Earth Day is April 22. So, what does carbon footprint mean? Also, a little diddy about plastic bags.
This year, we celebrate the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day, an event which is recognized internationally. Today, both responsible companies, and individuals are helping to build a more sustainable, greener, heathier and cleaner future. You can find many useful websites and resources the provide valuable information on everyday things that you can do to help the environment from tips on better recycling to reducing car idle time, turning off lights and eliminating toxic cleaning chemicals that contain volatile organic compounds.
Most people see the importance of recyling and understand the hazards of toxic chemicals, both for the environment, but also for individual health. But, most people really do not understand what “carbon footprint” really means. Since it’s Earth Day again, here is a quick review. An understandable definition of carbon footprint that I’ve read is “the amount of energy used by yourself, an organization, an event, or product to sustain itself”. In other words, the total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions that are required.
This sounds reasonable, but other factors also need to be considered in this calculation. I’ll use an example that I read about that illustrates the point with the familiar grocery plastic bag. Apparently, China, as part of their pursuit of a greener and cleaner future, has prohibited the use of thin plastic bags in an effort to sway consumers to use reusable cloth bags. Here’s the challenge, which is also the same for the U.S. and other countries. A new study by the Environmental Agency of England found that the thin plastic bags actually have a smaller carbon footprint than the reusable cloth bags and even disposable paper bags. According to their findings, you would have to reuse a cotton bag at least 131 times to equal the carbon footprint of a plastic bag (USA Today). Furthermore, if you reuse plastic bags, say as garbage liners, the difference is even greater.The point of this short post is simply to suggest making informed decisioins while acting responsibly to do your part in recylcing and reducing harmful chemicals in your home and environment. And, as far as plastic bags are concerned, I think the jury is still our on this one.
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