Buttercup Learning
March 24, 2022

Eamonn Galvin: Why Understanding your Carbon Footprint is Important

Buttercup’s new podcast Curious About Nature is now online! In one of the three episodes now available to stream on Apple Podcasts, Rachel chats to KnowCarbon CEO and Co-Founder, Eamonn Galvin about his journey toward setting up a company committed to…

Buttercup’s new podcast Curious About Nature is now online! In one of the three episodes now available to stream on Apple Podcasts, Rachel chats to KnowCarbon CEO and Co-Founder, Eamonn Galvin about his journey toward setting up a company committed to empowering customers to make the best climate decisions. Lets understand why your carbon footprint is important.

Here’s some highlights from their conversation! 

From what inspired him to found the company, to tips on how to reduce your family’s carbon footprint – this episode is packed full of useful information and insights!

Hi Eamonn. So, what does KnowCarbon do?

We help businesses understand the carbon footprint of individual products, and what the big drivers of their carbon footprint are. Once we’ve identified those, we identify what key steps they can take to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Know Carbons Logo

Can you describe your journey toward starting KnowCarbon?

My background was in technology. I worked for eBay for a number of years. I remember going for my morning coffee thinking I have to get a keep-me cup. This was going on for three or four months. Then I thought, what’s stopping me from actually just buying a cup that I can use for my coffee? It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea, but I just don’t know the data behind it. Does it actually make a difference? 

I started thinking about my carbon footprint, and I found some online tools to identify my footprint. But they didn’t tell me about the footprint of the different products we buy. So my curiosity to understand the carbon footprint of the products we consume every day – and how can we improve them – started my journey. 

I also went to a Friday’s For Climate protest with my youngest daughter, who was 12 at the time. I remember the emotions of all of the kids. It was good natured, but you could sense a younger generation not quite knowing what to do. I remember thinking: ‘they’re going to live with some of the consequences of the decisions we’re making. And we have skills that we can use, and there’s changes that we can make now. If I was in her shoes, what would I be doing now?’ So that was the other impetus to start KnowCarbon.

Can you explain what a carbon footprint is and why understanding carbon footprints is important?

Carbon footprints represent the full carbon lifecycle of a product. Take my iPhone for example. The raw materials that go into making it, how it is manufactured, shipped, my use of the product over its lifetime and finally its disposal – all of those factors determine the carbon footprint.

So carbon footprints identify the carbon used over the full lifecycle of a product. And from that you have a number – typically the number of kilos of CO2 equivalent over the lifecycle of the product. 

Consumers can use this to make informed decisions. As a business you can understand, ok, these are the parts of my production process that are having the biggest impact on my carbon footprint, what changes can I make?

Once you start to understand what’s driving it, you can think about reducing your carbon footprint.

Are there any tools you recommend to families for measuring and reducing their carbon footprint?

There’s a really nice tool called Giki. They have concrete actions you can take to understand and reduce your footprint.

What are some things your family is doing to reduce your carbon footprint?

The big one that jumps out is the carbon footprint of meat products. One kg of beef typically produces 50-60 kg of CO2. There’s a huge difference in the carbon footprint of animal-based food products versus plant-based. So, when I’m in the supermarket now, I mainly buy plant based products and vegetables. We’re also aware of portion sizes. I’m very conscious now of the weight of the meat we consume. So we’ve really minimised our carbon footprint through those changes.

How can people reduce their carbon footprint when travelling?

Reducing flying will have a significant impact. Flying longer distances will have bigger emissions. On Google flights, as you select destinations, they show the carbon footprint number, so you can very quickly see what the impact is. Flying economy will have lower emissions than flying business class or premium because you take up less space, so that’s another tip. If you can holiday locally, that’s a great option! If you have to drive you can calculate your footprint based on your size of car and distance. Compared to the carbon cost of a flight, it will have a much lower footprint but again there are better options to a car like the train or coach travel.  

Last year I had to go to London. For the return leg I took the train to Holyhead and the ferry back to Dublin. I left Euston station at nine o’clock on a Friday morning and got into Dublin Port at six o’clock. It sounds like a long time, but on the train journey, I was able to work, so I enjoyed the trip. When you have your laptop you can do some work, take calls and enjoy the view!

Person reading on a train, a more carbon friendly way to travel

Photo by Will Tarpey on Unsplash

In your opinion, how much responsibility should fall on individuals and how much should fall on corporations and governments?

It’s a really good question. Some people are against the concept of the carbon footprint – arguing that it originates from the likes of BP (effectively trying to pass off the responsibility onto us as individuals), and individuals by ourselves can’t make enough change, we need more systematic stuff. 

I understand that argument. Let’s be clear, fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. Full stop. And we can’t do it as individuals. But it’s this three legged stool where you have governments setting regulations, you have business taking responsibility and then you have individuals. I don’t think any one of those three parties can do it all on their own. 

So as individuals, I think it’s really important to understand your footprint and the footprint of businesses, and which businesses are driving the highest emissions. Fossil fuel companies must take full responsibility for their own emissions but as individuals we can also play our role to speed up the transition to zero carbon economy. 

Wind farm

Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash

We hope you found Eamonn’s words inspiring!

To listen to the full episode, go to our podcasts page here.

The Buttercup Team

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