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What Are Ecological Carbon Footprints Environmental Sciences

Essay add: 13-11-2017, 16:10   /   Views: 2

An ecological carbon footprint is the carbon emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product. By the use of a carbon footprint calculator, I am able to customize and measure my own personal quantifiable metrics with which will help identify where I stand in the environmental impact of a local, national and global scale. Through the simple calculation of travel, food and household consumption over the span of two weeks, I will be able to prove whether my footprint is contributing to a sustainable future or whether I am impacting this sustainability. The calculation will also prove and uncover many of the hidden implications that we as humans do not account for, such as the production of food we buy, as spending on food and non-alcoholic beverages from stores resulted in production of almost 46,000 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases (Statistics Canada, 2009). Calculating carbon emissions gives a better understanding of the contributions that many people do not account for and is a key step in global reductions. The goal of my paper is to quantify my ecological footprint in two separate time periods and place it in the context of that of Canada and other countries.

Methods

Collection of impact data over the course of a two week period as an individual.

Categorized through travel, food and household consumption.

Calculation data requiring the rate per month or year was divided to represent the two week period.

In order to get the most accurate results, I calculated two separate footprint scenarios.

The first calculation [Figure 1a] measures my consumption during school.

The second calculation [Figure 1b] measures my consumption over the summer.

Heating data was taken as an estimate from my apartment resident average.

Food data was a calculation and division of groceries over the two week period.

Division of organic, local produce, and food packaging.

Fast food was accounted for both food and beverages (coffee, soda, water).

For the summer calculation, travel data is accounted for as I use a vehicle to get to work.

Vehicle distance in kilometers is based from a 'Google Maps' estimation measurement from my residence to workplace.

Air travel taken into account over the 2 week period as an addition of accuracy to the extent of my summer impact.

Majority of food and household data for the summer calculation remains the same as the calculation for school year data as a result of my routine remaining the same.

Results

In order to get the most accurate results over my two week period, I accounted for two separate scenarios: the two week calculation of data from the school year, as well as a careful estimation of data over the two week period during the summer. Although my daily routine does not change food and household calculations for both scenarios, my personal travel data is thought to show greater shifts.

[Figure 1a]:

During the two week calculation of the school period, my total food consumption was by far the greatest contributor to my overall 3.79 CO2 total. Food consumption contributes approximately 76% of my total school carbon footprint. The majority of impact from food consumption equates from my moderate meat eating habits. According to 'Statistics Canada' this is not completely inaccurate as meat is accounted for the largest percentage (23%) of food-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Statistics Canada, 2009). Behind food, my household consumption is the second greatest contributor overall, contributing approximately 18% of my total carbon footprint during the school year. My garbage consumption takes the majority of household impacts at a staggering 76% and is also the most impactful subcategory as seen in the whole figure. This is also closely accurate as a 2002 report on resident solid waste showed that waste management services cost municipal governments more than $1.5 billion (Statistics Canada, 2005). Lastly, my personal travel impacts are pleasantly very scarce. As a result of living directly in the city, majority of my personal travel is contributed to walking which beneficially has no consequent carbon impact, however I did account for the GO-train rides to and from my hometown which showed little implication.

From observing the final summary of my carbon footprint during this two week period, it is clearly obvious that reductions must be made to food consumption. Taking suggestions from the calculator's pledges offers a variety of reduction solutions that I can apply to my daily routine. Food packaging in particular took the bulk of my consumption, which can be considerably reduced by making more effort to shopping at local produce markets such as Toronto's Farmers' Markets. Food packaged items were a more preferable choice due to my time schedule and the lack in finding the time to making meals from a variety of produce alternatives. Making this transition to choose more local/organic fruits and vegetables will lower my carbon footprint by 70% and make a more positive impact on a sustainable future.

[Figure 1b]:

During the two week calculation of the summer period, my total food consumption was once again the greatest contributor to my overall 4.24 CO2 total. The total food consumption contributes approximately 74% of my total summer carbon footprint. With most of the same consumption habits as seen in the school year of Figure 1a, majority of the carbon impact from food consumption is from moderate meat eating habits. However there is difference in my fast-food consumption as I rely more on purchasing food at work which almost levels with food packaging and raises my over carbon count. Something else that is not accounted for during the school year but is however accounted for during the summer is greater travel consumption. My personal travel consumption is the second greatest contributor overall, adding to approximately 12% of my total carbon footprint. Surprisingly the most impactful subcategory comes from the two short haul flights that were accounted for and represents approximately 67% of the total travel emissions. Another source contributor from my personal travel that I do not account for during the school year is driving. My driving consumption over the summer was an estimation made calculating the distance from home to work, which only contributed 31% of the total travel carbon emissions. Though this still remains a key contributor to travel emissions, household's that are located in centrally located neighborhoods downtown will produce fewer greenhouse gases from weekday urban trips as can be seen in 'Canada`s Mortgage and Housing Corporation' graph in Figure 4. Again dissimilar to the school year, my household impacts over the summer are significantly smaller. Though my habits are still similar to those during the school year, my household carbon count is dampened by the other greater impacting contributors.

After observing both the final summaries of my carbon footprint scenarios during the two week period, it still remains obvious that reducing food consumption and finding better supplementary alternatives to local food is imperative in contributing to sustainability for the future. I speculate that a majority of the population do not account for food production as being a significant factor in carbon emissions. We need to understand that fuel is used in many steps of food production such as sowing crops; manufacturing and applying fertilizers and pesticides; harvesting, shipping, processing and packaging" (Statistics Canada, 2009). Obtaining a better understanding of the production is a key step in personal reductions as well as national reductions.

The result of both scenarios proves to me that being located centrally in the City of Toronto is beneficial given that, I am limited to the access of most highly consumptive modes of transportation that gives some of the greatest amounts of carbon emissions. However, I believe that my total carbon counts for both scenarios are relatively low and sustainable. In comparison to the averages of others in the City of Toronto [Figure 2a & 2b], I am under at least 50% of the averages for both of my two week scenarios, which proves that I am contributing to the future sustainability of reduced carbon emissions, although it is my responsibility to maintain it. Similar factors apply in comparison to Canada [Figure 2a & 2b] which shares related CO2 averages. Countries such as Dubai [Figure 3a & 3b] which has the world's largest per capita ecological footprint (Russell, 2009, p.91) holds a substantially high CO2 average in comparison to the city of Toronto, Canada, and both averages from my scenarios. Both my averages are below 30% of the averages seen in Dubai, this is resulted due to the environmental stress being faced in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE have experienced massive unplanned urbanization which has played an enormous effect on the countries carbon emissions (Russell, 2009, p.91).

Discussion

Calculating two separate footprints for both my school and summer periods successfully showed total emission differences, however it didn't display any major significant differences in the total the numerical averages. The main differences between the two periods were seen in the greater consumption of personal travel during the summer compared to the almost transportation-free school period. Although both scenarios are closely similar I speculate that there are some inaccuracies within both calculations. I believe the school period to be inaccurate in that, I made calculations not accounting for any downtown public transit taken, which only on rare occasion I will take to get to areas that I am incapable of walking to. I chose not to account for this because I do not recognize it as being a part of my daily routine during the school year. I also believe that my estimation of travel during the summer does not entirely account for driving that is made when I am required to make pick-ups in other towns and cities. Again I did not specifically account for this because it does not fall under my daily routine over the course of a two week period. Lastly I speculate that there are also inaccuracies in the internal make-up of the 'Zerofootprint Calculator' in that I believe the majority of the calculations made were still under the basis of a year accumulation and did not justify for the two weeks. However I do believe that the calculator successfully acts as an influential communication tool that demonstrates the environmental impact of our daily activities that some do not take into account.

Summary - ConclusionMain findings:

My ecological footprint is found significantly under the average of that of Toronto, Canada and Dubai.

My average footprint over the summer is not significantly higher than my average during my daily school period.

Food consumption and production contributes to a important amount of CO2 emissions.

Although carbon calculators can tend to be inaccurate, they act as efficient communication tools to inform about the harmful consumption values of daily travel, food and household activities on a global scale.

The goal of my paper was to quantify my ecological footprint in two separate time periods and place it in the context of that of Canada and other countries. I believe I have achieved this goal as I have gained insight to where I stand under a global scale. I also achieved a sustainable footprint average that has taught me to take the responsibility of maintaining it in order to preserve a sustainable future and make the possible reductions.

Literature Cited

Comparing Neighbourhoods - Toronto. CMHC. (2001). Canada Mortgage and Housing  http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/buho/sune/sun

Human Activity and the Environment: Annual Statistics: Overview. (2009). Stats Canada: Canada's National Statistical Agency. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/16-201-x/2009000/aftertoc-aprestdm1-eng.htm

Human Activity and the Environment: Solid waste. (2005). Stats Canada: Canada's National Statistical Agency. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/051202/dq051202b-eng.htm

Learning Resources - Environment. Statistics Canada: Canada's National Statistical Agency 2009. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/edu/edu02_0021-eng.htm

Russell, J. A. (2009). Environmental Security and Regional Stability in the Persian Gulf. Middle East Policy, XVI(No.4), 10. 

Article name: What Are Ecological Carbon Footprints Environmental Sciences essay, research paper, dissertation