The ultimate guide to calculate your carbon footprint

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Global population growth, economic expansion and industrialization are playing a considerable role in the Earth's capacity to absorb carbon emissions. Thus, one of the main reasons for greenhouse gas emissions are those of human activities, the largest emitter being carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal in the usage of electricity, heat, and transportation.

Human caused emissions are greatly strengthening the greenhouse effect by increasing the earth's temperatures. Our carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere in combination with constant deforestation is a primary driver of climate change. To address and explain this issue, we have developed the term 'carbon footprint', which will be introduced in the next part of this article.

Carbon footprint

Before discussing the carbon footprint, we must define greenhouse gasses in order to understand what we are discussing. These can be both natural and man-made and are characterized by absorbing and emitting infrared radiation, with water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane being the main and most important ones. 

The carbon footprint is made up by the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by any activity of an organization, event, individual, service, place or product. It is measured in units of tons and the corporate carbon footprint includes both direct and indirect GHG emissions within a company. 

Until a footprint is in place, a company cannot know its impact on the environment and take action on it. Thus, once the footprint has been calculated and its size is known, measures can be taken to reduce it. 

Calculating an organization's footprint is by no means an easy task, as some of the strategies may include technological developments and improvements in energy efficiency. In fact, it’s rather complex and might not be accurate to the point, but it will give a good estimate. 

The ultimate step-by-step guide to calculate the carbon footprint of a company

  • Identify operations that emit GHGs: First and foremost a company needs to identify all operations that allow for GHG emissions into the atmosphere. Everything from transportation, energy usag and manufacturing to waste management needs to be accounted for. Establish a metric to calculate and determine how much is being consumed within each business activity. 
  • Collect the data: Once identified these operations, you’ll want to measure everything from water supply, electricity use, business travels and waste disposal. These indirect emissions can be a little more difficult to estimate and you will probably need some external data to be able to accurately calculate the carbon footprint, so turning to consulting services that specialize in calculating an organization's carbon footprint can be helpful. 
  • Connecting steps 1 and 2: To be able to calculate the carbon footprint of a business you need to know how much GHG emissions are being generated within each business operation. For example, to establish how much emissions the organization's electricity consumption generates, you first need to calculate emissions per kilowatt hour. 
  • Calculate the carbon footprint: When analyzing and interpreting the results it can be useful to use a cloud-base tool or a consulting firm. You can now start to identify areas that are the biggest sources of GHG emissions and take action going forward. 

How to improve and reduce our impact on the environment

Without being aware of our daily actions and decisions, we are responsible for significant changes in the global climate ecosystem. By being aware of this issue, we are also able to reverse the damage to ensure a brighter future for our planet. Here are some tips to reduce our impact on the environment: 

  • One of the best things you can do is to stay informed.
  • Use renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power, instead of electricity and fossil energy.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. For example, switching from virgin raw materials to reused and recycled raw materials, or reducing the amount of waste and increasing the proportion of those destined for reuse and recycling of materials.
  • Make it easy for employees to use public transportation, and allow them to work from home whenever possible, as well as to increase the use of non-commuting meetings.
  • Try to adopt a less consumerist lifestyle by being conscious of what you buy and where you buy it from.
  • Require that most of the food waste generated is treated biologically to ensure plant nutrition.
  • Perform volunteer actions that can help restore nature in your local area.
  • Increase efficiency in the use of energy and raw materials.