By LeeAnn Sherman
Carbon footprints are the greenhouse and carbon dioxide gases emitted by products manufactured, produced, and transported to consumers. This footprint encompasses coffee beans, chocolate, cars, and other commodities that wreak havoc on our environment. It includes a series of impacts involving climate change, air pollution, deforestation, forest fires, plastic wastes, coral reefs, and marine ecosystem contamination (skip that tuna sandwich).
What Is The Significance of This?
There is strong evidence to suggest that consumer habits are driving climate change. For example, the manufacturing, production, and transport of our everyday household goods represent 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the typical American emits five times more greenhouse gases than the average global citizen. It means that our purchases and consumption of household goods devours 45% of the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions because we are buying more stuff.
Merchant Companies Taking the Lead
Merchant companies, such as American Express (“Amex”) and Mastercard have created programs that reinvest added funding to help decrease the carbon footprint and contribute to improving the environment. For example, in 2017, Amex contributed $40 million in charitable funds globally, achieving a 50% decrease in its carbon footprint for emissions compared to 2011 (American Express, 2018).
Mastercard is working with a Swedish sustainability-focused FinTech company that created a consumer-friendly app to track its carbon footprint. The app, aligned with the Priceless Planet Coalition and its sustainability campaigns, has targeted the restoration of 100 million trees around the planet. This provides consumers with methods to offset their negative carbon footprint.
These environmental forces within the global landscape suggest that some companies practice conscious capitalism in an age where being socially responsible has become critical. According to Mastercard, “A large proportion of adults (85%) state they’re willing to take personal action to combat environmental and sustainability issues in 2021” (Mastercard, 2021).
The Spillover Effect
A positive spillover effect, such as Mastercard’s app, means that the actions of organizations or countries create benefits to other organizations or countries. With large conglomerate companies, such as Amex and Mastercard taking the lead on these sustainable global issues, other corporations and governments are sure to follow suit. These spillover effects also create more jobs, address human rights issues, and foster more substantial global initiatives tasked with environmental protection.
Global networks, such as the Environmental Impact Index (EII), also develop new global measures for domestic and international environmental impacts to combat these negative global footprints. These measurements are at country levels to help collect the necessary data to target attainable goals to work towards – collectively.
Individual Efforts and Mindfulness
For those of you that would like to contribute to the health of our environment and the reduction of our greenhouse gases, here is a list of items that can make a small impact:
• Educate yourself
• Ride a bike
• Avoid pouring chemicals into drains (waterways)
• Reuse cloth shopping bags
• Conserve water
• Buy gently used items
• Use long-lasting light bulbs
• Avoid burning yard waste
• Dispose of old medications at a local fire station
• Donate old items to a local charity
• Avoid buying products in excess
Our everyday actions can help our environment in many ways. When we practice these mindful methods, it helps to encourage others to do the same or at least lead by example. With this optimism, the hope is that more people, organizations, and countries negate these carbon footprints.