Thursday, November 28, 2013

Actions for Earth: Making Smaller Carbon Footprints [Hem9.2 (2010)]

We know our shoe and clothes size. We should know our carbon footprint size too, but do we? What is carbon footprint? And how do we reduce our carbon footprint?

Carbon footprint is used to describe the amount of carbon dioxide we emit as a result of our activities. For individuals, the basis of calculation is categorised into five main activities; how we travel, what we eat, what we use, what we throw and howe we live our home. In short, calculations are based on our lifestyle. As a result of our lifestyle activities, carbon dioxide is generated. The amount of carbon dioxide that enters the environment leaves behind a ëcarboní footprint. Thus, knowing our carbon footprint size gives us a benchmark of the amount of carbon dioxide we add to the atmosphere.

Calculating Carbon Footprint

We know that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas, and it is difficult for us to measure without scientific equipment. To make it easier for us to benchmark the amount of CO2 we emit, we use carbon, which is a solid and can be measured by weight; this is used to represent the amount of CO2. For greater accuracy, the calculatorís computation is based on one yearís emissions and the quantifying unit for carbon footprint levels is measured in metric tonne per year. So, if we express our carbon footprint size as 12, it means we emit 12 metric tonnes of CO2 a year.

It is important to know what and which activities emit the most CO2 so we have come up with the five pillars that we follow, to understand and make an effort to reduce our CO2 emissions. 

Go to to calculate your carbon footprint.

How We Live: Home

Did you know that 40 percent of your CO2 emission comes from your home? And did you know that all the appliances in your home contribute to your carbon footprint?  Yes, this includes game consoles, computers, television sets, DVD players, cooking stoves, ovens, hot-water heaters, toasters, refrigerators, fans, microwave ovens, radios, air-conditioners, washing machines, hair dryers, irons, kettles, lights, and the list goes on and on.

Maintaining the room temperature of an air-conditioner to a cool temperature of 24 degrees Celsius can help save energy. Also if your home has a very old hot-water heater, it might be inefficient, spending too much energy to operate. Replacing it with a more energy-efficient model can reduce your carbon footprint by much as 1,490 kilograms!

How We Travel: Transport

Did you know that one litre of burned petrol produces 2.28kg of carbon? Living in Singapore we have to be mobile. The size of our carbon footprint generated by our mobile lifestyle depends on the type of vehicle used and the number of people in the vehicle. This is why taking public transport instead of driving or even carpooling helps to reduce our carbon footprint.

What We Use: Paper

Did you know that to produce one tonne of paper or 200,000 sheets of 80gm A4 size paper
we need to cut down 24 trees? So, for every 8,000 sheets of paper we use, we kill one tree.

Trees absorb odour, heat, pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while releasing oxygen back into the air. A large tree releases 310g of oxygen per day and a smaller tree releases 60g per day. A typical adult would use 840g of oxygen gas per day in the process of respiration. So, if we use paper unwisely, the earth will be barren, polluted and very warm. Using paper wisely and recycling whenever possible, will give us a smaller carbon footprint.

What We Eat: Food

Did you know that when we eat food we generate a CO2 mile?

When we eat instant noodles, a processed food, we generate a longer CO2 mile than eating fresh noodles. The processed noodles go through many stages of processing and packaging before reaching the supermarket.

This process begins with the wheat farmer, then on to the factory that manufactures the instant noodles. Packing the instant noodles requires a packaging manufacturer and a carton box manufacturer to transport the packaging materials to the instant noodles factory.

Once packaged, the noodles are transported through the various distribution channels to
reach the supermarket. In comparison, eating fresh noodles generate a shorter CO2 mile from the wheat farmer, to the noodle maker, to the market.

With a shorter process and less transportation and electricity required, eating fresh noodles is not only healthier, but it also helps us reduce our carbon footprint.

What We Throw: Waste

Did you know that we throw 2.63 million tonnes of waste a year?

Each of us living in Singapore generate about 0.84 kilograms of domestic waste every day. From 1970-2000, waste had increased by 6 times to 7.6 tonnes per day. The two most
wasted items are papers and plastics. 

All of Singaporeís waste goes to the Pulau Semakau Landfill. Opened in 1999, the landfill will pile up trash until it cannot hold anymore, this is estimated to be by 2045. Hopefully by then through our efforts, we will all have cut down our carbon footprints and our waste enough to have the landfill last much longer. 

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