CARBON FOOTPRINTS by Kirsten Alexander

Everyone's talking about carbon footprint but what exactly is it and how can you lower yours?
DID YOU KNOW? A surfers carbon footprint is 50 per cent greater than the average person. The production of surfboards alone creates on average 220,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, according to Rick Lomax from Surf Science. WHAT IS A CARBON FOOTPRINT Picture taking a beach walk on the ebbed tide sand; when you look back you'll notice your footprints along the sandy shore. A carbon footprint, while not as readily seen, can be viewed in much the same way. A carbon footprint is the degree of your environmental impact, measured in units of carbon dioxide.  Things you use on a daily basis, like that oil heater you use to keep your house warm or petrol for your family's car, create carbon dioxide - also called CO2. So many of the activities we do every day have an impact; it's easy then to see how your everyday activities may contribute to a production of carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide is deemed a greenhouse gas and many scientists believe that greenhouse gases are making the earth too warm. Your carbon footprint is the total amount of CO2 you create along your life's journey. A big carbon footprint is bad for the planet. SOURCES OF CARBON DIOXIDE The electricity you use in your home forms the biggest part of your carbon footprint. Although electricity doesn't make greenhouse gases when you use it, the power plants that make the electricity do. Coal burning plants create the most CO2. Keeping warm in the winter is the second biggest source of CO2, and adds dramatically to your carbon footprint. Your house probably uses fossils fuels like oil, natural gas or electricity to keep you warm. The amount of CO2 your house makes depends on the type of fuel you use . You also add to your carbon footprint when you run the air conditioner to stay cool during summer. Cars create CO2 as waste. Buses, trains and planes also produce CO2, and even your rubbish makes your carbon footprint bigger. REDUCE YOUR FOOTPRINT Here are 12 simple ways you can reduce your carbon footprint on our precious planet:
  1. Alternatives to driving: When possible, walk or ride your bike to avoid carbon emissions completely. Lift-clubs and public transport drastically reduce CO2 emissions by spreading them out over many riders.
  2. Stay Classy: Economy class is best, for the same reasons as lift-clubs and public transport. Each flyer's share of a flight's carbon emissions is relatively less because it's spread out over more people.
  3. Insulate and seal your home: Reduce drafts and air leaks with insulation and weather stripping. This will relieve the need for fossil fuel based solutions to keeping a warmer home.
  4. Appliances: Make energy efficiency a primary consideration when choosing a new air conditioning unit, dishwasher, or fridge.
  5. Lights Out: Turn off lights you're not using and when you leave the room. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED ones.
  6. Eat locally-produced and organic food: Transporting food requires petroleum-based fuels, and many fertilizers are also fossil fuel-based.
  7. Cut the beef and dairy: It takes a lot of resources to raise cows, especially where they graze on land that used to be a tropical forest but is now cleared for agricultural use. Deforestation is a top contributor to carbon emissions.
  8. Water usage: Lower the amount of energy used to pump, treat, and heat water by washing your car less often, using climate-appropriate plants in your garden, installing drip irrigation so that plants receive only what they need, and making water efficient choices when purchasing shower heads, tap fittings, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines.
  9. Reuse and recycle: Buying used products and reselling, recycling or upcycling items you no longer use will dramatically reduce your carbon footprint.
  10. Support clean energy sources: Whenever you can, advocate for clean alternatives to fossil fuels, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and appropriately designed hydroelectric and biomass energy projects.
  11. Buy and consume less. Examine what you really need versus the excess you buy. Simplify and you'll be doing the planet a favour and probably yourself too.
  12. Counteract your carbon footprint by planting trees.
TIP: Work out your carbon footprint by using one of these online calculators: http://www.nature.org/greenliving/carboncalculator/; http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/.

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