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Instant Footprint Assesment

Methodology

Your “carbon footprint.” Since your curiosity brought you here; did you know that the term carbon footprint was firstly used during the ‘90s by William E. Rees and Mathis Wackernagel? [1] Don’t worry, we learn every day!  There is, however, a good chance that you’ve heard the term once (maybe twice) before throughout the course of your life – and no wonder. In fact, in 2007, the concept of ‘carbon footprint’  was awarded Word of the Year by Oxford Languages in the UK, and the year before that it was ‘carbon neutral ‘ in the US. [2] In short, your carbon footprint is “[…] the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.”  [3] 

To get an idea of how much your own footprint is, this is where the carbon footprint calculator comes in. Overall, there are countless carbon footprint calculators out there on the internet, presenting their own calculation results. By comparing, some might come to a similar set of results, whereas others might not at all. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that one of these different results is ‘fake news’ since it generally comes down to what it is they are mainly trying to calculate for you. The more detailed your questionnaire, the more accurate your carbon footprint results will turn out to be.  Ultimately, the goal is to get as close as one is possibly able to. 

Now, you might be wondering; “These countless other carbon footprint calculators on the internet ask for more details on my consumption. Isn’t that going to give me better results?” To an extent, this is true, and as mentioned – the goal of any calculator is getting as close as possible to provide a functional data-based carbon footprint of you or your company’s activities. However, what separates our calculator and those other detailed calculators is the focal point, which is user-friendliness. Imagine, you want to get an indication of your company’s overall carbon footprint since you have decided to actively join the fight against climate change, or perhaps your superiors have asked your department to “just” get an idea. Now imagine that you’d have to get a hand on all the data concerning kilowatt-hour usage (kWh), water consumption, gas consumption,  etc., which consumes precious time. 

Therefore, at Klimate we believe that it is a lot easier to ask for, e.g., an indication of how many colleagues someone has rather than asking for the total kWh consumption, or how many commute to work by car instead of asking the total amount of kilometers made in a single year. The aim is to simplify this very process and to grasp the largest and most relevant sources of your company’s emissions. This, by basing our calculations on globally-adopted Green-house Gas (GHG) methodologies from GHG Protocol [4], the ISO 14067 [5], and from official intergovernmental databases. Here’s an explanation of the variables used:

  • Country/CVR When determining the carbon footprint, there is no one-size-fits-all. In fact, several studies have shown that where you or your organization is located, and what you or your organization does, makes a difference in CO2 emissions. In Denmark for example, in 2019, more than half of the country’s energy consumption came from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and ocean [6], thereby reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. The fewer fossil fuels you burn, the smaller your CO2 impact will be on the atmosphere when producing energy. This is also referred to as the energy intensity, which is the emission rate linked to any form of energy activity, in this case, production. [7] Taking Denmark as an example  again: its carbon intensity of energy production lies at 0,19 kgCO2/kWh. [8] Therefore, by knowing how many kWhs you or an organization utilizes on an annual basis, the carbon intensity, and thus emissions, of that energy consumption can be worked out. By inserting the CVR number, the calculator will then link that to an official database for indicating in which sector or industry the company is in. 

 

  • Employees   When we think about GHG emissions, large, smoking, smelly, and dirty industrial chimneys come to mind – and with no surprise! According to the IPCC (2014), about 20 percent of the total GHG emissions come from energy needed for industrial processes. [9] But,  people are walking GHG factories too. As much as people utilize energy at their homes, the same goes for their working spaces to stay warm, dry, and perform activities. In the EU alone, about 65 percent of the electricity is demanded by the service sector each year. [10] So what data do we need for determining the carbon footprint of employees? We already know that the amount of carbon emissions from energy use depends on the energy intensity of the country. Thus, depending on the requirements, it is essential to collect the variables on what an employee needs to perform his/her activities, which is energy and space in m2. Since this differs per country, sector, and individual companies, we carefully select and compress data to resemble a country -and sector’s average. In other words, by determining how much energy a typical employee requires to perform an activity in the amount of square meters as defined by its sector, one may then utilize and combine the country’s energy and emission coefficient to obtain an eventual outcome. 

 

  • Transportation   Transportation is the driver of our economies, responsible for an annual $20 trillion trading network worth of goods and services, while it also moves our world’s population well over 80 trillion kilometres each year. As goods, services, and people move, energy is used. Thus far, about 90 percent of that energy comes from fossil fuels, which makes transportation contribute over 8 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. [11] To keep it simple, we can split the transportation sector into three categories and modes: car, public transportation (bus/train), and air travel. Each of these transportation modes has its own sets of carbon emission values per (passenger) kilometre. Overall, cars, freight, and aviation (in that order) account for the largest of these emission values in the whole sector. [12] It would, therefore, be no surprise if, for example, a company would own a fleet of vehicles and/or travel regularly by airplane for business purposes to see a drastic increase in their carbon footprint. Naturally, each country also presents different data on where, when, and how much each of these transport modes are utilized within an economy. Luckily, this data is widely accessible and can further be used to measure the carbon impact of transportation for an individual or company. Our calculator retrieves the data from a country that, on average, indicates how many kilometers an e.g office worker commutes by car per year. If indicated in the calculator’s survey, it then looks for data providing the amount of CO2 emissions for the most used passenger vehicle per kilometer. Conclusively, it is important that the distance, as well as the mode of transportation is indicated in order to functionally indicate an individual or company’s carbon contribution levels.

 

Links & References

[1] Safire & William ( 2008). “Footprint”. The New York Times. Retrieved on 30 December 2019.

[2] Oxford University Press. (n.d.). Word of the Year. Retrieved November 3, 2020, from https://languages.oup.com/word-of-the-year/

[3] Carbon Trust. (2009). What is a carbon footprint? | Carbon Trust. https://web.archive.org/web/20090511102744/http://www.carbontrust.co.uk/solutions/CarbonFootprinting/what_is_a_carbon_footprint.htm

 

[4] Greenhouse Gas Protocol. (n.d.). Calculation Tools. Retrieved November 3, 2020, from https://ghgprotocol.org/calculation-tools

 

[5] ISO. (2018, August). ISO 14067:2018 Greenhouse gases — Carbon footprint of products — Requirements and guidelines for quantification (ISO 14067:2018(E)). ISO 14067. https://www.iso.org/standard/71206.html

 

[6] Energi Data Service. (n.d.). Open energy data from Energinet to society. Retrieved November 3, 2020, from https://www.energidataservice.dk/

 

[7] European Environment Agency. (2019, December 5). Energy Intensity in Europe. https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/total-primary-energy-intensity-4#:~:text=Energy%20intensity%20is%20the%20ratio,gas%2C%20nuclear%20and%20renewable%20sources

 

[8] Our World in Data. (n.d.). Carbon intensity of energy production. Retrieved November 3, 2020, from https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/co2-per-unit-energy?tab=chart&time=earliest..latest&country=DNK%7EFIN%7ENOR%7ESWE

 

[9] Change, I. C. (2014). Mitigation of climate change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1454.

[10] Odyssee-Mure. (2017). Sectoral Profile – Services. https://www.odyssee-mure.eu/publications/efficiency-by-sector/services/services-eu.pdf

 

[11] All, S. Global Mobility Report 2017: Tracking Sector Performance. 2017. World Bank.

[12] Our World in Data. (n.d.). Cars, planes, trains: where do CO2 emissions from transport come from? Retrieved November 3, 2020, from https://ourworldindata.org/co2-emissions-from-transport