Just What Exactly Is a Carbon Footprint?

You have probably heard the phrase “carbon footprint” many times in relation to conservation and the environment. Even though it is a commonly used phrase, not many people really know what it means. If you have an interest in being eco-friendly and doing your part to preserve the earth, it is good to understand this concept.

What It Means

In general, the term carbon footprint refers to the amount of environmental impact that a person, a company, a technology or anything else has. The word carbon is used to refer to carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas that is a large contributor to global warming. Like a real footprint, your “carbon footprint” can be big or small, shallow or deep, depending on the amount of impact your lifestyle has on the environment.

How It Is Measured

Your carbon footprint takes into account anything you do that produces carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon footprints comprise primary and secondary footprints depending on whether something has a direct or indirect effect on the earth. There are a number of fairly common activities that can increase your carbon footprint by differing degrees, including:

  • Driving a car
  • Using plastic bags and bottles
  • Eating foods created by CO2-producing processes

Why It Matters

There are a number of online carbon footprint calculators, but it is difficult to get an exact measure of your effect on the environment because it is hard to measure all the indirect ways that your actions affect the world around you. Nevertheless, it is extremely important to be conscious of the impact of your everyday actions.

You might not think, for example, that using plastic bags occasionally at the grocery store matters much; however, thousands of people all choosing to use plastic bags could have a negative impact. Keep your carbon footprint in mind as you go through your life, and remember to think about the larger effect that your actions have on the rest of the world.