Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

The answer depends on who you are.

I’m an individual

Your carbon footprint is quite simply the amount of carbon that is released as a result of your circumstances, lifestyle choices and the decisions you make [1]. What you eat. How you travel. What you buy. Where you live. How you invest your money. What you do at work. How many pets you have.

Having a carbon footprint is unavoidable. If you live in a developed country, it’s also likely to be pretty large. For example, the average carbon footprint for a US citizen is about 20 tonnes per year (but the average for someone in Nepal is 0.1).

Why so big? Well, on the whole, carbon is mostly free today. You don’t have to pay for the carbon you use or immediately see the damage that emissions cause, so there’s little incentive to reduce your footprint. It’s almost invisible, so you’re probably not aware of just how much of it you are using.  The longer that carbon comes free, the harder we’re all going to have to work to cut back emissions in the future, or face the consequences. And science tells us, one day, we’ll even have to phase carbon out entirely.

How can you reduce your carbon footprint?

  • Heating and lighting your home uses electricity and possibly oil and gas too. Switching away from coal, oil and gas-based electricity and heating options to a renewable source will really help to lower your emissions.
  • Plugging in your phone or computer, checking Facebook, streaming Spotify, saving files to the cloud, even storing emails: these all create carbon emissions. Every byte adds up.
  • If you drive or take a taxi to work, you are emitting CO2. Even taking public transport has a carbon toll as most buses run on gas and the subway or tube uses electricity – although of course the emissions load is split between all the people travelling, so it’s less per person. Walking or cycling for at least some of your daily commute is the best if you can.
  • The emissions toll from food can be significant. For example, did you know that 90% of all the asparagus eaten in the UK comes from Peru, nearly 10,000km away? But the transportation of vegetables, fruit, meat and fish to your local grocery store or supermarket is just the start. Even more significant are the emissions from food production. Think about the CO2 that gets released from soils and belching cows, and industrial machinery which both uses energy and outputs waste gases. Cattle often graze on deforested land or are fed grains, which also need space to grow. So it’s really worth considering carbon when you buy. Can you go on a low-carbon diet?
  • The clothes available both in store and online can be extremely carbon heavy. Growing raw material like cotton to make clothes has a big carbon impact as does the production and transportation of clothes. And while having online purchases shipped to you is easy and convenient, it’s also carbon-heavy. You can look for ‘carbon neutral’ delivery options but they’re hard to find.  How sustainable is your closet?  Can you buy vintage, swap, or upcycle?

Things are improving

Systems are slowly changing, bringing with them more renewable energy, electric transport options and other, less resource intensive, ways of living. As we transition, our carbon footprints will reduce. Governments are working hard to create the right conditions. They are bringing in carbon pricing and renewable energy incentives and making international commitments like those laid out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. But there’s no denying that it’s a slow process. Agreements often take years, if not decades, to be implemented and we simply can’t wait that long.  We know that action over and above what the governments are already doing is necessary to meet our goals.  It’s up to each of us to contribute.

Learn more about global climate commitments and what the world needs to achieve here.

Precious global ecosystems are being eroded right now, at a catastrophic cost to the people and animals that rely on them, as well as to our planet’s atmosphere on which we all rely. Every day we wait makes the job of eradicating carbon emissions even harder.

You have the power to act right now

You don’t need to wait for your government or big business act. Just take these four empowering steps.

Step 1 – Measure

Calculate your footprint.

Step 2 – Minimise

Reduce your emissions. Are there any cost-effective activities that you could invest in – like new energy efficiency measures across your business? Switching to renewable energy? Setting a target?

Step 3 – Mitigate

Take direct action to start reversing your carbon footprint today – by saving threatened forests.

Step 4 – Motivate

Get your friends involved.  Motivate and encourage others to take action like you. Motivate others in your value chain to join you in taking action for climate change.

Carbon Footprinting

There are tangible business benefits of both reporting your companies carbon footprint (often referred to as disclosure) and taking concrete action to manage it, especially when it comes to long-term sustainability and profitability.

It is best practice for companies to consider all their relevant emissions when calculating their carbon footprint. In GHG reporting terms this means disclosing Scopes 1, 2 and 3 (as defined to the WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol www.ghgprotocol.org).

– Scope 1 refers to an organisations direct emissions such as fuel combustion and company vehicles
– Scope 2 refers to an organisations indirect emissions such as purchased electricity, heat and steam
– Scope 3 refers to other indirect emissions such as the use of sold products, waste disposal and business travel like flights. This could also include supply chain emissions including deforestation.

If a company does not disclose all scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions it is best practice to be clear what is and what is not included in a companies report.

I’m a small business

Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon released as a result of how you do business. Running your offices. Feeding staff. Business trips. Any manufacturing.  Depending on how far up and down the value chain you look, your carbon footprint can also include anything from sourcing raw material and manufactured goods to how your customers use and dispose of the products you sell.

One best practice approach to calculating your carbon footprint is to look at where emissions occur in your value chain in each of three different ‘emissions scopes’:

Scope 1

Direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by your company such as your car fleet or industrial operation.

Scope 2

Indirect emissions from consuming electricity or other energy sources to heat and light your offices.

Scope 3

Indirect emissions that result from related business activities such as employees commuting in their own cars, travel for business trips, materials purchased, operational waste and how customers use and dispose of your products.

Find out why small businesses are taking action and some examples here.

Take back control

Systems are slowly changing, bringing more renewable energy, electric transport options and new, less resource intensive ways of doing business. It’s vital that all businesses take responsibility for their climate impact and start working to proactively reduce it.  The risks that climate change brings are great, and doing nothing now is likely to cost your business dearly in the future. The higher insurance costs created by extreme weather events and increased flood risks are already a reality for many small businesses.

Governments are working hard to improve conditions by bringing in carbon pricing and other incentives to choose renewable energy alongside making international commitments like those laid out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. But we are still years, if not decades, away from full implementation and the numbers are clear: we need to do more.

Start taking action

There are four simple steps you can take to start reducing carbon threats and managing future risk, right away.

Step 1

Calculate your carbon footprint and start looking at emissions across your value chain. Get in touch if we can help you with this.

Step 2

Reduce your emissions. Are there any cost-effective activities that you could invest in – such as bringing in new energy efficiency measures across your business?  Could you switch to renewable energy supply?  Can you set a target?

Step 3

Take direct action to start reversing your carbon footprint today. Ecosphere+ can help you invest in restoring degraded land and protecting threatened forests and the communities that depend on them.

Step 4

Report your progress.  Tell your customers, employees, investors, partners about your actions.

Do you want to understand the carbon footprint of your business? We work with a partner who has developed a free and easy online tool for just this. Carbon Analytics’ platform guides you through the key steps to taking action. You can get a detailed analysis of your businesses carbon footprint, including information about your value chain through your suppliers, track your improvements over time and mitigate for your unavoidable emissions through saving our threatened forests. Start your carbon analysis today, or contact us to find out more!

Aviation imposes other effects on the climate which are greater than just CO2 emissions alone and vary based on a range of factors (e.g. accounting for non-CO2 gases, flying through certain types of clouds, and even flying at night. There is currently no suitable or agreed climate metric (or Radiative Forcing Index) to express the relationship between emissions and additional climate warming effects from aviation and this is an active area of research.

To take account of this, the UK Government recommends a ‘multiplier’ for the CO2 emissions associated with flying. A multiplier of 1.9 is recommended as a central estimate, based on the best available scientific evidence and consistent with UNFCCC reporting. Our carbon footprinting partner Carbon Analytics uses this in their carbon calculations.

More information can be found in the 2016 Government GHG Conversion Factors for Company Reporting published by BEIS: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/553488/2016_methodology_paper_Final_V01-00.pdf 

[1] We calculate per capita carbon emissions based on average consumption and emissions levels for different countries. The variables include: Flights (based on UK government data, ranging from rarely for the ‘low’ option to one flight a month for the ‘high’ option); Land transportation (you would be a ‘low’ emitter if you take short public transit trips, and a ‘high’ emitter if you make long automobile commutes); Housing (considers the size of the house and the national or regional energy mix; uses World Bank data); Consumption (all other purchases, including food, clothing, other spending habits, etc. and uses a mix of World Bank and other global data).