What is a Carbon Footprint?
To better understand Richland County’s continuing efforts to improve its sustainability practices, it is helpful to know some key terms, such as carbon footprint.
Carbon footprint is a term that has been used increasingly over the past two decades to describe the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually measured in tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) – one of the greenhouse gases that many say is contributing to global warming.
When a person walks on the beach with wet feet, he leaves footprints in the sand. Similarly, we leave our footprint on our environment when we use natural resources. Using fossil fuels, like oil to keep your house warm or gasoline for your family’s car, creates CO2. Your carbon footprint is the amount of CO2 that you create.
Every time we use energy that comes from fossil fuels like natural gas, coal and petroleum, we contribute to a larger carbon footprint which in turn contributes to environmental changes like rising sea level, increased precipitation and rising temperatures. An increased carbon footprint and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions may also lead to greater numbers of displaced populations, lengthy periods of drought and increased heat-related illnesses and deaths.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, personal contributions to the carbon footprint are the result primarily of electricity use in our homes. Although electricity does not generate greenhouse gases, power plants that produce electricity generate greenhouse gases through their use of coal. Even the trash that we send to the landfill contributes to greenhouse gases. It is estimated that one pound of greenhouse gases are produced for every pound of trash sent to the landfill.
So, how can we decrease the carbon footprint? We can all impact the size of our carbon footprint, whether at home or at work, by using less electricity. Turn off unused lights, computers and televisions. Lower the temperature in your house or workplace during winter months and raise it during summer months. Other steps to take include walking and biking instead of driving, whenever possible, and reducing the amount of trash that you send to the landfill by recycling and reusing items.
For more information about Richland County’s sustainability efforts, contact Dr. Jamelle Ellis, Richland County’s Sustainability Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.