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ESG Flow Environment and Sustainability

What is carbon footprint and how to reduce yours?

Talking about "carbon footprinting" has become commonplace in recent years, and understanding a little more about the relationship of carbon to climate change is key. Why? Simply because life on planet Earth depends on it.

You may have seen somewhere that the increase of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere has caused global warming, which is worrying for a number of reasons. We are talking about imbalances that will affect our quality of life, such as storms, floods, droughts, fires, deaths, etc.

If you're not quite up to speed yet, enjoy reading this to find out what a carbon footprint is and how to start reducing yours - yes, you have one too.

Why "footprint"?

The carbon footprint is basically the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) that a person, group, company, institution, or certain type of activity emits. The term "footprint" comes from the English carbon footprint.

Although carbon is the best known element, other gases also intensify global warming (such as methane and nitrous oxide) and can enter into this account. For ease of calculation, carbon footprints are generally measured in tons of carbon equivalent (CO2e).

This is a concept that comes from the 1990s, when William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel created an index to measure the impact of human activities on nature, taking into account the amount of carbon dioxide that each of them emits. 

So the higher the carbon footprint number, the greater the environmental impact caused. There are several tools available on the Internet to calculate this quickly, but it is worth remembering that they only offer estimates of the impact generated, because it is actually a more complex analysis. The UN calculator, for example, takes into account factors such as housing, transportation, and lifestyle.

Being able to measure your carbon footprint helps you try to optimize processes and look for ways to reduce this negative impact. One of them is to offset emissions by own initiatives or by buying carbon credits from those who generate this kind of benefit.

Is carbon offsetting mandatory?

Despite being a global trend, carbon offsetting is still not mandatory in most situations. However, this reality is getting closer and closer to changing. Here in Brazil, fossil fuel distributors are required by law to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including carbon dioxide.

Even so, what is happening is that, voluntarily, companies are reducing and offsetting their emissions to contribute to the planet, also thinking of gaining a competitive edge in the market.

To have an idea, the average value of the Decarbonization Credit (CBIO) grew more than 175% in two years according to a study by PUC-RJ with the National Federation of Fuel, Natural Gas, and Biofuel Distributors (Brasilcom).

International Scenario

The pressure on all countries exists due to the urgency of trying to contain climate change. The UN is one of the leaders in this regard, so much so that it promotes the COP (United Nations Conference on Climate Change) every year to discuss the issue and demand measures from the participants.

In the European market, things are more advanced. One example is that the European Union (EU) Committee on Public Health and Food Safety has referred to the European Parliament plenary a bill that proposes to oblige companies to prove that their products sold in the EU are "zero deforestation". 

Based on the information made available, the European Commission will classify the countries (or regions) into low, medium or high risk in relation to deforestation. The importation of products is also being reviewed to favor those who care about the environment and declare their carbon footprint.

Finally, by raising barriers and inspecting production chains, the movement against climate change gains strength. The creation of seals that highlight products, services, and companies that are committed to the environment encourages conscious consumption and all international trade can be impacted.

Tips to reduce your carbon footprint

Thinking about our future, it is essential to set targets to zero or at least reduce carbon emissions. Once again, we emphasize that offsetting is an important strategy to remove carbon from the atmosphere in a natural way. How to do this? Besides preserving the forests and green areas that already exist, we must green the planet even more to increase the absorption rate. Changing our habits also makes all the difference so that the negative impacts are reduced. Check out some tips:

  • Adopt conscious consumption and choose sustainable products;
  • Rethink the way you get around, since the transportation sector is among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases;
  • Invest in renewable energy and save energy whenever possible;
  • Learn about recycling and waste management;
  • Start offsetting the carbon you emit with new trees.

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