A carbon footprint calculator will estimate how much carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) you release into the atmosphere per year based on the data you provide.
This data concerns specific aspects of your life. These vary slightly from calculator to calculator but most of the time I would say that they take into consideration:
- What type of food you eat
- What mode of transportation you use
- How much you buy and throw away
- How and where you live
The numbers are then pooled to show you your carbon footprint and some calculators will even show how many planets you “use”. So, based on your carbon footprint you can be told that you’re living like you had for example five earths instead of one.
Different countries have different numbers of how many earths are needed to sustain the average person living in that country. In Sweden for example, we would need 3.96 earths to sustain the average person living here, in Qatar 8.84 (highest) and in Timor-Leste 0.3 (lowest) according to The Global Footprint Network.
Some calculators will take into consideration the CO2e that are released into the atmosphere just by the way the society in your country looks, assuming that you’re taking part in the infrastructure (electricity grid etc.). This means that you can’t avoid a certain amount of CO2 being released in the atmosphere.
The Global Footprint Network has some great resources on different countries’ footprints so I would recommend you check it out if you’re interested.
On their website, they also have a Footprint Calculator, which is the one I used to find out how big my carbon footprint is and that is what today’s post is about.
There are many different carbon footprint calculators out there and it’s difficult to know which ones are suitable for you but if you’re curious, start out with this one to get a rough idea on where you can make changes to lower your carbon footprint.
Calculating my Carbon footprint using Global Footprint Network’s calculator
I’ve tried a few different calculators in the past and this one has both pros and cons. A positive thing is that it is simple, which makes it easy to use and might make people more inclined to actually try it out. But because it’s so simple, I feel like it’s missing out on a few things.
For example, you can’t fill in how much electriticy you use or where the heating in the building you live comes from. For more accuracy, you should be able to fill in specific numbers, but most of the time, the calculator will only give you the option to approximate your impact. These are things that could potentially have an effect on your overall footprint.
I tried my best to be as accurate as possible, and my results are below.
I probably shouldn’t be pleasantly surprised that I live like I use 1.4 earths because it’s actually quite horrifying, but I really thought it would be a lot worse. The second screenshot below is of the different categories and – not surprising – goods (i.e. consumption) is where my carbon footprint is highest.
This lets me know that even though I should aim for reducing my carbon footprint in all categories, the easiest for me would probably be to concentrate on lowering my consumption. I should really buy less stuff and lately, I’ve actually bought a lot but I haven’t really considered it to be such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But here I am, looking at my results and it’s very clear what I need to do.
The question is how? It should be the simplest category to reduce, right? But I still have no clue.
The third screenshot shows how big my carbon footprint is in comparison to the different types of land I use. Because I’m vegan, fishing grounds and grazing lands are zero but cropland and forest products are still pretty big.
Doing this calculation also made me realize how very fortunate I am to live in a place that offers me a lot of options when it comes to reducing my carbon footprint. Here, in a large-ish city in Sweden, you can bike everywhere so you don’t need to use your car or public transportation. Also, our electricity mix is relatively good (my boyfriend and I have opted for 100 % renewable electricity which is easy to do here) and the way our houses are built now is becoming better and more sustainable due to regulations. If you live in other places, it might not be so easy for you to reduce your footprint as much. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.
Please do try. Try the calculator, get inspired and do your best!
I will be using other calculators for future blog posts and it will be interesting to compare the different ones to each other and see if my results vary based on what type of questions they ask. So stay tuned for that!