by Jay Collert, CHMM, CET
One only has to see TV or magazine ads or google online to find a dizzying array of information – for either households or businesses – on carbon footprints. The real question, as with all pollution prevention/waste minimization issues, remains – is this real or merely the “green” buzzword du jour. If I do take the time to calculate this footprint and truly reduce it, is it worth the effort in time and resources?
Defining the Issue
The agreed upon definition of a carbon footprint is a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment via the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. Using such indices as the type and amount of energy you’re using, form of transportation and distance, as well as use of a myriad of energy-saving devices, one can determine (or estimate based on online calculators available) the related amount of tons of GHG.
From an industrial facility standpoint, the type of energy used and amount should be readily available. The idea is to switch, if possible, to renewable green energy, such as wind, solar, hydroelectric or biogas/biomass to reduce GHG emissions. An EPA blog for Feb. 12 at flowoftheriver.epa.gov indicates the agency uses only green power (wind, solar, landfill gases, etc.), so it’s “carbon neutral” in that respect.
Transportation costs for supplies delivery to an industrial facility also is a fairly large contributor to GHG, i.e., a tanker truck delivering chemicals to your facility, traveling from the warehouse/distributor/manufacturer, based on distance, truck size and fuel. Selecting a supplier closer to your facility would cut down on those emissions. Ordering chemicals that require fewer deliveries or weigh less would also decrease the footprint. And, of course, the actual manufacturing process of those chemicals has a footprint (called a secondary carbon footprint), so reducing chemical use by employing more efficient or alternative solutions also helps.
While these suggestions barely touch the tip of the iceberg on this topic and you may not think your small impact would matter much in relation to the world, I submit that it’s the small success stories, when replicated over and over again, that add up to real measurable differences. As with everything new, everyone starts from zero. And as the full breadth of this topic is outside the scope of this article, getting a few people interested in how to reduce their and their businesses’ carbon footprints is still worthwhile in my opinion. For more information, visit An Inconvenient Truth Carbon Calculator (climatecrisis.net), BP Carbon Footprint Calculator (bp.com), What Is a Carbon Footprint? (w.plant-a-tree-today.org), and How to Live Green (www.conservation.org).
About the Author: Jay Collert, CHMM, CET, is training director of the Aarcher Institute of Environmental Training LLC. Since 1994, Jay has focused on helping companies understand and comply with the complexities of environmental regulations. Contact: 281-256-9044, [email protected] or www.aarcherinstitute.com