For a long time, I thought it was contradictory to try to protect the earth, yet we cut down trees to make environmental friendly products. Aren’t we supposed to keep the trees in the ground, I thought, and make use of bottles or plastic Instead? Well I didn’t understand the term ‘carbon footprint’ at the time. I didn’t go looking for answers either at the point, but now I know.
I could give a long definition of carbon footprint or I could tell it like it is in the simplest way. So here it is:
Carbon footprint describes the total amount of green house gases emitted by an activity. So looking at a simple example, which of these activities has a higher footprint? Eating a piece of nicely grilled hotdog or a bowl of vegetable salad. Yes, every product you use has a carbon footprint on the planet ‘earth’. We may not be able to tell accurately, but we can estimate and make comparisons. There are ways in which we can get closer to accuracy in calculating our carbon footprint. I can explain this further in later post.
To understand the carbon foot print of every item, you need to go back in time to trace all the activities that has gone into making that product. So for a Hotdog, the starting point really is the rearing of the cattle, which then lives for some years. Cows release digestion waste, which really is ‘cow dung’. It is alarming to find out that cow dung has a high Methane content and from elementary chemistry, we should remember methane is composed of carbon and hydrogen.
Once the animal is fit for harvest, it goes through a sophisticated process of being crushed, refined, heated, then cooled. As the hotdog is ready to leave the factory, it is packaged and refrigerated. From the day it leaves factory, to the day it is consumed, most brands of hotdogs have to be refrigerated. The implication of this is that a lot of fuel is burnt to preserve the hotdog. I know this is a lot of information to process about the hot dog you probably had for breakfast, but this is real information. Now think of all the machines that have been involved in the production of the hot dogs and how much fuel was required to power the machines. Do not fail to include the heat used in cooking the hotdog before consumption. Whether you use an electric grill or coal grill, there is a contribution to the atmosphere.
I love hot dogs, trust me I do, and I don’t intend to make you dislike them. Hot dog is only a victim in this explanation.
Your bowl of vegetable salad on the other hand has actually done a good job in offsetting carbon by absorbing some of the carbon in the atmosphere while growing.
Next time you hold an item, take a moment to consider its carbon footprint, and maybe create a lifestyle centered around consumption of products with less carbon footprint.
Remember to be green, to be responsible in your actions.
You need the earth.