Carbon Emissions....what are they. There is much talk in the media about carbon emissions and how we should all reduce our carbon footprint but how many of us know what it actually means.
Carbon emissions are the result of burning carbon-based fuels (fossil fuels) such as coal, oil and natural gas and the carbon compounds released into the atmosphere. How this affects us apart from the obvious pollution question is that the high concentration in the atmosphere of changes in carbon dioxide results in the rising of the earth's temperatures, causing the problems we are experiencing today...i.e. climate change, the melting of the ice cap, rising sea levels etc
This situation is a global problem and it involves everyone from the major industries in the USA and Japan and the developing industrial countries such as China and India to businesses in cities and towns using computers and office water coolers, to all households using heating and electricity.
On a huge scale, there are international processes in place in the form of the Kyoto agreement, which calls for global co-operation in reducing emissions. This suggests long-term undertakings from the major countries to reduce their carbon footprint by using different technologies already available such as shifting to wind, solar and geothermal power to produce electricity. Also, increases in machinery and transportation efficiency.
Industrial emissions are a major problem, making it the responsibility of each government to set down and implement policies that limit the enormous impact the emissions (from factories etc) have. Clean energy technology would see a change from dependence on carbon based to hydrogen based energy systems resulting in a more stable climate and cleaner world to live in.
On a more localised level, businesses have a responsibility to play their part. This could entail everything such as, using more natural ventilation instead of air conditioning, reducing excess lighting and heating, reduce leaving things on standby (in some cases hundreds of desktop computers), and reusing or recycling paper, office furniture, IT equipment etc. By leaving a PC monitor on standby, enough electricity to boil 500 kettles is wasted annually. The implementation of web, video and phone conferences can greatly reduce a company's carbon footprint negating the need for travel often by car or air.
Even the provision of water to a workforce creates carbon emissions. Water miles are the distance travelled by vehicles transporting the water bottles for dispensers in businesses. The simple way to overcome this is to install mains fed office water coolers, which will remove an enormous number of heavy vehicles in city centres.
Another advantage of the latest technology in office water coolers is that instead of filling a kettle to make tea or coffee, water in these machines can now be boiled to a temperature where hot drinks can be made from the water produced. Therefore, only the correct amount of water needed is heated. If people only boiled the amount of water they actually needed, enough electricity to run nearly all the street lighting in the UK would be made available.
The message to households is to turn down or switch off. Most UK households produce 6 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. By turning down the thermostat by 1 degree, replacing ordinary light bulbs with energy saving ones, not leaving their technology on standby for 24 hours a day or leaving lights on using excessive amounts of electricity unnecessarily, individual household emissions will see a reduction of approximately 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
Carbon emissions are here to stay for a very long time yet but if each country, business, household and individual took conscious steps to take responsibility for their own contribution, our global outlook would be very much a healthier one.
Anna Stenning has recently developed new routines in her house, and has seen using office water coolers and hot water dispensers at work is a good way of monitoring carbon footprinting.