Ecotip – Me and my carbon footprint

Me and my carbon footprint.

You may have heard of the term “carbon footprint” in discussions about climate change and the environment. But what does it mean for us?

We all have a “carbon footprint”, an estimate of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of our lifestyle choices. Carbon dioxide is a so called “greenhouse gas”, because it traps energy in the atmosphere, increasing temperatures.

Everything we do in some way produces carbon dioxide. Sometimes this is obvious, for example travelling (driving, flying, using public transport) and lighting and heating our homes. Other emissions of carbon dioxide from our activities are less obvious. The food we eat, the water we use, and the products we buy all require energy to produce and transport. This is sometimes called “embedded carbon” and is part of everyone’s footprint.

In addition, we also each have a “share” in the carbon dioxide discharged from national and local services we use, such as roads, hospitals, schools and the military.

According to data published in January 2019 by the World Economic Forum, in 2016 the average person’s footprint in the UK is 5.65 tonnes of CO₂. This compares with figures for the US of 14.95, China 6.57 and Brazil 2.01 tonnes.

You might like to calculate your own carbon footprint and consider the effect your lifestyle is having.

Several online calculators are available:


Carbon Footprint™:

Climate Stewards:

Once you have assessed your lifestyle, think about how you could reduce your footprint. You could consider compensating for what remains (known as “offsetting”) through schemes which, for example, sponsor tree planting. See the the Climate Stewards website for more information on this.

Future Ecotips will look at simple steps we can all take to reduce our carbon footprints.