It seems that everyone is talking about the need to know their carbon footprint at the minute. Businesses talk about being carbon neutral (although there is a move to standardise this term), and individuals are encouraged to find out their carbon emissions and work to reduce them. But is this is the right way to go about reducing emissions? Does the individual learning their footprint achieve anything?
We know that individual action alone won’t solve the climate crisis. This whole site is full of ways that communities, businesses and governments can make changes and come together to reduce energy consumption and live a more low-impact lifestyle. But – understanding their carbon footprint could mean that choosing eco-friendly options, and sustainable products and services becomes second nature – and ultimately influencing those who make decisions.
Knowing your carbon footprint means you can reduce it
Measuring something means you can change it right? Only by knowing what your footprint is can you work to change it. The Carbon Literacy project makes it their mission to ensure that we are a carbon literate public, that means that people will have
an awareness of the carbon costs and impacts of everyday activities and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basisCarbon Literacy project
Through their project people use a carbon footprint calculator and then actively pledge to reduce their carbon emissions. This means that we are becoming more accountable, psychologically equipped to understand the changes and feel like you are contributing to a wider good.
Is it accurate enough to make a difference?
Carbon footprinting is a work in progress and whilst it is becoming more accurate we know that there will be double counting, (where for example the carbon cost of energy used to manufacture an object is counted twice becuase we also count overall energy use). Is it enough to have a rough idea of our carbon footprint? Perhaps this is better than having no idea at all?
Knowledge is power
Equipping ourselves with knowledge of the carbon cost of your lifestyle will enable better choices, and holding companies and services to account. Companies claiming to, for example, offset carbon are proving more and more to be greenwashing – and we need to be able to talk about this with a knowledegeable public.
Understanding our carbon footprint means that we can properly hold politicians to account. Question their policies, demand action more clearly and make powerful and realistic suggestions.
What about you? Have you counted your carbon footprint? Do you think it is worthwhile? Should we see MP’s carbon footprints? Businesses?
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1marc Dyson June 15th, 2023
If there were 3 people on the planet then your footprint could be massive and it wouldn't matter. it only matters when seen in the context of overall use of the planets resources by humans generally. Thus to avoid destroying the planet each persons footprint needs to get smaller as the total number of people increases. With world population at 7 billion and slated to rise to 10 billion therefore your footprint would need to fall by 30% even if it was currently at a single planet level. Its not going to happen so its all about vertue signaling not saving the planet. Furthermore as climate change bites the planets capacity to suport human life will fall. So footprints will need to get smaller to deal with that. Its impossible.
2Dave Darby June 15th, 2023
Marc - I tend to agree with you, although of course calculating and reducing your footprint can't really be a bad thing. But you're right, in the context of a still rapidly-growing population (all expecting to consume more than they do now in the future), a degrading biosphere and governments still pursuing eternal GDP growth and still subsidising the fossil fuel industry, it's not the place we should be focusing, really.
There's definitely trouble on the way, and we're going to need to prepare for it, by provisioning for ourselves, individually and together in communities. It just so happens that this preparation will almost definitely reduce your footprint too - but it's the prep. that's important, I think.
3Richard Morgan June 15th, 2023
Do carbon footprints make any difference whilst our governments continue to issue new fossil fuel licences? I read somewhere the concept was developed by big oil to throw us off the scent and shift the blame.