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What is a Carbon Footprint?

A carbon footprint is defined as:

The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

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In other words: When you drive a car, the engine burns fuel which creates a certain amount of CO2, depending on its fuel consumption and the driving distance. (CO2 is the chemical symbol for carbon dioxide). When you heat your house with oil, gas or coal, then you also generate CO2. Even if you heat your house with electricity, the generation of the electrical power may also have emitted a certain amount of CO2. When you buy food and goods, the production of the food and goods also emitted some quantities of CO2.

Your carbon footprint is the sum of all emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide), which were induced by your activities in a given time frame. Usually a carbon footprint is calculated for the time period of a year.


Let's just focus on emissions produced by vehicles.  Here are some examples.

Examples:

For each litre of gasoline fuel consumed, 2.3 kg carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted.
For each litre of diesel fuel consumed, 2.7 kg carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted.
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If your car consumes 7.5 liter of gasoline per 100 km, then a drive of 300 km distance consumes 3 x 7.5 = 22.5 litres, which adds 22.5 x 2.3 kg = 51.75 kg CO2 to your personal carbon footprint.


Each of the following activities add 1 kg of CO2 to your personal carbon footprint:

  • Travel by public transportation (train or bus) a distance of 10 to 12 km (6.5 to 7 miles)
  • Drive with your car a distance of 6 km or 3.75 miles (assuming 7.3 litres petrol per 100 km or 39 mpg)
  • Fly with a plane a distance of 2.2 km or 1.375 miles.
  • Operate your computer for 32 hours (60 Watt consumption assumed)
  • Production of 5 plastic bags
  • Production of 2 plastic bottles
  • Production of 1/3 of a cheeseburger (yes, the production of each cheeseburger emits 3.1 kg of CO2!)
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The carbon footprint is a very powerful tool to understand the impact of personal behaviour on global warming. Most people are shocked when they see the amount of CO2 their activities create!

If you personally want to contribute to stop global warming, the calculation and constant monitoring of your personal carbon footprint is essential.