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What is a Carbon Footprint?

The term 'carbon footprint' is used a lot these days, but what does it actually mean, and how does it define the impact we're having on our planet? 


A carbon footprint is a way of measuring a company’s, individual’s or even an individual product's emissions. The measure doesn't only identify carbon, but also other gases (known as 'greenhouse gases'). These include;

  • Nitrous Oxide, which is released from vehicle exhausts
  • Methane which is released from livestock such as cows during the digestion process.

Although many of these gases are found naturally in the earth’s atmosphere, our excessive use of fossil fuels is tipping the scale on how much of these greenhouse gases the planet can cope with. 

The kilograms of greenhouse gases produced by a product are calculated in units of carbon dioxide, otherwise known as 'carbon dioxide equivalent' (CO2e).

In the UK the average person's annual carbon footprint is 12.7 tonnes a year - that's about 10,500 bottles of wine! This takes into account travel, food and heating. When you consider that 68 million people live in the UK this really begins to add up! 

How can you reduce your own carbon footprint?

Everyone can reduce their carbon footprint, and it can be as simple as putting on a jumper instead of the heating (particularly if you have gas fired central heating) or walking and taking public transport instead of driving.

However, some areas of the carbon footprint can be harder to reduce. The food we consume can often have high carbon footprints, particularly meat and dairy products. In order to alleviate this you could try to cut meat and dairy out your diet for one day a week, this handy calculator from meat free Monday shows exactly how much water, carbon and forests you could be saving! 

But it's not just the food we eat that can have a heavy footprint - food packaging is a big factor too. Pressure on supermarkets to reduce their packaging is growing, and loose fresh products are becoming more available. Remember to bring your own bags when you do your shopping. Zero waste shops have been popping up recently, and these allow you to bring your own containers and bottles to fill up with items like dry store cupboard ingredients, dried fruit and nuts and household products. One of our favourites is Fin and Earth

Sometimes the carbon footprint you produce can be out of your hands, but there are indirect ways you can reduce your footprint. This includes 'carbon offsetting', a service that allows you to pay a company to plant trees or introduce an eco-system service that will have a positive impact on the environment. This is often used to offset the impact of unavoidable transportation, like long haul flights. 

At 69b we also offer carbon offsetting when you shop online. Simply select the Carbon Offset option in your basket and the emissions and offsetting will be calculated at checkout. It only costs a few extra pounds, but you will be helping to plant native trees in forestry projects across Australia. 

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