Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Carbon footprints?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading in blogs, and hearing people on the radio, talking about “carbon footprints”.

I imagine a coal miner or someone working in a coal yard leaving big black footprints of coal dust on the pavement.

But then I hear about people boarding aeroplanes leaving carbon footprints. Surely the airline wouldn’t let them dirty the carpets like that? Do they have diamond-studded shoes, or something.

Can anyone tell me what “carbon footprint” means?

I checked my dictionary, and it should have come between “carbonless paper” and “carbon monoxide”, but didn’t. But judging by the frequency with which I’ve heard it, it’s becoming common currency, so it would be useful to know something about its meaning and origin.

I’m not averse to learning new words and phrases. After all, it was only last week that I heard “egregore” for the first time, and it seems to be quite a useful word, so maybe “carbon footprint” will be equally useful.

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8 thoughts on “Carbon footprints?

  1. Adrian Hope-Bailie on said:

    Carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted through the combustion of fossil fuels; in the case of an organization, business or enterprise, as part of their everyday operations; in the case of an individual or household, as part of their daily lives; or a product or commodity in reaching market. In materials, it is essentially a measure of embodied energy, the result of life cycle analysis.

    Check the rest at Wikipedia

  2. Rhymin Simon on said:

    at the risk of stating the obvious, I’ll just add that the footprint part is a metaphor related to the idea of leaving an impact on our world – a common term in this field, people will often talk about ‘treading lightly’, which is a good expression I think, about showing respect for creation, and not being destructive where you can help it.

    Its become a bit of a trendy slang term, just goes to show how we all degenerate into using jargon doesnt it.

    BTW I like your blog, it’s great to learn about Orthodoxy!

  3. Steve Hayes on said:

    Ah, so it relates to carbon dioxide emissions! Why can’t they say so?

    That makes sense, even if the phrase doesn’t. THe “dioxide” bit makes a huge difference.

  4. The Scylding on said:

    Because then they’ll sound less sophisticated…

  5. Rhymin Simon on said:

    to be fair, ‘carbon dioxide footprint’ doesnt exactly trip off the tounge.

  6. Yvonne on said:

    It’s also known as an ecological footprint. You can find out what your eco-footprint is and then look at what to do about it.

    Another way of looking at it is how many Planet Earths would be needed to sustain your lifestyle if everyone on the planet lived like you. Obviously, if more than one Earth is needed to sustain your lifestyle, you’re taking more than your fair share of resources.

  7. Steve Hayes on said:


    I’ve long been aware of the dangers of carbon dioxide emissions, and the rape of the rain forests which diminishes the earth’s capacity to convert CO2 to oxygen.

    It was the use of the term “carbon” on its own that puzzled me. It seems far to vague and sweeping to make any sense. First heard it last year at a meeting of SAFCEI (South African Faith Communities Environmental Institute) and never got round to asking anyone what they meant by it until I posted this in my blog. And someone has said that it just means CO2. So why can’t they just say so?

  8. Climate Activist on said:

    Hi Steve – thanks for the linklove!


    SA Climate Crisis

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