What does a carbon footprint actually mean?
An oft-mentioned issue of the food industry and its by-product leather is the carbon footprint of cattle rearing and meat production. By association, this is for obvious reasons affecting the perception of leather. Product category rules state that only a small fraction of animal rearing is to be attributed to the carbon footprint of leather, yet consumers are likely to view the two as interdependent. But if we really want to understand the environmental impact, we first need to understand what a carbon footprint actually is and what it constitutes.
Measuring the carbon footprint
Let’s start by clarifying what we actually talk about when we mention a carbon footprint. The definition would appear pretty clear-cut: it's the measure of the amount of greenhouse gases produced by a process, organization, or region (depending on what one wishes to measure) over a set period. The name itself implies a focus on carbon dioxide, which is one of the greenhouse gasses (GHG) directly linked to climate change, and often on the lips of activists, politicians, and journalists.
Usually abbreviated and better known under its chemical formula CO2, it's not the only GHG around. GHG is used to indicate a multitude of gasses that affect global warming. CO2, however, is the one we often focus on with measurements and reporting. When organizations mention improvements or expected effects of implementing changing factors, this is also the case. A carbon footprint LCA (life cycle assessment) will tell whether a factor is contributing to the level of greenhouse gas or not (or to what level of contribution it is having). Every LCA of meat, milk, and leather, therefore, provides us with an estimate of the carbon footprint and helps to identify points of improvement. As the term ‘carbon’ suggests CO2, these results don't always provide you with a completely clear picture.
The Greenhouse effect
To read the rest of this report, click on One4Leather - Carbon Footprint