Huella de carbono

What is the carbon footprint?

Claudia Pardo

2 min read


The concept of carbon footprint is becoming more and more prevalent nowadays. We hear it constantly on TV, on the radio and in the news, but what exactly do we mean when we talk about carbon footprint?

The answer is fundamental to understanding the impact our daily activities have on the environment.

For this reason, in this post, we want to go deeper into the meaning of the carbon footprint, how it is calculated and why it is important to reduce it.

Carbon footprint

The carbon footprint is a key indicator reflecting the total greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted directly or indirectly by specific activities.

These gases, expressed as CO2 equivalent, arise mainly from energy-intensive human activities such as electricity production and transport.

The consumption of fossil fuels – oil, coal, natural gas and liquefied gas – releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), among others, increasing their concentration in the atmosphere beyond levels considered normal before the industrial era.

These GHGs, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide (N2O) and ozone, absorb solar heat, thus contributing to global warming.

In fact, since the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of these gases has increased considerably and has led to an increase in the average global temperature.

What types of carbon footprint are there?

There are mainly three types of carbon footprint, each focusing on different aspects and scenarios of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:

Personal carbon footprint: GHG emissions generated by a person’s individual activities. It includes factors such as transport (vehicle use, flights), household energy consumption (heating, electricity), and consumption habits (food, purchases of manufactured goods, services used).

Corporate carbon footprint: Total GHG emissions produced by a company or entity. This encompasses all direct and indirect operations, including production and processing, purchased electricity use, transportation of goods, and the life cycle of products or services offered by the company.

Product carbon footprint: GHG emissions associated with all stages of a product’s life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to its manufacture, distribution, use and final disposal.

How is the carbon footprint calculated?

The truth is that there are several tools and guides on the internet, offered by organisations such as the UN and national governments, to calculate both personal and corporate carbon footprints.

The calculation is based on a straightforward equation. The amount of a specific activity is multiplied by an emission factor, which changes depending on the type of energy or fuel involved.

How does the carbon footprint affect our planet?

The carbon footprint has a major impact on the environment, as the emissions generated contribute to global warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere.

This phenomenon causes adverse climatic changes such as rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events.

These changes not only affect natural ecosystems, but also have direct consequences for agriculture, human health, and the economy in general.

What can we do to reduce it?

The energy transition from fossil fuel-based energy sources to renewable and sustainable alternatives is critical to reducing the carbon footprint and combating climate change.

By adopting clean energy, such as solar energy or wind energy, the emission of greenhouse gases is significantly reduced, thereby reducing the global carbon footprint.

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