Reducing carbon footprint effectively

photo shows woman biking to work
Many outdoor companies in Washington state are attempting to reduce their carbon footprint by encouraging employees to bike to work. (Harley Soltes/Seattle Times/MCT)

The concern over climate change has forced companies and consumers to find alternative sources of power.

Reducing the carbon footprint seems like the best option, but it can be tricky to achieve.

Owning a car that is powered by electricity is an attempt to reduce carbon footprint, but that does not mean that the elements that make up the car are 100 percent environmentally-friendly.

Professor Peter Bellin, chair of the department of environmental and occupational health, said the batteries of an electric car use nickel and other metals. Their extraction can have environmental consequences along with the batteries used in traditional vehicles using lead-acid batteries.

Tesla motors introduced the Roadster, which is a two-seat sports car that runs entirely on electricity. Owner advisor Kassie Wapniarski, of a Tesla Motors store in Westfield Topanga Mall in Canoga Park, said their cars are powered by lithium ion batteries.

According to an article by the Daily Mail, the demand for the third element in the world has skyrocketed. As efficient as the element is to power our electronics, obtaining it requires deep mining. In the same article, a delegation leader from Chile, Guillen Mo Gonzalez, said that like any mining process it is invasive, it scars the landscape, destroys the water and pollutes the earth and local wells.

In addition, most components of a car are made from steel, plastic, aluminum, rubber and glass. The making of these elements must be processed in a factory that emits greenhouse gasses. Both traditional and electric cars use the same elements, thus having a negative effect on the environment.

Wapniarski acknowledged that owning an electric car does not mean the customer’s carbon footprint will be non-existent. In order for that to happen, she said that a customer would have to get solar power at home to charge their car because just being on an electric grid will use fossil fuels.

The source of energy simply shifted from a gas station to a power plant and they both run on fossil fuels. According to Bellin, power plants also release carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

Cars like the ones that Tesla Motors produce, can aid carbon footprint reduction. A traditional car that runs on fossil fuels will always emit greenhouse gasses to the environment whereas the electric car does not do so directly. If the power plant is run by clean energy, it would greatly reduce the detrimental effects on the planet.

As tricky as it might be to reduce carbon footprint via buying an electric car, there are alternatives to doing so more effectively.

“Reduce driving as much as possible, telecommute, use mass transit, carpool, and plan shopping trips,” Bellin said.

Walking or using a bike does not emit any pollutants into the air. Individuals are always encouraged to use these methods of transportation as much as possible, too.

Cotap.org is a website that lists more than 25 ways to reduce carbon footprint from driving, air travel, home energy and food.

Reducing energy consumption and fighting for cleaner energy sources are some of the best options as well.

“Advocate for policies that reduce energy consumption,” Bellin said. “Promote a political environment that will address climate change as the real threat it is. We need multiple voices on how to handle this problem, as a nation, we are ignoring this problem.”