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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Carbon Footprint - A brief overview

A carbon footprint is the total assessment of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced through transport, land clearance, the production and consumption of food, burning of fossil fuels, like natural gas, crude oil and coal, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, and services. It is generally expressed in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide, or its alike other GHGs (methane, ozonem, nitrous oxide), emitted. These greenhouse gases are converted into the amount of CO2 affecting the global warming.

The carbon footprint is a division of the ecological footprint and of the more comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment(LCA). A carbon footprint is calculated for the time period of a year.

A carbon footprint is categorized as the primary footprint and the secondary footprint.
1. The primary footprint arises from direct productions of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels together with domestic energy consumption and transportation (e.g. car and plane).
2. The secondary footprint arises from the indirect CO2 productions with the whole lifecycle of usable products related with their manufacture and eventual breakdown.

Carbon footprint provides great effect on population, economic output, and energy and carbon intensity of the economy. So once the carbon footprint is set up, some steps should be taken to decrease the amount of carbon footprint. These steps range from technological developments, better process and product management, development of substitute projects like solar or wind energy or reforestation, changed Green Public or Private Procurement (GPP), decrease the amount of energy for production requirement, decrease the reliance on carbon emitting fuels, carbon capture, carbon offsetting, consumption strategies.

In the medium- and long term, the carbon footprint has to be diminish to less than 2'000 kg CO2 per year and per person for a sustainable living.

Once the greenhouse gas emission is ascertained, they should be converted to CO2 equivalencies. Suppose one has 100 grams of NH2, then you have to convert applying a conversion factor so that it is in terms of CO2. Emission factors (grams per mile) are available from different ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

If you get the emission factor (e.g., 200 grams/mile) and the activity (e.g., 100 miles), the greenhouse gas emissions can be easily calculated (i.e., 200 x 100 = 20,000 grams). Each of the emissions that are calculated is specific to a pollutant (e.g., CO2, CH4, etc.).

Few people prefer to convey their carbon footprint in kg carbon rather than kg carbon dioxide. One is able to convert kg carbon dioxide in kg carbon by multiplying with a factor 0.27 (1'000 kg CO2 equals 270 kg carbon).

Carbon Footprint Calculator :
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Posted by Rajib Dey
Business Development
Global Associates
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