The carbon footprint of consumption

The carbon footprint of consumption

Carbon footprint is a concept to measure the climate impact of an individual, product or action, within a certain time period. For people, carbon footprint is often measured per one year, and for products and actions, per their entire lifecycles. The Finnish carbon footprint includes emissions from products and services used in this country but produced outside Finland.

According to the Finnish Environment Institute’s calculations, an average Finn’s consumption carbon footprint is circa 11,000 kg per year. There is great difference between individuals, and there are different years, too. The colder the winter, the more we use energy, and the less hydropower available, the more fossil fuels are needed.

Distribution of an average carbon footprint of a Finn to different areas of everyday life. (Source: Finnish Environment Institute SYKE)

In addition to individual consumption, an average Finn is responsible for public sector’s emissions which make 2,000 kg per citizen. This is generated from running the society, including social services, road and other networks, and defence forces. To reach the climate objectives, our carbon footprint must be reduced by half during this decade, while increasing the amount of carbon sinks, which in Finland means increasing forest area.

Greenhouse gases are emitted when we use fossil, carbonaceous fuels to produce energy, transportation, or foods and goods. In a combustion reaction, one carbon atom merges with two oxygen atoms, and burning one kilo of carbon produces more than 3.5 kg of carbon dioxide.

In addition, greenhouse gases are emitted from industrial non-combustible processes, including the manufacture of cement and nitrogen fertilizers. Deforestation, bog drainage, and other manipulations of the environment also produce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

Read more about this topic:

Finnish Environment Institute’s climate diet calculator
Sitra’s lifestyle test
100 ways to be smart & sustainable (Sitra)
1.5-degree lifestyles (Sitra)
Climate-friendly life
Finland’s Annual Report for Climate 2020
Sustainable lifestyles – Commitment2050 (Prime Minister’s office)