Measuring our impact on the planet like a shoe size seems odd but “carbon footprints” are a useful way to bring the problem home. A carbon footprint sums up the total greenhouse-gas contribution made by an individual, item, company or country; it’s the stamp we leave on the planet.
In the 21st century, we all leave a trail. The average person in the UK is responsible for generating 10 tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, enough to fill 24 million balloons. The problem can feel bigger than us, the fault of big industry – not our business. Carbon and other greenhouses gases are belched forth from power stations plugged into the electricity grid, running diesel engines and woodlands burned to clear space for agriculture, trapping heat from the sun in the lower atmosphere. Yet every time you take a flight, shop for anything from half a world away or leave the lights on overnight, your own carbon deficit mounts.
Last year, the UN warned of dangers if global temperature increase isn’t tethered to between 1.5ºC and 2ºC in the next 12 years: sea level rises, mass extinction among insect and coral species, and a world that simply can’t support us. Here’s how to take baby steps in reducing your footprint and do your bit to help the planet.