We hear a lot these days about ‘carbon emissions’, carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) or even methane gas (CH4). This is often with regards to the worrying climate change crisis we are facing. There is often so much information flying around we thought it might be helpful to explain exactly what are carbon emissions are and how you can live a more eco-friendly life by reducing your carbon emissions.
WHAT ARE CARBON EMISSIONS?
The two most salient types of carbon emissions are in the form of carbon dioxide and methane gas:
Carbon dioxide or CO2: is a perfectly normal compound that exists in the air on planet Earth’s atmosphere. It has no colour and no smell and is a molecule made from one carbon atom joined to two oxygen atoms. So if you don’t ever recall smelling it or seeing it - that’s why!
Methane or CH4: is a molecule made from one carbon atom joined to four hydrogen atoms. Methane is equally as colourless and odourless as carbon dioxide but in addition it is no-toxic but can be flammable.
CARBON EMISSIONS IN THE ATMOSPHERE
Carbon doxide makes up less than 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere and methane is about 200 times less concentrated than that. So it may surprise you why we talk about carbon emissions so much! Our precious earth and all the organisms in it maintain the level of atmospheric carbon.
Things that increase the level of carbon emissions:
- Burning fossil fuels like petrol and diesel in cars increase carbon emissions
- Fracking or the extraction of coal, oil and natural gas from the Earth increase carbon emissions
- The production of materials like virgin plastic that are not eco-friendly increase carbon emissions
- Biologic waste: from cows (and other farmed animals) as well as fermentation in rice fields, decomposing waste in landfill sites, wetlands, burning forests and more all increase carbon emissions
- Breathing! Yes, living creatures like us humans and cattle on farms release carbon dioxide when we breath out which increases carbon emissions
Things that decrease the level of carbon emissions:
- Living plants, our eco-friendly friends! Plants use carbon dioxide and water to make food for themselves via a process called photosynthesis.
- Carbon dioxide gas dissolving into the water in seas and oceans around the world
- Switching to carbon neutral products that release no carbon emissions at all! More on this below
you may wonder
ARE CARBON EMISSIONS BAD?
Normal levels of carbon in the atmosphere is not a bad thing at all. Carbon dioxide and methane are known as a greenhouse gas. When greenhouse gases are present in the atmosphere they absorb radiation – such as the sun’s energy and cause the earth to heat up.
The issue is that through excessive carbon emissions (due to human activity) too much carbon is ending up in the Earth’s atmosphere. This is causing the temperature of the Earth to heat up excessively and this is called global warming. Global warming in turn is causing long term changes in our planet’s weather patterns called ‘climate change’.
The negative impact of climate change is felt all over the world and includes droughts in some parts of the world, excessive rainfall, biodiversity and habitat loss, as well as more extreme weather conditions like storms to name a few. The culmination of all these negative changes is what has become the climate change emergency.
Sadly, us humans are the reason carbon emissions are so high and for the climate change emergency. The good news is humans also have the power to reduce carbon emissions and live more eco-friendly lives!
HOW TO REDUCE YOUR CARBON EMISSIONS
We can all contribute to reducing our carbon emissions. Your total level of greenhouse emissions is called your carbon footprint. Reducing your carbon emissions can collectively help to slow down the rate at which global warming is happening, and therefore the negative results of climate change.
Here are some things you can personally do to help our planet recover:
Eat less meat
Food production is complicated, but most experts agree that cutting down on meat – especially red meat such as beef is more eco-friendly for the environment. This is because of the volume of carbon emissions involved in feeding and watering the animals and the land they live off is extremely high.
The most ideal position would be switching to a vegan (entirely plant-based) diet. Some studies suggest some meat gives off more than 6 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per serving whilst a combination of vegetables can be less than 0.5 pounds.
So choosing to buy into more vegan based foods and vegan products could help our darling planet recover faster.
Use carbon neutral products
Carbon neutral products are products that reduce the the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere through their production and transport to zero. That’s right, zero!
This can be done via innovative ingredients and packaging solutions that help limit carbon dioxide emissions or even by investing in conservations programmes designed to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
So look out for carbon neutral products across all areas of your life: dental care, clothing, even some services such as delivery companies! This way you will know that your carbon emissions will be reduced through using more eco-friendly products.
Use Biodegradable Products
Biodegradable products where the product and/or packaging that is able to naturally decompose once you throw them away in a way that is not harmful to the Earth. Biodegradable products are often amongst the most eco-friendly product available; they tend to use less energy to produce. Some such as sugarcane based materials even help to actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as many other eco-friendly advantages.
Good examples of these are items that are already made out of natural materials (that have not been modified to affect their biodegradability) such as cardboard, wood, bamboo, natural cork or seaweed.
You’ll be surprised how many different products you can find made from biodegradable materials once you go looking for them!
Recycling helps to reduce carbon emissions. Recycling products you have already used means less energy is consumed when they are turned into something else! Far less energy is used creating a bottle from other recycled bottles than is used from creating a bottle for the very first time from virgin plastic for example.
Look out for products that flag that they can be recycled and actually follow through with it. Doing so will have you well on your way to reducing your carbon emissions and more eco-friendly living.
Emissions from cars and other carbon emitting vehicles is one of the top contributors to global carbon emissions. Going carless for a year could save 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide according to come studies.
Even if you don’t drive much at the moment you could also avoid public transport such as buses by walking or cycling more often to reduce your carbon emissions further.
Breaking a sweat has never been so good for your mental health or the plant!