Have To Go Green: Decoding The Mystery That Is The Carbon Footprint

Grace Limoncelli: Grade 7

Often the media refers to reducing our carbon footprints. But what are these elusive calculations that seem to rule our actions in becoming “greener people,” and how can we lessen our bigfoot-sized prints into small pitter-patters?

The carbon footprint is defined as the amount of carbon dioxide, methane gas, or other carbon compound emissions generated by any population, system, or activity, typically over a year. Carbon dioxide, methane, and the other compounds are known as greenhouse gases and are released by/from transportation, land clearance (like deforestation), making and eating food, use of fuels, and manufacturing of products. We can use online carbon footprint calculators to find our individual carbon footprints.

When greenhouse gases are released, they create their own layer in the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs thermal radiation and re-directs it out in all directions. Most of this heat stays within the Earth’s atmosphere, instead of being projected out into space, which causes an overall warmer planet. The temperature increase causes ice to melt on the polar caps, affecting the ecosystem there and also rising sea levels, which lead to flooding and extreme weather, like in Superstorm Sandy of 2012. The average carbon footprint for humans is nineteen tons, not to mention that these are gases, which we often think as being practically weightless.

It is obvious why we need to reduce our carbon footprints, but how do we do this? We can start with reducing, reusing, recycling. For example, using items with less packaging and using reusable items instead of disposable items are great ideas. Using clean transportation, like walking and bicycling, can make a big impact too. If we have to use cars, it is a good idea to carpool. That way we use less gasoline, and hence, emit fewer greenhouse gases. That’s a wrap, and the case of the mysterious carbon footprint is solved.





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