Carbon Footprint: What It is and How You can Help
What is Carbon Footprint
You have probably heard of the term “carbon footprint” but what does that actually mean, and is it truly harmful?
Carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are associated with our actions. Individuals, businesses, and industries alike all produce carbon emissions. An individual’s carbon footprint, for example, could be made up of their commute to work, the food they eat and how that was produced, the amount of and type of electricity they use, what they purchase throughout the day and the clothes they wear. A business’ carbon footprint is more likely to be made up of the electricity to keep the office building running, including electronics in the workplace, and any activities throughout the value chain such as emissions from sourcing, production, logistics and disposal.
Effects of Carbon Footprint
Everyone’s carbon footprint contributes to producing lasting effects to our environment. The emissions we produce can impact climate change, air pollution and the melting of glaciers and polar ice. While climate change is a naturally occurring process, these emissions quicken the process. A negative effect of climate change is the harm it has caused to our environment in the form of unusual and devastating weather events, such as recent wildfires and hurricanes. Since the rise of the industrial revolution, air pollution has continued to worsen. This is mainly due to burning fossil fuels which creates smog, exposing the population to serious health issues ranging from asthma even to cancer. At this point, we have all seen the photos of polar bears that are skin-and-bone – which is devastating as is, but the more serious concern is the rapid melting of glaciers. Glaciers help to keep the earth’s surface cool. When glaciers melt, there is nothing to keep the earth’s surface cool, causing heat to get trapped in the atmosphere. At Marathon, we are aware and concerned about these issues.
What Marathon is Doing to Decrease our Carbon Footprint
It is inevitable that a business will produce carbon emissions, especially if that business is involved in the production and distribution of goods and services. At Marathon, we are cognizant of the fact that we currently are operating on a global supply chain, which inevitably increases our carbon footprint. Over the last several months, we have implemented policies to move towards net zeroing our carbon footprint. Below are some of our strategic initiatives:
• Transitioning to US manufacturing
• Promoting a green work environment, including recycling and open discussions about green sustainability
• Warehousing locations distributed throughout the country to ensure shorter transit times for product delivery
• Introducing recyclable and re-usable packaging for our products
• Re-sterilizing products to increase their shelf life, eliminating the need to throw out excess product in landfills
• Providing hybrid vehicles to our engineers who travel to different lab locations daily, and carpooling to site visits
How Transitioning to US Manufacturing Reduces Carbon Footprint
Transitioning all of our manufacturing to be US-based is the most significant element we have implemented at Marathon to decrease our carbon footprint. With over 60% of our portfolio already being produced state-side, we have made significant progress towards this goal. Transportation is the largest contributor of carbon emissions in the world, from commuting to air freight. Having all of our products produced in the US drastically minimizes the need to use air freight which causes massive pollution.
To provide a better understanding of the positive impact when shortening the supply chain, here is an example: say a company is shipping containers from China to Boston. The total distance from this shipment by boat and road, is about 15,500 km (via port in Los Angeles). The distance from Los Angeles to Boston is just under 5,000 km via road. In just one container shipment from China to the US, half a ton of CO2 emissions are produced. If this single company ships 10-12 containers per month, that equates to about 6 tons of CO2 per month. To put this into perspective, that is the same amount of emissions as an average household produces in a year. Say the same company continues to produce 10-12 containers per month, but it is produced in Los Angeles with Boston as the final destination. This reduces the geographical difference by over 60%, subsequently decreasing carbon emissions, in one month, by about 60%.
What You can do in Your Day-to-Day Life and in the Workplace
There are many options both big and small that you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. The most significant way an individual can decrease their carbon footprint is by cutting down on transportation emissions. This can be done by switching to electric or hybrid vehicles, using public transportation, carpooling, biking, and avoiding air travel. Other ways in which an individual can reduce their carbon footprint is to use shop second hand, line-dry laundry, opt for the more energy-efficient lighting and electronics, being cognizant about how the food they consume was produced, eating lower on the food chain and recycle when possible. These tips may help you save money, too.
In addition to your day-to-day life, you can decrease your carbon footprint in the workplace and encourage your colleagues to do so as well. At Marathon, we primarily do this by communicating openly about the effects of carbon footprint and what we’re doing to decrease ours as a team. Other ways you can help reduce your carbon footprint at work is by recycling and reducing waste in general, replacing lighting with LED bulbs, promoting virtual meetings, and working from home if/when possible. The best way you can reduce carbon emissions at work is to educate yourself and colleagues about what carbon emissions are, what carbon footprint is, their effects and what you can do collaboratively to decrease yours.