The carbon footprint and its reduction

The carbon footprint of a product is the total amount of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) which are emitted over the full life cycle of a product, service or event.

For example, the carbon footprint of a car would include the carbon dioxide emitted by:

The carbon footprint of a person during one year would consist of the total amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by all of the activities they take part in, and the manufacture, use and disposal of all the products and resources they use. For example, a typical young person might:

  • use electricity at home, probably generated from fossil fuels, for lighting their room and using electronic devices
  • use a gas-powered boiler at home (which produces carbon dioxide) for heating and hot water
  • travel to school by bus or car (which probably runs on petrol or diesel)
  • eat beef or rice which have been farmed using methods that release methane
  • travel abroad once per year on an aeroplane (which produces carbon dioxide)

Suggest and explain three ways that someone living in the UK could reduce their carbon footprint.

  1. fit photovoltaic solar panels onto the roof of their house, which will reduce the amount of electricity they use which has been generated from fossil fuels
  2. commute to work by bicycle instead of driving
  3. improve their home insulation (eg loft insulation or double glazing) which will reduce the amount of gas burned in the boiler

It can sometimes be difficult for individuals to make all the changes that they would like to do to reduce their carbon footprint. For example, it might be too expensive to fit photovoltaic cells on the roof of your house, and you might work too far from your house to be able to cycle.