Carbon footprints and carbon offsetting – what does it all mean?

What is a carbon footprint?

Your carbon footprint is the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted as a result of your lifestyle and activities – by the farming of the food you eat, the aeroplanes that you fly on, the car that you drive – it all adds up to your overall carbon footprint. That CO2 is what contributes to the warming of our atmosphere and the current climate crisis.

Carbon footprints are measured in tonnes – but how much do we emit?

The answer to that varies greatly between people depending on their lifestyles, including how often a person flies, eats meat, drives a car and other factors.

The carbon footprint of the average person is around 10 tonnes – meaning that in one year, the lifestyle of that person – their travel, what they eat and so on – leads to the release of 10 tonnes of CO2 in one year. That average varies greatly between countries, with the strongest difference being between developed and developing nations.

How do I calculate MY carbon footprint?

There are many different websites that offer carbon calculating tools and each will vary slightly. We happen to like the WWF carbon calculator which can be found here: https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/#/questionnaire

What is carbon offsetting?

The biggest difference we can make as individuals to our carbon footprint is to make changes to our lifestyles – reduce the number of flights we take, walk, cycle or take public transport instead of driving, eat less meat and in general, consume less ‘stuff’. That doesn’t mean that you need to cut out life’s pleasures out completely, though – the second biggest difference that you can make is to offset your carbon footprint.

echo shoppe_aces collaboration_blue carbon offsets

Offsetting means compensating for your carbon footprint by funding an activity – or reduction in activity – that means the carbon dioxide is absorbed elsewhere. For example, an average tree can absorb one tonne of carbon dioxide by the time it’s around 40 years old. If you fund the planting of a tree you have offset one tonne of your carbon footprint. You can also offset by preventing existing, mature forests from being cut down. Funding these is known as buying carbon credits, which are bought in tonnes according to how much CO2 you wish to offset.

How can I verify my offset purchase?

When you offset your carbon footprint, you want the assurance that your money is going to good use and that the CO2 really is balanced out. Carbon standards are certification schemes which ensure this – they regulate projects which sell carbon credits by confirming how much CO2 a project’s activities really are absorbing and that the project is doing what it says it is. Depending on the standard, they may also test additional requirements, such as that a project is carried out in a socially responsible way.

The carbon credits we sell in the shop through our partner (ACES) are accredited by Plan Vivo, an international Edinburgh-based charity which has created a set of requirements for smallholders and communities wishing to manage their land and natural resources more sustainably. You can read more about Plan Vivo and their certification standards at http://www.planvivo.org/