27, 2018

 

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Definition of carbon footprint

The carbon footprint is the impact that human activity leaves on the environment, that is, the mark that originates a person, product or organization on the planet as a result of their daily actions, totalized according to parameters of carbon dioxide emissions ( CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHG) released into the atmosphere.

The carbon footprint is expressed in units of carbon equivalent (CO2eq), a unit that in addition to CO2 considers the other GHGs that contribute to global warming. Finally, the individual results of each gas are converted to CO2 equivalents.

What is the carbon footprint for?

It is a useful method to quantify, reduce and neutralize carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and contribute to mitigate climate change. The carbon footprint concept was designed to have a tool capable of measuring the GHG emissions generated from an individual to a corporation. After obtaining the trace, you are in possession of a series of data that allows you to plan your reduction based on them.

Some applications to measure the carbon footprint

There are sites and applications in the network that allow you to measure the “carbon footprint” through some data related to daily activities. These calculations allow the person, organization or product to know the magnitude of their carbon footprint and take corrective measures to reduce them.

These are some applications available to facilitate measurements of the carbon footprint, taken from the newspaper La Vanguardia: CleanSpace, Negotiator, Chasing Ice, #Climate, World Wildlife Fund, Earth Now, GoodGuide.

How to calculate a person’s carbon footprint

The personal carbon footprint allows the individual to account for their GHG emissions. There are methods and applications to be able to perform their emissions with enough accurately. In this way a person can know their participation in global warming. A personal application considers the purchases of products and services, food, recreational activities, transportation and others to determine what is the person’s carbon footprint.

How to calculate the carbon footprint of a product

In the case of a product or service, the GHG emissions carried out during its life cycle are studied. The carbon footprint of a product is an instrument that allows you to calculate your greenhouse gas emissions and know your participation in the increase in global warming. For example, to calculate the carbon footprint of a product, aspects such as the production of the raw material, transport to the production plant, processing or manufacturing of the final product, its packing or packaging, transportation to the centers of distribution and sale, consumption and final discarding of the container.

How to calculate the carbon footprint of a company or organization

The carbon footprint of an organization is obtained by analyzing its GHG emissions during a year or other predetermined period, by accumulating an inventory of these. There are three levels or classes of scopes of measurements for companies.

Scope 1. Direct emissions. They refer to GHGs emitted directly by the organization, such as the amount of fossil fuels used for their machinery or vehicles; for losses of refrigerant gases, or for chemical reactions during its production processes.

Scope 2. Indirect emissions. It is about the GHG emissions of the energy producer required by an organization. It depends on both the quantity and the mix of the energy of the network.

Scope 3. Other indirect emissions. They are the emissions that can be attributed to the products and services acquired by an organization, such as raw materials, parts, pieces, packaging material, etc. These have previously generated emissions before their delivery. Indirect emissions are the most difficult to count, due to the number and variety of items that come into play in a factory, for example, to finish your product, including packaging, if applicable.

Advantages of knowing our carbon footprint

It allows to quantify and determine the sources of greenhouse gas emissions of a product during the manufacturing chain, lets to establish objectives, strategies and actions to reduce these emissions and thereby make the production processes of goods more effective and economic. Another advantage of the carbon footprint is providing information to the consumer, to create awareness so that he can reduce his personal impact on global warming.

What are reduced emission certificates (CERs) or carbon credits?

A carbon footprint certification or “reduced emissions certificate” is a document issued by an authorized entity to all those organizations that have complied with the required standards. The certificates are not mandatory, although it is in the interest of the factories and suppliers to show that their products or goods display labels that demonstrate that they have complied with the established CO2 values, so that their customers can acquire them or consume them with the certainty that They are healthier and less polluting. By making a reduction in your emissions you can opt for a “reduced emissions certificate” (CER) or carbon bonus. Each certificate means that you have reduced one ton of CO2.

The neutral carbon conditions

The concept “neutral carbon” is a condition of being. In effect, the correct thing is to say “be carbon neutral.” Neutral carbon is considered to be a person, organization or product capable of removing the same amount of CO2 from the atmosphere that it has emitted, to achieve it, various strategies can be used, such as building or Acquiring wind farms or large areas planted with solar panels Both systems correspond to clean energy, although you can also buy “carbon offsets” from countries that have issued less greenhouse gases to their quota.

 

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