- Your carbon footprint is a term used to describe the total amount of greenhouse gases produced by your regular activities. By making changes (no matter how big or small!) to our lifestyle we help make a difference. It is calculated by totalling the emissions resulting from every stage of a product or service’s lifetime (material production, manufacturing, use, and end-of-life). Throughout a product’s lifetime, different greenhouse gases may be emitted, such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane each with the ability to trap heat in the atmosphere.
There are several terms used in relation to carbon footprint and they’re all closely linked:
- Greenhouse gases
- The Greenhouse effect
- Climate Change
- Global Warming
- Fossil Fuels
Your personal carbon footprint is what you leave behind as a result of moving about, consuming, eating and using resources like energy.
Why not check out what your carbon footprint is? There are several calculators that you can use to find out.
There are others out there you can use too, just Google it if you’re interested.
A greenhouse gas is any type of gas in the atmosphere that blocks heat from escaping. They let sunlight pass through the atmosphere, but they prevent the heat that the sunlight brings from leaving the atmosphere. Overall, greenhouse gases are a good thing. Without them, our planet would be too cold, and life as we know it would not exist. But there can be too much of a good thing. Scientists are worried that human activities are adding too much of these gases to the atmosphere.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Made up of carbon and oxygen, CO2 is all around us naturally. It comes from decaying and living organisms, and from volcanoes! It is released when burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. It is the main contributor to human-caused global warming.
Made up of carbon and hydrogen and is released from wetlands, rice fields, raising cattle, using natural gas and coal mining. It traps a lot of heat. It is considered the second main contributor to human-caused global warming.
Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
This is a natural part of the nitrogen cycle. It is made from bacteria in the soil and ocean. It is also released by some types of factories, power plants and plant fertilizer. It damages the protective ozone layer and is a powerful greenhouse gas.
The Greenhouse Effect
This is the natural process that is warming the Earth. The Sun’s energy gets absorbed and re-radiated as greenhouse gases. This absorbed energy warms the atmosphere and the surface of the Earth. The current problem we are facing is that our activities as a human race are increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases. Which, in turn is contributing to the warming of the Earth (climate change).
Human activities are changing Earth's natural greenhouse effect. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil puts more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere and scientists have observed the increased amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. Too much of these greenhouse gases can cause Earth's atmosphere to trap more and more heat. This causes the Earth to warm up.
Just like a glass greenhouse, Earth's greenhouse is also full of plants! Plants can help to balance the greenhouse effect on Earth. All plants — from giant trees to tiny phytoplankton in the ocean — take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. The ocean also absorbs carbon dioxide, unfortunately this makes it more acidic – creating something called ocean acidification. More acidic water can be harmful to many creatures that live in our oceans. The warming waters are also a main cause of coral bleaching.
Climate change is a change in average temperatures and the change in weather patterns. For 100s of years human activities have directly & indirectly contributed to the release of greenhouse gases, which in turn has added to the rise in overall temperatures. In the mid-1800s (when the industrial revolution began) we started to burn fossil fuels; this is what creates the greenhouse gases that are getting trapped in our atmosphere. Since then the average temperature has risen by around 1.5C. Although this may seem like a small number, we’re already seeing the effects it has and over time it is estimated to increase.
There are also some natural processes that contribute to climate change, such as volcanic activity and the suns energy.
This is the overall term used for the long-term heating of the Earth, it’s basically a blanket term for the above terms. These effects are causing such things like rises in sea levels, melting ice caps, extreme weather events and changes in wildlife populations and their habitats.
These are what give us most of the energy we use today to get on with our daily lives. For example, powering our cars, homes and businesses and keeping us warm. They are formed via a natural process, mainly decomposing organisms and fossilised remains, and contain a high amount of carbon. The primary fossil fuels used today are coal, oil and natural gases.
Not only is the burning of these fuels having a bad impact on our planet, but the way in which it is “farmed” is also having a negative impact. Mining, fracking, deforestation, acidic run offs, destructive blasting methods and the building of infrastructure to accommodate for the removal of these are devastating the Earths landscapes, critical wildlife habitats and creating unusable wastage.
How does this effect you as a scuba diver?
Although it doesn’t massively affect us directly, it’s all having an effect on the beautiful waters that we love to spend time in and around. You may not think it but there are several ways in which all of the above can affect the oceans (71% of the Earths makeup don’t forget!). You may not realise it straight away, but think about it:
Rising sea levels
While this doesn’t have a direct impact on humans it causes coastal erosion and can affect the communities and businesses dependent on the coastal areas. The topography of the terrain changes (making potential dive sites inaccessible), as well as changing the underwater topography – in some cases, making it inhabitable for the underwater marine life in that area. Communities also lose their coastal homes and businesses, putting pressure on the local economy and decreasing tourism income. The local dive centre, for example, may become unusable.
(Image from an article from The Telegraph)
Melting ice caps
Due to the higher temperate the ice is melting faster, which in turn increases the sea levels. It also changes the salinity of the ocean, essentially diluting the water, decreasing the salt levels. Not only could this effect the life living within the oceans but also mean that any debris would sink to the bottom, rather than floating on the surface.
A change in marine life may mean less enjoyable dives and observing rubbish on a dive makes for a sad dive. The marine debris will also affect the life in the oceans by way of being dangerous as well as being digested, which in turn makes smaller debris such as microplastics enter the food chain.
(Image from article from The New Scientist)
More frequent (and violent) weather patterns
Recent research is showing that climate change is contributing to the intensity of storms, mainly hurricanes. If water temperatures are warm enough and atmospheric conditions are supportive with moisture and uniform winds, a tropical system can evolve. The warmer the water temperatures, the more heat energy is available and the higher the potential for tropical cyclones to develop. So, it’s reasonable to assume that as humans continue to release planet-warming greenhouse gases, the likelihood of tropical cyclone activity increases.
As divers we can’t dive in bad weather – especially very windy weather….It messes up the viz too! As well as that these storms are damaging to the coastal areas and the shallower underwater environments.
(Image from an article from NASA Global Climate Change)
This refers to the decrease in pH and is a result of land run-offs (when chemical wastes, such as pesticides) are washed off the land into the sea and the increase of CO2 in the ocean. The decrease in pH means that the corals are unable to produce carbonate. This makes it difficult for them to create/grow their skeleton and shells, and in turn their existing shells & skeleton will begin to dissolve over time, also making them weak making them vulnerable to damage from things such as storms.
Scuba divers will see this change over time as the coral reefs will get weaker over time and their growth rate will slow. Overall their repair rate will also be slower, making it harder to recover after any damage. Another long term effect would be the loss of life on the coral reef, the fish life will move on and/or die when their shelter and food start to disappear.
(Image from Mind The Graph blog)
This happens when corals turn white and loose their vibrant colours. One main cause for this is the rise in sea temperatures, other factors include pollution and too much sunlight.
Not only does it not look as pleasant as the colourful corals they should be but it effects other life on the reefs. Coral reefs are part of one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world – thousands of marine life depends on these habitats. They provide food, shelter and is an area for spawning grounds. As these ecosystems slowly collapse, the species that rely on them will also start to disappear.
Reef tourism brings in billions of dollars each year and supports thousands of jobs. Bleached coral reefs, devoid of magnificent marine species, jeopardize it all.
(Image from a Climate Change News article)
What now? How can we change this?
So far, we, as a human race, have made huge progress. With the introduction of renewable energy (wind & solar) and being energy efficient we are helping to grow a cleaner future.
The links between greenhouse gases and climate change are too evident and extreme to ignore. Average global temperatures are increasing, extreme weather events are becoming more severe and too often, ocean levels are rising, and acidification is occurring. All these threats are a result of human activity. By lowering our own carbon footprint, we can help contribute to the reduction in the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Reducing our carbon footprint also has other advantages, we can save money as well as lead a healthier lifestyle. By changing certain things, no matter how small or big, we can help all future generations to come to live a safer, healthier life.
What can you do?
Insulate your home
Heating your home can be expensive and an energy-intensive process. By insulating the walls and loft spaces you can retain heat in the winter, it also means it will save you some pennies whilst doing so. Having other things like double or triple glazing and draught proofing can also help.
CHECK OUT THIS ARTICLE TO FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN INSULATE YOUR HOME
Switch to renewables
Energy companies are now under more pressure to provide greener tariffs. Consider using a company that offer these tariffs – this means they are using renewable energy from solar, wind and hydroelectric resources. You could also consider installing solar panels at your property. Although these can be expensive they’re a good choice to consider. However, did you know that you can purchase other (cheaper options) of solar powered items – outdoor lighting and charging items?
Buy energy efficient
In this day and age appliances are becoming more and more energy efficient (and not particularly at any extra cost!). All white goods, light bulbs and cars that are for sale are required to display an energy efficient label to help you make a well informed decision (you've probably seen the big stickers on the front of everything at Currys!). Buy the most energy efficient products you can and try out smart plugs too. Additionally, unplug anything that you are not using.
Use less water
Getting water to your home takes energy and can use inefficient resources. To heat water also uses a lot of energy. Using less water can help. Try turning off the taps while your brushing your teeth, taking more showers than baths, having short showers and only boiling water when you need to. Having a water butt in your good is a good way to collect and recycle the rain water to water your garden.
CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT SOME TIPS ON HOW TO SAVE WATER
Change your diet
The food we eat can have a significant impact on the environment. The production of meat and dairy products require a lot of land, water and energy to produce. They also create a lot of methane (one of the greenhouse gases). With most foods being shipped from overseas it also means a lot of inefficient modes of transport are used.
By eating fewer animal products, especially red meat and choosing a plant based diet, and shopping for locally sourced foods can make a difference.
Turn off the lights/don’t use standby
If you’re not in a room, turn the lights off! If it’s daytime, why are the lights on?
Leaving unused/un-needed electrics off means that you’re not using electric and energy unnecessarily. Turn off the lights when you leave a room and unplug items when they are not in use. You could invest in motion sensors, timers and smart plugs to combat this.
Most recent times have proven that going digital couldn’t be easier! Sharing documents digitally, doing virtual meetings and using a phone can help reduce waste and emissions.
Cycle, work, car share, use public transport
When travelling in a car it can emit lots of carbon dioxide, so rather than several individuals driving their own cars using the transport modes that carry many people is more efficient.
Have you thought about upgrading to an electric or hybrid car?
Do you know if your work offer a cycle to work scheme? – Check it out if they do!
Reduce, reuse & recycle
We all use different products on a daily basis both at home and at work. Things like paper, electronic devices and packaging all have a carbon footprint. By reducing the amount of waste we generate we can make a difference. Re-using unwanted document as scrap paper, opting for recycled paper, making sure we recycle our coffee cups and thinking about if we really do need to print those documents can make a real difference!
Try upcycling as well, not only is a fun activity to do at home but it can revive things like old/used furniture and save energy from destroying the item(s).
This is surprisingly good for the environment. New research has found that almost half of the food waste in the average rubbish bin could have been composted. You can do your bit to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill or other more costly forms of treatment by composting your food and garden waste at home. There are lots of good reasons to compost. It saves money, saves resources, can help to improve your soil and can reduce your impact on the environment. Did you know, composting at home for just one year can save global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 your kettle produces annually, or your washing machine produces in three months?
When I was a kid my Grandad use to have a composting wormery - I use to love going and feeding them after dinner! XD
CHECK OUT THE EDEN PROJECTS TOP 10 COMPOSTING TIPS
Eliminate single-use plastic
Although these are convenient, they’re bad for the environment. They’re not just a bad pollutant but they also require energy to produce AND recycle. You stop using disposable items such as plastic cups & bottles, plastic cutlery etc. Purchase re-useable items like bags, re-usable drinking bottles, metal straws and bamboo cutlery.
Keeping a re-usable bottle in your bag is handy, download an app called ‘REFILL.’ It will give you locations that are happy to refill your water bottle for free.
Did you know, although you can’t take liquid in your carry-on luggage you can pack an empty water bottle?!
HERE ARE SOME WAYS HOW YOU CAN ELIMINATE PLASTICS
This is something that you will have heard a lot recently. Supporting your local community and business is vital at the moment. Not only will they be grateful, but by decreasing your journey time (i.e. your emissions) and staying local will also benefit the Earths atmosphere. Instead of traveling further afield that require planes, trains or long car journeys explore your local area.
Don't forget to support your local dive centre too ;)
Offset your carbon
Travel companies are starting to offer chances for their customers to offset their carbon emissions. This is an option you are given when booking things like flight tickets – it gives you the chance to pay extra to fund projects that are aimed at reducing carbon footprints. These include projects such as planting trees, restoring natural habitats and researching & implementing more energy efficient modes of transport.
HERE'S A GUIDE TO OFFSETTING YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT WHILE TRAVELLING
Think green & eco-friendly
Take the environmentally friendly option. Use eco-friendly cleaning products, say no to plastic straws on a night out, don’t put your shopping in a plastic carrier, take your own re-usable cup to Starbucks and find a food store where you can fill your own bags and jars with products.
Spread the love on social media – show your friends and family what you’re doing and tell them why you’re doing it! Talk about it to others and recommend the items and services that you are using. Sometimes people don’t make changes before they don’t always know how.
What are we doing at the dive centre to help reduce our carbon footprint?
As you can imagine, and you've probably seen(!), there is alot of paperwork involved in our work. We have already done some things to help reduce our paper usage and are in the process of implementing some other things:
- We've purchase a new, energy efficient, printer that prints double sided
- We've transferred our servicing booking in system onto an app
- We email servicing documents instead of printing them out
- We are currently transferring course paperwork and forms onto a digital platform
- Where possible we are limiting print outs (if we need to they are done double sided)
Motion Sensors & Smart Plugs
We've purchased smart plugs and motion sensers. Our smart plugs have been installed and setup so they close all power off throughout the night and our motion sensors will soon be fitted to our energy efficient lighting.
We've looked at having solar panels installed but unfortuantely it's a no go. With a high cost involved as well as lots of trees in the way at the back we wouldn't the energy we need from them to run our panels efficiently. However, we have purchased some solar panels charging banks for our USB powered items such as dive torch batteries, dive computers etc. We have also purchased some solar panel outdoor lighting for the side and front of the property.
We have seperate recycling bins for items such as paper, cardboard and glass. We're also using recycled paper for our printing needs.
We've started composting at home now, so we'll be introducing a small food waste bin for our team members to use and taking this home.
On days we are training we actively encourage our team members and students to get together to car share to and from the training sites.
We are actively trying to purchase from sellers that are working towards using less plastic in their packaging (Nautilus, Forth Element and Apeks and doing a great job!). However, unfortunately not all companies are as active as we'd like so you may still see plastic packaging on some items in the shop. Any boxes/packaging we receive gets stored away so that we can re-use it to.
We use eco-friendly cleaning products, along with re-usable items such as cleaning sponges, towels, bamboo products etc. We doesn't use plastic cups for our drinks, we use re-usable mugs and bottles. As a retail store we also discourage using single-use plastic bags, we'd dont provide plastic bags - we're currently looking at getting some evironmentally friendly bags.
Now we have more staff on hand we have more time to dedicate to a cause that matters! We have 2 dedicated Project AWARE officers on the team - JoJo & Ellie - that you will be hearing alot more from now. Their focus is to promote the work that Project AWARE do, organise some local Dive Against Debris dives, encourage our divers to be more eco-friendly and environmentally thoughtful and to engage with others.
We have others things in the pipeline that we would like to start working on and hope that you can help do more to reduce your carbon footprint. Pop on by the dive centre for more help and information and to see what we're doing to help. By working together we build a better future, not just for us and future generations to come but for our planet.