While increasing environmental awareness continues to drive down the level of carbon emissions produced by established economies, CO2 remains a significant threat to the world's long-term prosperity. Although nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan have experienced reduced carbon emissions during 2009, evolving economies such as Iran and India produced significantly more CO2 than in previous years.
With an emphasis placed on the individual to reduce his or her own carbon emissions, however, it is the per capita figures that offer a far greater insight into where the true issues lie. In this case, the U.S. continued to have the highest rate of CO2 emissions among evolved economies during 2009, with a staggering 18 tons produced per person. So how can this be improved, and what steps can citizens take to play their part?
Pay Attention to Food Waste and Shipment Costs
Food waste is one of the most significant contributors to the global carbon footprint, especially in established nations where the supply is more plentiful. A recent study by the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. has identified that consumers could curb their emissions by reducing the amount that of food that they purchase, serve and subsequently waste, while also highlighting the role that food manufacturers can play in utilizing fertilizers more efficiently. Purchasing local and seasonal produce also allows consumers to minimize their individual level of emissions, by eliminating the carbon costs of manufacturing and shipping out of season goods.
Capitalize on Technological and Scientific Advancement
While enhanced awareness is one thing, the advancements that have been made in science and technology also has a significant role to play in minimizing emissions. For example, the introduction of tablets helped online news consumption to rise by 17% between 2010 and 2011, while the traditional publishing industry steadily declined. The reduced circulation of newspapers has subsequently saved paper and trees, while also minimizing carbon emissions. The continued evolution of energy efficient hybrid cars has had a similar effect, and given consumers the opportunity to purchase stylish and increasingly affordable vehicles that are environmentally friendly.
Embrace the Culture of Thrift Purchasing
The carbon cost of manufacturing new goods and products is significant, and this goes some way to explaining the rising popularity of thrift and online e-commerce stores. According to data released by NARTS: The Association of Resale Professionals, the thrift and resale market has grown by an average of 7% for each of the last two years, as economic and social factors have combined to promote the purchase of used goods and household items. For anyone looking to reduce his or her individual carbon emissions, buying second hand products is a logical and financially rewarding practice.
Plant a Tree
There are methods of offsetting the carbon emissions that you produce, and the planting of trees is considered as one of the most effective. National and local governments throughout the world engage in tree planting programs on an annual basis, while nonprofit organizations such as The Plant for the Planet Children's Initiative continues to pursue their vision of planting 1 million trees in every country of the world. When you consider that the global paper consumption alone has grown by more than 400% over the last 40 years, and that an estimated 4 billion trees are cut down and used in the global paper industry, then the practice of tree planting is something that can make a significant difference in reducing CO2 emissions.
Embrace Energy Efficient Modes of Transport
As controversial as it may be among motorists, the drive to encourage alternative methods of transport is not without purpose. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 250 million cars that use approximately 5,037,000,000, barrels of oil on an annual basis. This equates to a total of 3,441,000,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide being released into the air every single year, which is staggering when you consider that this is a figure relating to just one country. It is with this in mind that government initiatives and mobile apps are developed to incentivize people to either walk or cycle where possible, with an emphasis placed on informing them of the health and environmental benefits.
The Bottom Line
The level of CO2 emissions throughout the world remains a significant cause of concern for environmentalists, especially within emerging economies. As the worlds of technology and science continue to evolve, however, it is clear that the subsequent innovations are beginning to have an influence on reducing global carbon emissions, while empowering individuals to fulfill their environmental obligations over time.