What Is a Carbon Footprint? (And How to Reduce Yours)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 20, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A carbon footprint refers to the total greenhouse gasses, a person or business emits. Many companies aim to reduce these emissions that accelerate climate change to limit carbon tax expenses, quality for grants, and improve public relations through positive environmental actions. By understanding carbon footprints, you can identify ways to reduce yours and learn whether a career that focuses on reducing carbon output aligns with your interests. In this article, we define a carbon footprint, list ways to reduce your emissions, and explore careers that involve reducing carbon emissions and helping the environment.

What is a carbon footprint?

Knowing the answer to, "What is a carbon footprint?" enables you to reduce yours and suggest different ways to reduce a company's footprint. Carbon footprint is a person's or business's total of greenhouse emissions, measured in tonnes. Greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and any fluorinated gas.

The government taxes carbon to encourage companies to limit greenhouse gas output or offset it using measures such as reforestation. Businesses incur a minimum of a 50-dollar tax per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, a number that increases annually. The goal is to reduce emissions by making it more profitable to choose eco-friendly business solutions.

How to reduce your carbon footprint

After understanding what carbon footprint is, the next step is identifying ways to reduce your personal and business emissions. The following steps can help you handle this task:

1. Calculate your carbon emissions

Regardless of whether you calculate personal or corporate emissions, the process is the same. Greenhouse gas calculations involve both the input and output values for the business. Input carbon relates to the carbon value of the products the business uses to operate. Output carbon is the gas emissions that result from the company's operations. Depending on the company's industry, they can offset their output through environmental initiatives.

An example of calculating carbon emissions is a juice company that grows some of its fruit and sources other raw materials from a third party. To calculate emissions, it's essential to determine the carbon cost of production and transportation of the outsourced materials. Add those to the carbon output from the juice production machinery, and any greenhouse gasses the company emits before it reaches the end-user. Next, you subtract the value of any carbon offsetting, such as the fruit farms. The net value is their carbon footprint.

Read more: How to Become an Environmental Resource Manager in 7 Steps

2. Identify ways to reduce carbon

Once you determine the company's carbon footprint, you can set an objective to lower it. Research any government incentives for green initiatives and check if any align with the company's goals. Making the choice to purchase supplies from companies with low carbon outputs and to invest in eco-friendly processes at the workplace. For instance, a minor change can include installing an automated thermostat to reduce heating expenses. You can reduce carbon by categorizing their emissions and addressing each item individually. Areas that generate carbon include:

  • Road vehicles: Many companies have at least one vehicle for business operations, resulting in carbon emissions every time they use it. To mitigate this, you can migrate some tasks online and invest in fuel-efficient vehicles. emissions every time it's on the road.

  • Air travel: Travelling by air is a convenient yet carbon-heavy mode of transportation that is common to international businesses or companies with locations across the country. To limit the energy costs of travel, you can conduct meetings online or delegate the task to an employee closer to the destination site.

  • Energy sources: Businesses usually connect to the provincial energy source, though there are options for renewable energy such as solar power. Many businesses supplement electricity from the provincial authority by connecting with green power companies that bank energy from clean sources such as hydro and wind power.

  • Digital products: When choosing a web hosting service, you can reduce the company's carbon footprint by identifying a sustainable company. If the business relies on external servers to support the business' online presence, then selecting one that offsets its carbon footprint can drastically reduce the net value of their emissions.

  • Office processes: By making small changes within the company, such as choosing eco-friendly cleaners, composting, and using low-energy light bulbs, you can reduce carbon emissions significantly. Raising awareness about the company's green initiatives can encourage participation and contribute to team building through projects, such as volunteer cleanups.

  • Human resources: If the company has many employees, then assisting with more eco-friendly commutes can help the business reduce its carbon impact drastically. Approaches include supplying staff with public transit passes, bicycles, or enabling them to work from home.

Read more: 9 Benefits of Working Remotely (With Tips for Remote Work)

3. Determine how to offset emissions

Offsetting is the process of compensating for emissions by effectively cancelling out the effect of carbon footprint by introducing other gasses like oxygen to balance the carbon dioxide. It allows businesses to quantify the offset value when calculating their total carbon footprint. That's why many companies choose to offset their carbon output by engaging in environmental initiatives, such as clean technology, responsible purchasing, and reforestation initiatives.

An example of offsetting is a small candle company becoming carbon-neutral through reforestation. If the business produces 14 tonnes of carbon dioxide in a year, it requires approximately 210 trees to offset those emissions based on the average carbon consumption rate of the plants. Using the minimum viable space between trees, the project requires approximately seven square kilometres of space. Many businesses purchase land and provide reforestation services to companies looking to balance carbon emissions without purchasing real estate and manually planting the trees.

Read more: 10 Top Environmental Scientist Careers With Duties and Salaries

7 careers focused on reducing your carbon footprint

The following seven career options relate directly to carbon footprints for individuals and businesses:

1. Environmental specialist

National average salary: $19.80 per hour

Primary duties: Environmental specialists contribute to a team of scientists by conducting environmental studies and assessments, then analyzing the resulting data. These professionals strategize research initiatives, perform routine fieldwork, and publish research papers. These specialists protect the public from environmental threats from spills and waste by enacting protocol to secure, examine, and rehabilitate the harmful area.

2. Forester

National average salary: $23.84 per hour

Primary duties: These professionals preserve forest ecosystems by assessing risk factors, including pests, disease, and fire risks. Foresters oversee tree planting and harvesting to ensure the safety of surrounding flora and fauna. These professionals monitor the health of plants within a certain area, create plans to improve the forest's wellbeing, and execute those processes.

3. Environmental scientist

National average salary: $55,561 per year

Primary duties: Environmental scientists gather data samples from areas of interest, with samples including soil, water, flora, and air. They analyze the samples and compile reports based on the resulting data. Environmental scientists create plans to address environmental issues such as pollution and implement them. They monitor the success of the initiatives by gathering samples, performing analyses, recording the data, and repeating the process at set intervals.

4. Ecologist

National average salary: $66,907 per year

Primary duties: Ecologists work for private and government clients to perform environmental site analyses. They visit a location in person to observe the area and gather data. The scientist collects samples from the site, including soil, water, and plant matter samples. They then test those samples for elements like heavy metals and dangerous pollutants. Using the findings, the ecologist determines any necessary actions to make the land safe for use.

5. Energy advisor

National average salary: $70,500 per year

Primary duties: Energy advisors deal directly with carbon footprints by providing businesses with comprehensive support in all matters related to energy. They assess energy waste, then develop plans to reduce it by identifying ways to improve infrastructure and source clean energy. The advisor provides the recommendations to the supervisor who decides whether to implement the changes.

6. Environmental manager

National average salary: $71,184 per year

Primary duties: Environmental managers strategize, implement, and track environmental initiatives to contribute to compliance plans. They research and prepare environmental impact statements to inform decisions on what to do with certain areas. The managers lead a team of environmental scientists and technicians by delegating tasks and establishing objectives for employee development.

7. Legislative assistant

National average salary: $75,013 per year

Primary duties: Legislative assistants advocate for constituents for matters related to everything from taxes to the environment. They manage correspondence and scheduling for Members of Parliament and contribute to legislation by editing documents, including memorandums, amendments, and legislation drafts. These assistants do legal research and communicate with the public to draft legislation for review.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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