A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment, and in particular climate change. It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases produced in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation etc. The carbon footprint is a measurement of all greenhouse gases we individually produce and has units of tonnes (or kg) of carbon dioxide equivalent.
The graph above shows the main elements which make up the total of an typical person's carbon footprint in the developed world. A carbon footprint is made up of the sum of two parts, the primary footprint (shown by the grey slices of the graph) and the secondary footprint (shown as the light grey slices).
1. The primary footprint is a measure of our direct emissions of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels including domestic energy consumption and transportation (e.g. car and plane). We have direct control of these.
2. The secondary footprint is a measure of the indirect CO2 emissions from the whole lifecycle of products we use - those associated with their manufacture and eventual breakdown. To put it very simply – the more we buy the more emissions will be caused on our behalf