Your Carbon Footprint Calculator

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It so happens that it is not just our physical

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footprints that have impact on the world around us. The term Carbon Footprint was coined as a measure of the total set of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions caused directly or indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product. Human beings are the ultimate consumer and it is through our consumption that we imprint our carbon footprints on the earth. Almost all our daily activities send carbon emissions into the atmosphere with driving, cooking, heating, lighting and flying all having a carbon footprint. Anything that we produce or destroy has a carbon footprint too, like construction, manufacturing, deforestation and food production.


While consumption of a certain amount of food, fuel and power may be necessary to our survival as a species, we are actually jeopardising our survival by simply consuming more than we need. Human consumption has increased to such a degree that it has become frightfully obvious that our planet is battling to keep up with our demands. We are literally raping Mother earth of her natural resources and upsetting the balance. The resultant global warming and climate change that ensue could ultimately render our future here, unsustainable. It is becoming clear that if we are to thrive on earth, we need to find a new way of being and a way of living in harmony with our environment.


Before we can change we first need to understand the impact of our carbon footprints. According to information found on the United Nations Environment Programme website ( global warming (or the rise in the average temperature of the earth) is due to human activity. In fact, we are the only species on earth that hasn’t actually doesn’t live in relative harmony with its environment. Our fall from grace began with the industrial revolution and has accelerated rapidly over the last 50 years. Fossil fuel burning is mostly responsible, because it releases gases (particularly carbon dioxide) that trap infrared radiation. This “greenhouse effect” creates a whole system disturbance, that we call climate change. The major fossil fuels are coal, oil and gas, with coal having the most impact on climate change.

Putting it into Perspective

The carbon and other green house gasses that we emit into the atmosphere and that have impact on the environment are measured as Carbon equivalents or C02e. Project 90x2010 has a nifty carbon calculator on their website, which can help you to determine your personal annual carbon footprint. According to Project 90x2030, the South African average per capita carbon footprint is 9.3 tons CO2e per annum. The following can be used as a do it yourself carbon footprint calculator. Here is a look at what some of our daily habits cost the environment in term of carbon emissions:


For every R100 spent per month on your electricity bill you will emit 2.98 tons CO2e per year. Remember to divide this number by the number of people in your household.


Travelling an average of 15.000km per year, an 1800 SUV will emit 4.07 tons C02e; A 1300 sedan will emit 2.73 tons CO2e 4.07 C02e and 350cc motorbike just 0.78 tons C02e annually.

Recreational flights

One return flight between Johannesburg and Cape Town for example will emit 0.24 C02e; to Asia will emit 2.25 tons C02e, to Europe or Australia 3.0 tons C02e and to the West Coast of America 4.5 tons C02e per return flight. Fly first class and your carbon emissions can go up by almost 70 percent.


1 wheelie bin full of waste per week equates to 3.12 tons of waste and 5.07 tons C02e per year, if you don’t recycle. If you recycle paper, metals, plastic and glass your waste remains the same but carbon emissions go down more than 3 times to 1.59 tons per annum for one wheelie bin per week worth of rubbish.

Making the Shift

It is clear that we cannot as a human race completely stop emitting carbon, but we can do a lot lower our carbon footprints until more lasting solutions become apparent. Be the change you wish to see and start reducing your personal carbon footprint with these suggestions:

· Limit your power usage. Switching lights off and unplugging electrical equipment when not in use; eating more un-cooked fresh foods or reading a book instead of watching television can all help.

· Use gas instead of coal for heating and cooking purposes where possible.

· Consider solar power.

· Consider using a lighter vehicle for travel purposes, like a scooter, motorbike, hybrid vehicle or at least something with a small engine that is lighter on fuel.

· Optimise your fuel consumption by having your tire pressure checked regularly, avoiding carrying heavy loads in your car or reducing the use of your air-con system.

· Choose local destinations over international ones for travel purposes where possible. Or take fewer trips.

· Reduce the amount of waste you throw out by reducing your consumption of unnecessary items.

· Before throwing something in the rubbish, consider re-using it for another purpose or donating it to charity.

· Recycle your waste

· Buy locally produced items, including food and clothes, to help reduce emissions relating to the transportation of goods.

· Support local organic farming, which supports the environmental principles of sustainability.

· Reduce the amount of meat you eat. There are huge energy costs involved in feeding cattle that also produce large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

· Plant trees and home gardens. Trees and plants don’t just supply us with food, shade and something pretty to look at. They are an indispensible part of the eco-system and help suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while at the same time oxygenating it. According to information from Food and Trees for Africa, a social enterprise that develops, promotes and facilitates greening, climate change action, food security and sustainable natural resource use and management in South Africa, 2.67 trees are required to offset 1 ton of Carbon.

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