Carbon Footprint Reduction as a Personal Responsibility

Here are top ways to reduce carbon footprint at the individual level...

People often see carbon footprint reduction as a government or institutional responsibility, one that the global community should do through treaties and by industrial or commercial interests through signed commitments. A new meta-research of 39 existing studies, however, shows that our individual lifestyle choices can significantly reduce emissions, and not primarily by recycling, which is what environmentalists often push.  

According to a study published in the Environmental Research Letters and summarized in Science on July 11, the top ways to reduce carbon footprint at the individual level are:

#3. Eating a plant-based diet. Going meatless reduces carbon footprint by 820 kilograms of CO2 per year. The reduction in emission is due to the averted large amounts of energy required to grow, harvest, and process meat and related products. Sadly, this option is commonly portrayed as extreme even though there are also health benefits associated with going vegetarian.

#2. Living car-free. This would cut emissions by 2,400 kilograms, or 2.4 metric tons, per year. Given the rapid increase in vehicle and motorcycle ownership, and the congested metropolitan roads we have, this option should be emphasized. To make this work, of course, would require extensive investments in public transport.

#1. Having one fewer child. One less child saves an average of 58.6 tons of CO2 emissions per year. Considering the large unmet need for family planning in the Philippines, this option should be very high on the environmental agenda.

So why are governments not promoting these options as environmental measures? Why are these not even mentioned in textbooks? I suppose because we have been fed the notion that carbon footprint reduction is “somebody else’s job, not mine.” Or that these are lifestyle choices and they might be seen as an infringement on human rights. Or that the bigger polluters should do their share of emissions reduction before smaller players.

Global warming is such a cataclysmic phenomenon that everyone should do his or her part in carbon footprint reduction. We need to think globally and act collectively but also individually. Time to live a truly environment-friendly life.

About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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