Measure your carbon footprint

Carbon footprints capture greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions outputs on an annual basis which are a result of the your activities.

There may also be indirect emissions that an individual or business generates included in the carbon footprint measurements.

Carbon footprints are normally measured annually. Essential data includes energy bills, transport costs and waste generation.

Some of the competitive advantages of measuring your carbon footprint are:

  • reduced production costs due to the application of energy saving practices
  • reduced cost of inputs
  • minimization of the production of waste.

Government regulations coupled with pressure from consumers means that companies with a high carbon footprint may not be competitive in the low carbon economies of tomorrow.

Personal and small traders

If you google “carbon footprint calculator” you will see a variety available, free to use. Some calculators can be too complex, requiring a lot of information such as how many people are vegetarian, or how much they recycle.

The Calculator from the United States Environmental Protection Agency sets the standard – click here

Here is a another popular Carbon Footprint Calculator.

Carbon footprints are measured annually.

You can create a list that details your emissions sources covering a 12 month period. Bills from energy suppliers often show the amount of carbon emitted by your usage or you can get the information from their website.

The amount of emissions produced by your vehicle could be gained from the manufacturer however it is easier and still perfectly valid to use figures produced by the bodies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the UN Environment Program about 45% of emissions are direct ones, such as driving a car or using a heater. Approx. 20 percent are caused by the creation, use and disposal of products we use. 25 percent comes from powering workplaces and 10 percent from maintaining public infrastructure.

Calculating a Company Footprint

All the activities across a company or organisation are measured for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These can be:

• Organisational carbon footprint – GHG emissions from all activities across a company such as the energy used in buildings and industrial processes or company owned vehicles.

• Product/service carbon footprint – GHG emissions over the life of a product or service. This involves calculating emissions from the extraction of raw materials and manufacturing, through to the disposal of a particular product.

It may also measure indirect emissions which are associated with activities outside an organisation’s own operations – the value chain. This ‘value chain analysis’ looks at every step a business goes through, from raw materials to the eventual end-user.

Measurements should include the direct and indirect emissions from your own operations and may also take into account indirect emissions from activities outside an organisation’s own operations. The aim is to identify and quantify your key emissions sources. Each organisation is different and will have differing sources. Data will need to be gathered from different departments including finance, travel, logistics and operations. You choose the appropriate emission factor for each emission source in order to calculate the tonnes of CO2 emitted. Data must be consistent for the time period so if you were doing an annual footprint then all data must have the same boundaries.

Standards

You will need to select a methodology for your footprint that is most relevant for your organisation. It depends upon the data that you have collected and what you plan to do with the findings. You could just do a basic footprint measurement using a carbon calculator or a spreadsheet. However larger businesses should adopt an internationally recognised standard such as:

ISO 14064 part of the ISO series of International Standards for environmental management providing guidance on the principles and requirements for reporting GHG emissions and verification.

ISO 14067 increases the transparency in reporting GHG emissions associated with the entire lifecycle of different products and services.

The GHG Protocol Corporate Standard which is is an emissions accounting tool used by many businesses and organisations worldwide. It categorises emissions into three scopes:

Scope 1 (Direct emissions that result from activities within your organisation’s control);

Scope 2 (Indirect emissions from any electricity, heat or stream purchased); and

Scope 3 (other indirect emissions from sources outside your direct control).

We recommend GHG Protocol Corporate Standard. Footprint calculation tools for business are available on the GHG Protocol Initiative website (www.ghgprotocol.org)

The final element involves offsetting some or all of your the remaining emissions. These are impossible to eliminate or not economic to do so entirely. You can purchase carbon offset certificates credits which are accredited by internationally recognised standards from a variety of different vendors.