What is a carbon footprint calculator, and why should you use it?
Knowledge is power in the fight against climatic change. Calculating your personal carbon footprint is a great way of becoming aware of the impact your lifestyle has on the environment, and also serves as the first step towards fostering a carbon-neutral lifestyle.
SA Climate Crisis brings you a collection of the best carbon footprint calculators around – both for companies and individuals – and also provides some useful tips on how to calculate and reduce your carbon footprint.
What is a carbon footprint?
The term “carbon footprint” refers to the environmental impact a person, organisation or product has during the course of its life cycle in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is produced and emitted into the earth’s atmosphere.
While normal levels of carbon dioxide for millions of years have made life on earth possible by filtering the sun’s harmful rays, steadily rising levels of CO2 are now threatening the future of all species and ecosystems.
This blanket of carbon dioxide traps heat close to the earth’s surface, effectively causes what scientists have dubbed The Greenhouse Effect, which results in global warming.
This phenomenon causes polar ice to melt, sea levels to rise, oceans to become more acidic, and tropical storms to become more powerful – to name but a few adverse effects.
“Scientific consensus is that human activities are responsible for climatic changes and global warming. As a result of our unchecked burning of fossil fuels, the level of atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gasses (GHG) such as nitrous oxide, methane and fluorinated gasses increasing alarmingly with every passing year, with grave implications for the continued survival of all life forms.
Global warming, and the climatic changes it causes, threaten the very existence of life on the planet, and is escalating with every passing decade.
The climate crisis is not only an eco-political issue, but also one of the most profound moral and ethical challenges humankind has ever faced.
YOU can make a difference!
In order to combat climatic change, governments, corporations and the citizenry will all need to radically reduce their carbon footprints. Leading scientists believe that a point of no return is not far off, and that our actions within the next decade may well decide our survival as a species.
What is called for is an urgent radical re-thinking of the way in which we live our lives.
Calculating your personal carbon footprint
The good news is that every single person can make a meaningful contribution to the fight against climatic changes. The average first-world citizen’s lifestyle produces X tons of carbon dioxide per year – imagine if every person could reduce this amount by 50%?
Top Carbon Calculators
These calculators should give you a fair idea of your personal carbon footprint:
- An Inconvenient Truth’s carbon footprint calculator
- CarbonFootprint.com Carbon Footprint Calculator
- WWF Carbon and Ecological Footprint Calculator.
Additionally, CarbonUK.co.uk also features a Company Carbon Footprint Calculator that will enable you to measure your organisation’s carbon impact. The site also contains helpful information about carbon off-setting and saving energy.
So I’ve calculated my personal carbon impact – now what?
Determining how much carbon dioxide your lifestyle produces is essentially the first step in reducing your carbon footprint. Using your score as a broad indicator, proceed to determine which areas of your lifestyle are making the biggest contribution to your personal carbon footprint.
Are you a “Carbon Bigfoot?”
Are you driving a Hummer or a similar big “urban 4×4” vehicle? Are you flying a lot, or driving to work on your own when you could be lift-clubbing?
These areas are very much the “Usual Suspects” when it comes to carbon contributions, and are also fairly simple areas to address. Thanks to modern low-carbon communication technologies and platforms such as VOIP and teleconferencing, for example, international business travel can be kept down to a bare minimum.
Why not trade your fuel-guzzling beast for something more economical? Why not take turns driving your partner, flatmate or neighbour to work? Investigate some ways of reducing your carbon footprint when shopping, or why not opt for a carbon-neutral holiday?
Calculating your organisation’s carbon footprint
Considering the fact that you spend as much as one third of your life – if not more! – at work, this is one of the key areas calling for a carbon audit and significant carbon footprint reductions. Before a company and organisation starts investigating supply chain carbon accountability, there are a number of quick-wins that will make a significant contribution to reducing its carbon impact.
But we’re a service company; surely we don’t burn fossil fuels..?
Yes you do – if only indirectly! Even PR companies and advertising agencies have a carbon footprint; through the paper and office products they consume, through the electricity they use, and even through the services they receive from other companies. Every product or service has a carbon footprint, whether you are a primary consumer of energy or not, and a non-carbon-neutral recommendation effectively contributes to your own carbon footprint. It’s bad karma, man.
Carbon footprint reduction tips for companies
The good news is that the larger an organisation is, the more significant a contribution it can make in terms of reducing workplace carbon emissions.
Below follows several “quick-win” suggestions for reducing your company’s in-house carbon dioxide emissions – with almost immediate effect, and without bring outputs to a standstill:
• Install energy-saving bulbs
• Fit time-out light switches
• Start a paper recycling programme
• Print sparingly, and on both sides!
• Switch off all the lights when you go home
Implement a Turn It Off policy, and switch appliances off at the wall, don’t leave machines and workstations on stand-by mode, switch off air conditioning on cool days, or buy appliances displaying a low-energy logo – the list goes on!
Once your organisation is achieving the above goals, the following medium-term changes can be implemented:
• Rent – or build – energy-efficient buildings
• Harness natural light by installing glass bricks and ceiling windows
• Think green; install Think Pink
• Provide a staff shuttle service
How does carbon reduction differ from carbon offsetting?
Carbon footprint reduction entails reducing activities that produce carbon dioxide; carbon offsetting requires actions that cancel out your carbon dioxide emissions resulting from inevitable activities. The simplest way of illustrating this distinction, is as follows: Recycling is a form of carbon footprint reduction, whereas planting a tree is carbon-offsetting. Find out more about corporate carbon offsetting in South Africa, or learn more about corporate carbon footprint accountability.