Carbon footprint: What is it and what we can do

In order to figure out ways we can reduce carbon footprint, it is important to understand what carbon footprint is and how it affects us and the environment. Carbon footprint is the combination of gases in the environment including carbon dioxide, methane nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases, also called the greenhouse gases. These gases are the result of production, transportation, housing and food.

Carbon footprint: What is it and what we do

Carbon dioxide levels in the environment are the highest it has ever been recorded in human history. This image shows us the top 20 countries who are the most responsible for carbon dioxide emissions. China accounts for 28% of the total Co2 levels in the world.

Increase in carbon footprint causes an increase in the heat trapped in the atmosphere resulting in global warming. Below are some of the

What it does

Climate change

The ultimate effect of carbon footprint is climate change. Between 1990 and 2013, global greenhouse gases emissions increased by 60%. This is a huge change and it is not surprising that this past decade was the hottest year recorded. Fluctuations in climate followed the heat waves, with hurricanes, storms, wildfires, droughts, relentless rain and tsunamis in news every 2 weeks.

Effect on agriculture

With the change in climate change, it is inevitable to control the losses on agriculture. Not only this, but high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere causes imbalances in nitrogen and carbon, decreasing crop necessary nutrients like protein, zinc and iron.

Effect on health

In addition to indirect effects of carbon footprint on human beings, there are multiple direct effects too. Carbon footprint causes air pollutions and smog to increase in the air, resulting in respiratory diseases and other health issues. The above mentioned effects also create problems for human beings by eliminating certain animal species and destroying agricultural produce and land.

Also read: Climate Change and Lasting Effects

Where it comes from

Carbon footprint can be linked to natural sources as well as human courses. Natural causes include;

  • Decomposition
  • Ocean release
  • Respiration

However, bulk of greenhouse gases emissions are caused by human activities. Since the industrial revolution, there has been an increase in the carbon footprint produced by humans. More than 80% of the human produced carbon emissions are generated by the burning of fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal. Burning of these fuels creates energy and carbon is generated as by-product. These can be divided further as per usage.

The transportation sector contributes the most to the total greenhouse gases emissions. Around 90% of the fuel used in transportation is petroleum based, which means it includes mainly gasoline and diesel.

The second contributor is electricity. Burning of fossil fuels generates more than half the electricity used worldwide. This is mostly gas and coal.

About 20% of the total human produced carbon footprint is a cause of industry practices. Industries generate energy for production of goods and services using coal or gas. During the production of some goods, chemical reactions required also release greenhouse gases.

Rest of the human produced carbon footprint is the result of agricultural practices, commercial and residential use and forestry.

What we can do

It is essential that we understand our role for the betterment of the environment. Below are some of the ways we can make a difference.


  • Try to drive less. It’s better to carpool or use a bus.
  • Service your car regularly. .
  • Make sure your tires have the right pressure.
  • Try to use less air conditioning and go easy on the accelerator.
  • In addition, avoid flying very often.


  • Cut down a little on red meat.
  • Eat local to save transportation emissions.
  • Try to waste as little as possible.
  • Avoid plastics and use environment friendly disposables or your own cutlery.

At your home

  • Turn off unnecessary appliances and lights.
  • Replace incandescent lights with LED lights.
  • Turn down your geyser as to not waste gas.
  • Buy environment friendly appliances
  • Don’t use unnecessary energy while using air conditioning and heaters.
  • Recycle plastic and paper.
  • Find a recycling plant to dispose of the waste.
  • Collect old batteries and recycle.
  • Insulate your house and plant trees around it.

While buying

  • Avoid unnecessary shopping.
  • Donate old things.
  • Make sure the material used is environmentally friendly.
  • Carry reusable bags with you.

Other things

  • Vote for policies for the betterment of the environment.
  • Understand and inform.
  • Work with a local climate action group.

Also read: Can we expect a further increase in wildfires?


A business student with an interest in content writing.

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