Global warming affects us all and we all need to make changes to our lifestyles to reduce our carbon emissions. Changes can include using less electricity, reducing air travel, using public transport, and recycling. We can also plant trees to offset the impacts of emissions. This is because trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. While forests can be established using both exotic and native tree species, there is increasing interest in New Zealand in planting native trees for their environmental, social and cultural benefits as well as their potential to store carbon. There are also opportunities for economic returns from native forests, albeit long term, e.g., by specialty timber production. Although early growth is slower for native than exotic species like pines and eucalypts, establishment and management of native forestry for carbon under the Government’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) can potentially provide an intermediate economic return.
What is our carbon footprint?
Our carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gases produced directly and indirectly by our day-to-day activities over a given period, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gas emissions are caused by a vast range of human activities. For example, heating your house, driving your car, taking public transport, and producing food and goods all result in greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse gases keep heat in the earth’s atmosphere, and while they occur naturally, human activities since industrialization have caused a substantial rise in greenhouse gases resulting in global warming. Expected impacts include sea level rise and an increase in catastrophic weather events. Understanding how our carbon footprint contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and how we can reduce our carbon footprint, is becoming increasingly important.
How to calculate my carbon footprint
There are various websites available for estimating your carbon footprint, whether for the individual, household, organisation or business. These include household calculators for quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from domestic activities, travel and tourism calculators for domestic and overseas air travel, accommodation and recreational activities, and more comprehensive calculators for businesses which estimate emissions and offer management plans to reduce them.
- Beets PN, Kimberley MO, Oliver GR, Pearce SH, Graham JD, Brandon AM. 2012. Allometric equations for estimating carbon stocks in natural forest in New Zealand. Forests 3: 818-839.
- Bergin DO, Kimberley MO. 2012a. Performance of planted native conifers. Tāne’s Tree Trust Technical Handbook. Technical Article No. 10.2. 8p.
- Bergin DO, Kimberley MO. 2012. Performance of planted native hardwood trees. Tāne’s Tree Trust Technical Handbook. Technical Article No. 10.3. 8p.
- Bergin DO, Kimberley MO. 2012. Performance of planted native shrubs. Tāne’s Tree Trust Technical Handbook. Technical Article No. 10.4. 8p.
- Kimberley MO, Bergin DO, Beets PN 2014. Carbon sequestration in planted native trees and shrubs. Tāne’s Tree Trust Technical Handbook. Technical Article No. 10.5. 12p.