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Solutions to Reduce Carbon Footprint

by | Apr 8, 2022 | Carbon Footprint & Carbon Accounting

Introduction

To achieve the targets set by the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5oC, we all must make attempts to reduce carbon footprint. Our planet’s future depends on us reducing our emissions. When we cut down on emissions, we ensure that our air and water are cleaner and that plenty of resources are left for generations to come. By reducing our carbon footprints, we help mitigate the effects of climate change. We can also boost sustainable economies while also preserving the environment’s biodiversity. Also, cleaner air and water means that diseases decrease and human health drastically changes for the better.

Everyday Life Changes

There are many simple changes you can make to your everyday lifestyle that would reduce your carbon footprint. They include:

1. Lower your dependence on heating and air-conditioning

The use of heaters and air conditioners requires electricity. We obtain electricity through the combustion of fossil fuels. The combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The presence of carbon and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leads to a warming planet and climate change. Thus, to reduce your carbon footprint, minimize your use of heaters and air conditioners.

2. Recycle

The manufacturing processes of products involve the combustion of fuels, gas, oil, etc. Industries require a constant supply of electricity to keep their machines running. As we learned before, the demand for electricity leads to carbon and greenhouse gases emissions. Recycling involves taking an old, used product and making a new product. When we recycle products, we save 95% of the energy spent making the product the first time around. Recycling also reduces the burden on existing natural sources of raw material.

3. Use cold water to wash clothes

Using hot water to wash clothes increases your carbon footprint. To get hot water, you’d need to use a water heater. A water heater uses energy (electricity) to heat water. Again, electricity generation leads to a higher carbon footprint since we need to combust fossil fuels to obtain it. Therefore, always wash your clothes with cold water to reduce your carbon footprint.

4. Avoid using a dryer

Most people in developed nations use a dryer to dry their washed clothes. Using a dryer leads to the consumption of a large volume of energy. To avoid the release of carbon and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, line dry your clothes instead.

5. Eat less meat

Ruminants such as sheep, goats, and cattle release methane (CH4) into the atmosphere through their natural digestion process. The presence of ruminants is not what’s causing climate change. What’s causing climate change and global warming is our high demand for their meat. The high demand for meat has led to the industrialization of these animals. This means that thousands more of these animals are bred in industries than naturally in the wild, and they’re all releasing methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than CO2 in causing climate change. Also, we need a large amount of energy to keep the meat industry running. Therefore, consuming less meat or stopping the consumption of meat altogether will make a massive difference in helping you to reduce carbon footprint.

Lifestyles and Systematic Changes

To reduce carbon footprint, we need to adopt a sustainable way of living. We can achieve this by attempting to reduce our dependence on the Earth’s natural resources. We need to use resources at a rate that matches the rate at which the Earth can naturally produce them again.

To combat climate change, national governments established emission targets at the country level. However, these targets do not consider the emissions that occur through supply chains. Existing country targets aim to reduce the total carbon emissions in the country. But there is a lack of policies and regulations that mandate people to live a low-carbon lifestyle. Therefore, governments must develop consumption-based-per-capita emission targets. These targets help people ‘decarbonize’ their lifestyle. They can help people understand the gap between their lifestyle and the reduction in emissions they need to achieve.

Reducing Greenhouse Gases

Solutions to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Reduction of Carbon Dioxide

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, we must reduce our dependence on energy obtained from fossil fuels. The combustion of fossil fuels for generating energy releases enormous amounts of CO2. We must increase our use of energy obtained from renewable sources such as solar and wind. We can implement some household measures to decrease carbon emissions. The measures include using fuel-efficient vehicles, unplugging electrical items when not in use, and increasing insulation during construction.

Reduction of Methane

We can accomplish methane reduction in several ways. Some ways of reducing methane emissions include capturing methane from coal mines and landfills. We’ve already learned that livestock, especially ruminants, release methane. If we could effectively manage livestock populations and their manure, we could reduce our methane emissions. The combustion of fossils fuels in vehicles produces methane as a byproduct. Therefore, we need the invention of new technologies that would cut down on methane emissions from vehicles. Also, getting your vehicle serviced regularly would prevent any additional methane leaks.

Reduction of Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. The production of nylon leads to the release of nitrous oxide. Nitrogen is a significant component of chemical fertilizers. The large-scale use of such synthetic fertilizer causes enormous nitrous oxide emissions through microbial processes. Apart from this, even biomass burning releases a substantial amount of nitrous oxide. Biomass burning is the burning of vegetation and wood. Stubble burning-land burning by farmers to clear lands for the next round of sowing-is the main source of nitrous oxide. To counter this, governments need to provide incentives to farmers to stop the burning of stubble. They can also arrange awareness programs to help farmers understand how the climate is affected by the use of synthetic fertilizers. Governments can develop schemes that provide farmers with organic fertilizers at a subsidized rate.

Reduction of Fluorinated Gases

Fluorinated gases are gases containing fluorine. They are much stronger than conventional greenhouse gases. Although they occupy a small portion of the atmosphere, they affect the environment the most harshly. Fluorinated gases have a very long life; thus, they play a significant role in climate change. The production of aluminium and electronics are some processes that release fluorinated gases. Industries mostly release fluorine as an unintentional byproduct of their manufacturing processes. Air conditioners also release fluorinated gases.

We can reduce fluorinated gases by capturing or recycling them. Industries can invest in advanced technologies that don’t allow the release of these gases. We need technological advancements in the design of air conditioners. Until then, we must reduce, or preferable, stop, our use of air conditioners. Authorities should regularly check power grids for leaks to reduce fluorinated gas emissions.

Use Technology to Become Carbon Efficient

The removal of carbon from the atmosphere is critical in helping us achieve the targets set by the Paris Agreement (2015). We need technologies that can guarantee us high efficiency to limit the planet’s warming to 1.5oC. If we cannot reduce carbon footprint, the glaciers at the poles will melt, the sea levels will rise, coastal cities will sink, and extreme weather events will plague the world, causing huge losses to life and economies.

The two most important technologies currently in use to help us curb our carbon emissions are:

1. Mass and Aggressive Afforestation

The term implies recovering land from non-forest use and turning it back into a forest. Forests are enormous sinks of carbon. They store carbon for hundreds and thousands of years. As of 2013, the forest cover in India was 6,97,898 sq. km. This amounts to nearly 21.23% of India’s geographical area.

Forests prevent soil erosion. They also prevent carbon from escaping soils. They provide jobs, security, and sustainable infrastructure to tribals and forest inhabitants.

Forests absorb about 16 billion metric tons of CO2 annually. The figure is more than 1.5 times that of emissions in the United States. The World Resources Institute (WRI) found that forests emit an average of 8.1 billion metric tons of CO2 every year due to deforestation. This means that when we cut down forests for wood for our structures or to clear land for agriculture, we release vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

https://www.wri.org/insights/forests-absorb-twice-much-carbon-they-emit-each-year

We must protect the forests we have left. Along with protecting forests, we must demand that our governments establish policies for mass afforestation. If we could increase the world’s forest cover and protect the forests we currently have, we could have a significant positive impact on climate change. It would go a long way to help us reduce carbon footprint.

2. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

The carbon capture and storage technology capture carbon released by industries and stores it deep underground. CCS is associated with carbon sequestering. It plays a crucial role in reducing carbon emissions. CCS is a three-step process. It includes:

1. Capturing carbon dioxide emitted by industries

2. Transporting it from where it was produced via pipelines or ships to the storage site. It needs to be first compressed and then transported.

3. Storing it in deep underground geological formations

The injection of carbon deep underground ensures that it is stored permanently. It won’t be released into the atmosphere for several millennia.

How To Reduce My Carbon Footprint?

1. Driving

Whenever possible, instead of driving your car or taking another form of transport, walk or bike to your destination. Walking or biking ensures that you cut down on carbon emissions associated with travelling altogether. If your destination is too far away to walk to, use public transport or try carpooling.

Many people who currently own electric cars are under the impression that they are cutting them on emissions. Electric vehicles reduce carbon footprint only if they are charged with clean electricity, i.e., electricity from solar or wind energy. If you charge your car with electricity obtained by burning fossil fuels, you’re still emitting carbon into the atmosphere.

If you own a regular fuel-run car, avoid speeding or accelerating unnecessarily. These actions increase your carbon footprint. When driving, always try to maintain a constant speed while driving.

2. Air Travel

The aviation industry is one of the most significant contributors to atmospheric carbon. Aeroplanes use and emit enormous quantities of CO2. To reduce carbon footprint, take fewer vacations that require you to travel to far-away places. Instead, take more frequent vacations to areas at a drivable distance.

Avoid flying business class. When travelling by flight, always book economy class seats. Booking seats in economy class reduces your carbon footprint since the total carbon emitted by the aeroplane is spread over a larger number of passengers.

3. Household Energy

https://www.iea.org/news/after-steep-drop-in-early-2020-global-carbon-dioxide-emissions-have-rebounded-strongly

When buying a new dishwasher, refrigerator, heater, or air conditioner, prioritize energy efficiency. Buy only those appliances that are energy efficient.

When you leave a room, make sure you switch off all the lights and fans in the room. Fossils fuels have to be burnt, and carbon must be released to supply your home with electricity.

Replace incandescent lightbulbs with fluorescent or LED ones.

Get solar panels fitted on the roof of your house. This way, you can decrease your dependence on non-renewable forms of energy. Also, with solar power, you’ll never have to pay another electric bill in your life!

4. Clothes

Along with aviation, the fashion industry is one of the main culprits behind climate change. Fast fashion has destroyed the environment and its resources. The processes that produce new clothes release a large volume of CO2 into the atmosphere.

When you decide to buy clothes, try buying thrift or second-hand clothes. If you need an outfit for a short period, borrow it from friends or family.

If you have to discard clothes in good condition, donate them to a charity instead. If your clothes are in tatters and you can no longer use them, upcycle them. Turn them into kitchen or floor wipes.

All these practices ensure that you keep clothes in a circular loop, thus helping you to reduce carbon footprint.

 

Author

  • The author has done a master's in Environmental science and is currently working as chief Environmental Advisor with New Delhi State Government.

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