A personal carbon footprint measures the greenhouse gases which are emitted as a result of the activities of an individual.
Typically it’s measured in kilograms or tonnes of carbon dioxide ‘equivalents’. This is because whilst carbon dioxide is the main greenhouses gas it also needs to include other gases such as methane and nitrous oxide which have much greater global warming potential.
The activities that a carbon footprint covers are broad, because so many of our day to day activities lead to greenhouse gas emissions. They can be split out into 5 main areas:
- Running a home which includes heating, electricity and waste.
- Transport because when we drive, fly or use other transport fossil fuels are often burnt.
- What we eat, drink and any food we waste.
- What we buy from clothes to electrical items to personal care.
- The services we use which includes how we invest, where we stay on holiday and our mobile and internet.
Adding these all up the average global carbon footprint for an individual is around 5 tonnes but it’s 9 tonnes in the UK, over 15 tonnes in the United States and under 2 tonnes in India. Whilst the majority of a carbon footprint is carbon dioxide the food we eat often adds methane (from livestock) and nitrous oxide (from fertilizer) to the total.