We are working towards a more sustainable future but instead of dwelling on our carbon footprint, now is the time to focus on the carbon handprint instead - a better way of measuring human impact on the planet. It’s time to turn the environmental negatives into positives and discover what we should be doing to lessen our impact on the planet, rather than what we shouldn’t.
The carbon handprint looks at what we can do (individually and collectively) to restore the earth’s balance, by focusing our energies into creating positive sustainability actions, instead of constantly assessing the damage our carbon footprint causes (air travel for example). It must be said, however, that the aim of the carbon handprint is not to replace the carbon footprint but to involve the public on a different level instead.
The concept encourages a clearer focus on how to become net-positive and reduce our own climate load in the world – we can then pass on the know-how to engage others in the hope they will follow suit.
Sharing knowledge of the carbon handprint theory can cause a ripple effect. Just one person (or company) can take positive action that kickstarts something good for the planet, creating ripples; a knock-on effect influencing others to do the same. Think of an eco-version of the Mexican Wave, with all the hands raised (carbon handprints in this case) and everyone in line waiting to do the same to reach maximum impact.
American carpet manufacturer Interface has demonstrated the success of a ripple effect several times. In the mid-90s, the firm asked its yarn supplier to create nylon with recycled materials to make its carpets more sustainable. Once this was achieved, the yarn supplier then sold the recycled yarn to other companies, broadening Interface’s impact by influencing other firms to make the same, simple sustainable changes.
In another example, Interface wanted to source a natural gas replacement and launched a project with engineers to use the local landfill site to make renewable energy. Excess landfill gas was then sold to another manufacturer. And thus another ripple emerged.
One firm, Climate Perks, is working with climate-conscious companies to support employees to choose a low-carbon method for holiday travel. The firm helps employers to offer paid ‘journey days’ for staff to reach their holiday destination by train, coach or boat instead of flying.
Employers will then receive Climate Perks’ accreditation in recognition of their climate leadership.
Talking about the benefits of the carbon handprint will help to shift the negativity surrounding the carbon footprint and create more of a ‘can do’ attitude. It will spark interest and introduce collaboration, while engaging and empowering companies and communities to create awareness and call for positive action.
Ways to improve our carbon handprint
1. Make positive efforts to use renewable sources of energy (including solar, wind, tidal and hydro power)
2. Conserve/save water where possible (this can be as simple as installing a water butt in the garden if you haven’t already)
3. Eat locally grown, seasonal fresh food (ideally half of it should be grown within a 30-mile radius of your home) and buy loosely where possible to cut down on packaging
4. Get involved in local community environmental/education projects. Education is key to creating a sustainable future
5. Develop skills that can support or improve the quality of life in your community
6. Invest in sustainable funds which can have an impact on the creation of a low-carbon global economy
7. Exchange products and services with family and friends
8. Walk or cycle to work where possible