“We should tax every company’s carbon footprint and the carbon footprint of every building and home, to incentivize people to reduce their carbon footprint.”
What's crushing the planet and how to stop it
Everything you need to know about your company’s Carbon Footprint
In less than 5 minutes
Climate change is the result of greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere and radiating heat back toward the surface of the Earth, effectively increasing the global temperature. One of the key contributors to greenhouse gases is the burning of fossil fuels and the emissions that result from that activity. According to EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agencyarbon dioxide (CO2) makes up 82% of those emissions in the U.S. and 65% on a global scale, making it the most damaging greenhouse gas and the most important one to reduce or eliminate.
CO2 remains in the atmosphere for between 50 and 200 years. This means that the amount of CO2 we have already pumped into the atmosphere will be hanging around for at least two generations, and maybe as many as seven generations. The devastating effects of CO2 emissions cannot be overstated. The global average temperature is on the rise. It has already risen 1.0 degrees Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and it is expected to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) within as little as 11 years.
This doesn’t seem like much of a temperature rise, but consider the fact that during the last ice age the global average temperature was only 2.5-5.0 degrees Celsius (5-9 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than today’s temperature. In addition, the damage this increase in global temperature is doing to the environment is resulting in:
- a reduction of water resources;
- an increase in the number of severe weather events;
- alterations to our food supply;
- changes in geography.
These consequences of CO2 emissions will go unchecked unless we put on the brakes. It is the responsibility of everyone on this planet, as individuals, as governments, and as companies and other organizations, to take a look at the impact of their activities. As a company, your carbon emissions matter, which is why you need to be aware of your carbon footprint and how to reduce it.
Read more: 5 unexpected benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility
1. What Does “Carbon Footprint” Mean?
First step: know your enemy
We often hear the term “carbon footprint” thrown around. We all need to reduce our carbon footprint to save the environment. But what does that actually mean? Carbon footprint is defined by “Time for change” as:
“The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).”
This means that every time fossil fuel is burned to run our vehicles, heat our homes and businesses, and produce goods for human consumption, we are emitting greenhouse gases and leaving behind a carbon footprint. When it comes to the production of goods for human consumption, this goes beyond just the manufacturing and transportation of those goods. We also have to take into account fossil fuels burned during the sourcing, extraction, and processing of the materials that go into the product.
With this in mind, it is critical that, as individuals, we re-evaluate and change how we view our consumption. However, companies play a major role in CO2 emissions, and for that reason, companies need to take a long, hard look at their carbon footprint and determine ways they can reduce it for a healthier planet.
Read more: Corporate Sustainability: 7 answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions
2. How to reduce your Carbon Footprint
Your best way to make your part
Along with the term “carbon footprint,” we are constantly hearing about how to reduce our carbon footprint, both as individuals and as larger entities. Companies are under increasing regulation to reduce their carbon footprint, but what does this mean? Essentially, reducing a company’s carbon footprint means reducing the total amount of carbon emissions they put into the atmosphere. There are so many ways to do this, such as:
- reducing their use of energy;
- increasing recycling efforts;
- reducing corporate travel (technology makes it much easier to hold business meetings in a virtual environment);
- sourcing materials for products in a sustainable way;
- reducing the amount of fossil fuel burned during sourcing, manufacturing, transportation.
Read more: Green Business: rise up among your competitors and make a difference!
This last one is of particular importance, considering the transportation of goods burns more fossil fuel than nearly any other human activity. For example, in the U.S., transportation is responsible for 27% of emissions, second only to the production of electricity. With that in mind, companies need to consider how to reduce their carbon footprint when it comes to the transportation of goods. It can be easy to think that shifting to green shipping is the answer, but it may not be the best or most efficient way to accomplish this goal.
3. Green Shipping vs. Carbon Offset
Pros & Cons
The first thing that often comes to mind when we think about reducing our carbon footprint is to reduce our emissions through green shipping. This makes sense and is something every company should consider. There many strategies companies can implement to green their shipping, such as:
- Using alternative fuels
- Driving slower
- Optimizing routes
- Keeping up with vehicle maintenance to ensure efficiency
- Using newer, more efficient vehicles and hybrid technology when possible
All of these strategies are good, but they don’t really take care of the problem. They will reduce emissions, but it won’t eliminate them entirely. While reducing emissions should always be a target for every company, it is perhaps even more important for them to look at offsetting their carbon emissions.
Offsetting carbon emissions simply means you contribute to the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere in some way to offset and cancel out the emissions you are creating. There are numerous programs companies can contribute to so they can offset their emissions, such as:
- Renewable energy;
- Energy efficiency;
- Methane capture;
- Carbon capture and storage;
- The destruction of industrial gases;
- The elimination of de-forestation and stopping the degradation of existing forests;
This last option is one the best ways to offset carbon emissions. It consists of contributing to the creation of carbon sinks, particularly in urban areas. A carbon sink is essentially are area that will remove large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere on a regular basis, and the best type of carbon sink is a forest. So, contributing to the planting of enough trees to cancel out the emissions your company is putting into the atmosphere is a great way to offset your carbon footprint.
Whatever way you choose to offset your carbon footprint, there are some things you should watch out for. The offset program market is unregulated, which means anyone can join the game. You need to do your homework to ensure you choose a reputable offset program. Here is what you need to look for in a program:
- The specific projects a program offers, such as windfarm, reducing de-forestation, or planting trees;
- Whether their carbon offsets are certified to recognized standards and what standards are they;
- How they have calculated their offsets and are those calculations accurate;
- Whether 100% of your company’s offsets be validated and verified by an accredited third-party;
- Whether the offsets will be implemented in the future and what the plan is to ensure that happens;
- The percentage of the offset program that results from tree planting or agricultural soil projects;
- Whether a publicly accessible registry is used to record and track offsets;
- Whether there is a public program to educate consumers on climate change;
- Whether they are a member of the International Carbon Reduction and Offset Alliance (ICROA).
With all this in mind, it is clear that carbon offset is a great option for companies to reduce their carbon footprint. Of course, before you can contribute to a carbon offset program, you need to be knowledgeable about your company’s emissions.
Read more: Carbon Offset vs. Green Logistics: the Pros and Cons
4. How to calculate your Carbon Footprint
Measure your impact
Obviously, in order to offset your carbon footprint, you need to know what your company’s carbon emissions are. This can be calculated based on your fuel consumption. Here are examples of the most commonly used fuels and how much CO2 they produce:
- 1 UK gallon (petrol) produces 10.4 kg of CO2
- 1 US gallon produces 8.7 kg of CO2
- 1 liter produces 2.3 kg of CO2
- 1 UK gallon produces 12.2 kg of CO2
- 1 US gallon produces 9.95 kg of CO2
- 1 liter produces 2.7 kg of CO2
- 1 UK gallon produces 13.6 kg of CO2
- 1 US gallon produces 11.26 kg of CO2
- 1 liter produces 3 kg of CO2
Read more: How your company can save hundreds of dollars by becoming Carbon Neutral
Obviously, calculating your carbon emissions is a daunting and complex task, especially considering the varied sources and the significant volume of those emissions. Fortunately, there is a way you can have your CO2 emissions calculated quickly and easily. There are many online assessment tools you can use. Some of these are industry specific and one of the very best for the shipping industry is Cargo Compass Calculator. Cargo Compass Calculator is offered by Cargo Compass, which also offers their Eco4Cargo carbon offset program. It is definitely worth looking into.
Read more: 3 lessons your business can learn from the most sustainable companies
Make the difference
We can no longer ignore the impact of carbon emissions on the environment, not as individuals and definitely not as companies. The world has increasingly grown smaller, in the sense that we can have goods made, purchased, and shipped from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. The planes, ships, trains, trucks, and even vehicles such as forklifts, all contribute extensively to the CO2 emissions that are destroying our atmosphere and putting our planet in jeopardy.
The answer to this problem lies in not only reducing carbon emissions, but offsetting them so that we become carbon neutral as a company and as a global society. To do that, it is important that companies get a handle on their own carbon footprint and contribute to carbon offset programs that will ultimately see the removal of CO2 from the environment at same the speed at which it is being added to it. Then we can have hope for a greener, healthier future for everyone.
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