Our everyday decisions impact our planet. But by how much? Here’s how to answer that.
Electric mobility is a great idea for transport sustainability–it doesn’t leave a carbon footprint…but only locally. The problem is that this apparent easy fix to our environmental problems is burdened with the emissions of the production process and in some cases, reaching net-zero emissions is more complicated than simply buying the car and driving it.
This issue is much bigger and isn’t limited to vehicles only. Building sustainable economics that are in parallel with Sustainable Development Goals requires customers to be aware of the impact of their decisions.
Some ideas already exist to solve these problems:
- Carbon tax – a way of adding carbon footprint value representation to the price of any product. This would encourage socially responsible buying decisions as sustainable products could be cheaper or at least similarly priced to other products. You could also see your overall carbon footprint straight on the bill.
- Flight carbon offsetting – plane flights generate extreme levels of greenhouse gases even if they are calculated per passenger. This is why there are ways of offsetting the emissions, meaning that you can contribute to projects that reduce them to compensate travel footprint. This is what most airlines do – they buy carbon credits from those doing offsets.
- Carbon credits – similarly to offsetting, there are broader carbon markets that allow businesses to trade their emissions or individuals to support environmentally friendly projects.
These ideas aren’t futuristic at all, but they still need further development. How can you calculate your carbon footprint right here and right now?
Measuring Your Carbon Footprint
Our day-to-day emissions are the most related to energy consumption. As a rule of thumb, the more energy we consume, the more greenhouse gases we emit. Not in a direct way, but we contribute to the emissions made somewhere else.
Here’s a way to calculate your carbon footprint.
1. Create a List of Your Devices
Let’s start with finding your level of energy consumption. First, look around your house or apartment and check what electrical devices do you use. How many TVs do you have? How many laptops, smartphones, and kitchen robots?
List them. List them all.
2. Match the Energy Consumption to the Items
To check how much energy does your stuff consume, look for their specifications – just google your product’s name and add ‘specs’ and get the average consumption. Do that for every item and think how much time per day/per month/per year are you using it.
For example: My TV uses 98W when it’s active, so if I run it for an hour, it uses 98Wh. A unified metric is in kWh, so it’s 0,098 kWh. If I use it for 4 hours a day, for 365 days, that’s 143 kWh per year.
3. Check How Clean Is Your Energy
To calculate my carbon footprint, I like to use electricitymap.org which aggregates data about the equivalent of CO2 produced per 1 kWh around the globe.
For example, Swedish electricity is almost pure – 98% of their energy is low-emission and 66% is from renewable sources. On the other hand, we have South Korea where only 37% of the energy is low-emission. In Sweden, generating 1 kWh equals 35g of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere. In South Korea, the same 1 kWh would emit 456g CO2.
4. Calculate the Carbon Footprint
From now on, it’s very simple. Multiply your energy consumption by the CO2 equivalent in your region.
Going back to the previous examples, the same TV emits 5 kg of CO2 in Sweden per year and over 65 kg of CO2 in South Korea. That puts some perspective in it, doesn’t it?
If you’d like to take a shortcut, you can just multiply your electricity usage from the bills you pay but there’s a catch – you won’t know which devices contribute the most to global warming.
Sustainability Starts with Awareness
You could calculate your greenhouse gas emissions similarly for many items you use – your transportation, household, lifestyle, and more. It’s a simple exercise but one that provides you with an eye-opening perspective on how much CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere due to your actions.
With that knowledge, you can find ways of cutting down on energy consumption, especially if you live in a region where electricity is not that clean. Although minimizing global warming is in the hands of systematic changes, they all begin in our heads.
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