What is a carbon footprint? Calculate yours and your business’s

Sugarcane straws certified with stringently audited low carbon footprint ensuring eco-friendly production through sustainable agricultural practices.

As the impact of climate change on people becomes more significant, more and more people are realizing that it is time to take action in response. Carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) generated by a product during production, and is derived via both direct measurements and indirect calculations based on database data. After the carbon footprint has been measured and calculated, we will understand better how much GHG individuals and enterprises generate daily, which will allow us to lower carbon emissions based on the data and thereby mitigate climate change via our collective effort.

What is a carbon footprint?

When people engage in activities such as crop cultivation, transportation, household electricity consumption, food production, and cooking, they will generate a certain amount of GHG. Carbon footprint refers to the total amount of GHG discharged by specific people, organizations, products, or activities, and it is usually represented by carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e). For instance, Hank’s daily carbon footprint is 30kg of CO2e, Google’s carbon footprint in 2022 was 1,020 million tons of CO2e, a renouvo sugarcane straw has a carbon footprint of 2.83g of CO2e, and taking a flight from Heathrow Airport, London, to JFK Airport, New York has a carbon footprint of 0.9 tons of CO2e.

How to calculate a carbon footprint?

How to calculate a carbon footprint? Common sources of carbon footprints - individual, organization, product, activity

Carbon footprint is evaluated using the GHG emissions of a product or organization throughout its life cycle. More specifically, GHGs are divided into Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions, representing direct GHG emissions, power consumption-related emissions, and indirect emissions that occur outside of our direct control, respectively. Examples of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions from individuals, organizations, products, and other activities are outlined below:

  • Daily carbon emissions for an individual: Scope 1 (emissions from the burning of gasoline), Scope 2 (electricity consumption by television, fridge, washing machine, and cell phone at home), Scope 3 (pizza dinner carbon footprint).
  • Organization: Scope 1 (total GHG emissions from the company’s AC system), Scope 2 (electricity consumption from lighting, AC, computers, and automatic doors), Scope 3 (GHG emissions from waste disposal and office equipment).
  • Product: Scope 1 (carbon footprint of trucks delivering products to downstream partners), Scope 2 (electricity consumption from machinery and information equipment during the production process, Scope 3 (GHG emissions from the source of raw materials, business trip-related transportation, and product use by consumers).
  • Activity: Scope 1 (GHG emissions from the burning of gas to cook food for the activity), Scope 2 (electricity consumption from lights and projectors), Scope 3 (product carbon footprint of balloons, disposable tableware, and party hats).

Since it is difficult to calculate the carbon footprint of every item, every time, use of existing databases is extremely important. Databases such as SimaPro, Gabi, and US LCI provide carbon footprints of individual items, enabling us to calculate the carbon footprint of various individuals, organizations, products, or activities. In addition, different countries have different carbon footprint coefficients due to different electricity generation infrastructure.

If the GHG produced is not CO2 but another gas, such as methane (CH4, often produced by the combustion of fossil fuel or the anaerobic decay of organic matter), nitrogen oxide (NO, produced by the combustion of fuel in cars and motorcycles), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6, used as insulating gas to prevent power supply fire accidents), the gas emissions coefficient can be calculated according to the guidelines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and how much CO2 it is equivalent to in terms of severity of impact on the greenhouse effect (global warming potential, or GWP). For instance, the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) states that the GWP value of methane is 27.9, meaning that for every gram of methane produced, the final carbon footprint will be increased by 27.9 grams.

What is your carbon footprint

Calculating carbon footprint is an extremely complex task, and it can be difficult for us to calculate our daily carbon emissions. At most, we can calculate direct emissions and electricity consumption based on fuel gauge and electricity meter readings. Even though indirect emissions take up more than half of total carbon emissions, only a few, more climate change-conscious manufacturers provide carbon footprint information for the food we consume and the products we use every day. Consequently, we often utilize online calculation software to calculate our carbon footprints based on averaged values. In the following chapter, we will introduce the specific calculation methods.

The carbon footprint of businesses

Businesses apply ISO14064 standards to calculate their organizational carbon footprint, which offers clear regulations concerning the boundary and scope of carbon footprint calculations, emission source, activity data, and emission coefficients. Complying with ISO14064 ensures that credible organizational carbon footprint data can be obtained. If you intend to disclose carbon footprint information to consumers and stakeholders through Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG reports), the carbon footprint data calculated using this standard is recognized internationally.

Please read this article to find out what ESG is what an internationally credible ESG report should contain: Setting ESG Goals – Improving Enterprise Competitiveness in 3 Steps.

What is the carbon footprint of a product?

The product’s carbon footprint can be calculated according to the ISO14067 standard, which will take into account the complete life cycle from raw material acquisition, product manufacturing, transportation, and product use, to waste disposal at the end of the product’s lifespan. If you wish to disclose the carbon footprint information to consumers and stakeholders in the form of a carbon label, the carbon footprint data calculated using this standard is recognized by various international standards.

Please read this article to find out what a carbon label is and what the benefits of it are: What is Carbon Label? Should I Pay Attention To?

Calculate your carbon footprint

Unlike enterprises, that can set up a dedicated department to calculate their carbon footprint, it is difficult and expensive for individuals to employ the services of a professional consulting firm. The simplest approach is to calculate your carbon footprint using an online platform. The following are three common carbon footprint calculation websites, so start calculating your carbon footprint today!

UN carbon footprint calculator

The UN carbon footprint calculator is maintained by the United Nations Carbon Offset Platform, where factors such as family size, country of residence, house size, electricity consumption, green energy ratio, weekly transportation methods, eating habits, and types of organic waste compost are evaluated to calculate the respective ratios of energy use, transportation, and diet, as well as the estimated carbon footprint in the final year. Aside from calculating your carbon footprint, you can also purchase carbon credits directly on the website and conduct carbon offsets to achieve a carbon-neutral life.

Please read the article for more information about carbon offset: WHAT IS CARBON OFFSET? HOW DO CARBON OFFSET WORK?

For more information about carbon neutrality: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CARBON NEUTRAL & NET ZERO.

Click here to calculate your carbon footprint now

United States Environmental Protection Agency Carbon Footprint Caluclator

The calculator assesses the carbon footprint of three different fields including household energy, transportation, and waste disposal. After entering the family size and local zip code in the U.S., household energy (natural gas, electricity, and fuel) costs will be analyzed. For transportation, the number of vehicles and their annual fuel consumption is investigated. In terms of waste disposal, the recycling status of each item is determined. Ultimately, a carbon footprint report is generated, comparing the individual outcome to the overall U.S. average. During the calculation process, options for carbon reduction measures are suggested. After selecting a plan to implement, you will be able to immediately notice the difference in carbon footprint before and after carrying out carbon reduction measures.

Click here to calculate your carbon footprint now

WWF carbon footprint calculator

The WWF carbon footprint calculator is maintained by the Living Planet Centre of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF-UK). Fill out a questionnaire including eating habits and expenses, transportation methods and time per week, heating methods, and annual purchase records, and the WWF will calculate the carbon footprint using domestic data in the UK and generate a report with the number of tons of CO2 under various categories including HOME, FOOD, TRAVEL, and STUFF, as well as their ratio to the overall carbon footprint.

Click here to calculate your carbon footprint now

How to reduce your carbon footprint?

How to reduce your carbon footprint? Ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint

Prioritize projects with above-average reductions according to the carbon footprint report

The carbon footprint reports provided by each platform illustrate your carbon footprint in various fields, and also often reveal how much higher or lower it is compared to the average. We should search for areas that are above the average and strive to improve them in a bid to reduce our carbon footprint to a level below the average.

Implement energy-saving measures

Use equipment with high energy efficiency, such as home appliances featuring the Energy Star symbol, to significantly save energy consumption. If used in areas with thermal power generation, they will effectively lower the carbon footprint.

Reduce food waste

Purchase food in moderation, preferring local and seasonal ingredients, to minimize food waste, improve resource utilization efficiency and decrease carbon footprint.

Recycle and compost waste

Recycle plastics, glass, and metal appropriately, and compost paper, food scraps, and other compostable products. This enables them to be remanufactured into new products at the end of their life span, or tobiodegrade and return to the soil in, a bid to decrease the carbon footprint from extracting new resources.

Avoid driving and air travel

For the same amount of fuel, public transport can carry more passengers. Also, land and sea transport are more energy-efficient than air transport, so minimize driving alone and air travel to significantly lower transport-related carbon footprint.

How to reduce business carbon footprint?

How to reduce business carbon footprint? Ways to reduce business carbon footprint

Procure energy-saving equipment

A considerable part of the cost of manufacturing comes from energy purchases. Energy-saving equipment enables enterprises to maintain existing production capacity while lowering energy consumption, which in turn reduces both costs and carbon footprint, killing two birds with one stone.

Implement eco-friendly measures in the office

Simple measures such as installing LED lights, turning off lights, paperless operations, and proper waste classification in the office will go a long way in reducing carbon footprint. This measure is especially important in service-oriented industries such as the software or banking.

Introduce sustainable energy

Since energy accounts for a major portion of the carbon footprint, many businesses have begun to introduce various sustainable energy sources such as solar energy, wind power, hydropower, and geothermal energy, which do not require the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity. As a result, their carbon footprint from energy is almost zero, which can lower their overall carbon footprint considerably.

Decrease the frequency of business trips

Although “meeting in person leaves a more lasting impression,” most firms are part of the global market in the modern era of internationalization, so meeting customers in person requires flying overseas. Try to use video conferencing instead of physical meetings as much as possible, to minimize unnecessary business trips and the associated carbon footprint.

Create a sustainable supply chain

A large portion of the carbon footprint results from indirect GHG emissions or upstream sources of raw materials. Businesses can opt to use suppliers with lower carbon footprints, or assist them to decrease GHG emissions and indirect carbon footprints.

Why is carbon footprint important to us?

Climate change is the most pressing issue we currently face. If the global temperature rises by more than 1.5°C, the intensity of natural disasters such as wildfires, rising sea levels, droughts, and snowstorms will be increased. To prevent this predicament, the IPCC has provided various carbon reduction paths to help us control GHG emissions. According to the latest resolution, GHG emissions from people must be lowered by 43% before 2030 (compared with 2019). Calculating our carbon footprint is the foundation and starting point for realizing carbon reductions. Only by acknowledging our GHG emissions will we be able to gradually mitigate them in the future.