What is a Carbon Footprint?
A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions a person or business emits through everyday activities and actions. This includes transportation, heating, electricity use, food consumption, etc.
To put this number in perspective, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, the average Canadian produces 20 - 23 tonnes of CO2 per year. The global average is 7.7 tonnes of CO2 per year.
We as Canadians contribute a huge amount of CO2 into the atmosphere but are a disproportionately tiny percentage of the world’s population. Therefore, we have a greater responsibility to take actions to reduce our larger carbon footprint and the impact it has all over the world. We can work together to cut our emissions and make a difference to communities around the world affected by climate change.
Your Carbon Offsetting Challenge
Soon you will be taking a round-trip from Vancouver, Canada to Cusco, Peru. Despite being a less common mode of transportation, air travel has unreasonably high CO2 emissions. The flight will put approximately 3.5 tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere for each student, so we challenge you to mitigate this impact leading up to your trip. First, you will need to calculate your personal carbon footprint. Record your footprint in your Peru trip journals. Then from the first workshop to the time you leave to Peru, try to see how much of the 3.5 tonnes from your flights you can reduce. Keep a record in your journal of all the changes you make during this challenge, and in the second workshop leading up to your trip, we will recalculate your carbon footprint and have a check in for all students to see how well everyone is doing.
Tips on lowering your CO2 emission:
Switch to clean energy - when you need a new light bulb, buy energy efficient bulbs.
Use less energy around the house - unplug those chargers!
Travel “green” - carpool, bus, or cycle to school. Sharing a ride with someone just 2 days a week will reduce your CO2 emissions by 1,590 pounds a year.
Watch your water use - start collecting rainwater for watering indoor plants!
Buy fresh foods instead of frozen - frozen food uses 10 times more energy to produce.
Always select the cold wash cycle for clothing - all of the energy goes into heating the water, and clothes actually stay nicer for longer if you aren’t cooking them during the wash cycle.
Reduce waste - find out how to re-use kitchen scraps and compost.
Recycle! - you can save 2,400 pounds of CO2 a year by recycling half of the waste your household generates.
Buy second hand - or better yet, buy less!
Conserve water - installing a low flow showerhead works out to 350 pounds of CO2 saved per year.
When you do buy, be wary of packaging - support companies that have little to no packaging, or let you refill products. You can save 1,200 pounds of CO2 if you cut down your garbage by 10%.
Buy recycled paper products - it takes 70 to 90% less energy to make recycled paper and it prevents the loss of forests worldwide.
Support companies that pledge 1% profits to the planet.
Buy carbon offsets, which helps by paying an organization that will verifiably curb its emissions to neutralize your own emissions.
Buy organic, buy local.
Eat less dairy and meat products during the week.
Plant an herb garden.
Plant a tree - over the course of its 40 year lifetime, the average tree can absorb around one ton of CO2.
Write an email to your local MLA, MP, and the Federal government that the environment is a primary concern for you - encourage them to invest in green technology and development.
Some additional Environmental Volunteering you can do:
Garry Oak ecosystems recovery team
Greater Victoria Green Team
Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup
Volunteer Victoria Youth Program can help find you a volunteer position in the environmental sector