A carbon footprint is an assessment of climate change which is a result of the particular activity, for example, creating a product, running a company, or having a specific lifestyle. Carbon footprint is usually measured by calculating the quantity of carbon dioxide emissions that get into the atmosphere. It can also consider other greenhouse gases. In some cases, the emissions left by airplanes are also taken into account. In other words, there are many ways of assessing the scope of one’s carbon footprint, and this paper aims to explore the different approaches to its calculation.
Three different calculators were used. The first was designed by World Wildlife Fund (WWF, 2018), the second one was created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 2018), and the third was developed by terrapass (2018), an educational project. All calculators aim to assist the users in calculating their carbon footprint. Yet, it is possible to define that given the different factors that the calculators take into account, the estimations of a carbon footprint can greatly differ.
The process of assessment is majorly common at all three sites that were used for consideration. The calculators mainly divide the assessment into several categories. In EPA calculator, these categories are Home Energy, Transportation, and Waste. Footprint calculator has four subdivisions, namely Food, Travel, Home, and Stuff. At the same time, terrapass calculator takes into account such categories as Vehicle, Public Transit, Air Travel, and Home Energy. It is apparent that two categories are present in all assessments, these are home energy and transportation-related issues.
Yet, when it comes to details, there are many discrepancies that are concerned with the factors are needed to calculate the carbon footprint. For instance, terrapass calculator explores vehicles in detail. It requires to select a vehicle time, year, brand, model, annual mileage, and description to evaluate their emissions. When it comes to public transportation, calculator counts information about train, bus, taxi, and ferry rides. Terrapass calculator lets the users choose the way of calculation of flight travel, having the options of specific flights calculation, mileage calculation, assessment of average trip lengt, and calculation of fuel. Lastly, it evaluates the consumption of energy at home, embedding electricity, natural gas, heating oil, propane, gasoline, and diesel use calculations. The results of terrapass calculator demonstrated the score of 44,413 Lbs of CO2e, while the average US indicator is 63,934 Lbs (terrapass, 2018). Therefore, it is possible to qualify terrapass site as an excellent way of calculating the carbon footprint that is concerned with transport, but it is incomplete because it does not take into account waste management issues, food consumption, and use of different products, and thus it does not show the real scope of the carbon footprint.
EPA calculator implies fewer categories for assessment of Home Energy than terrapass calculator, mentioning only Natural Gas, Electricity, Fuel Oil, and Propane. It does not require a lot of information about the vehicles, but it requests the users to mark whether they perform regular maintenance. As a result, it scored 54,015 Lbs of CO2e (EPA, 2018). The most complete calculator is the one designed by WWF. Apart from multiple questions about home energy, it asks to mark one’s dietary preferences, approach to recycling waste, car, train, and bus rides, plane flights, expenditures on phone, Internet, and TV, health, beauty, and grooming products, pets and pet food, clothes and footwear, and household items (WWF, 2018). As a result, the carbon footprint scored 131% of the average.
The result of WWF calculator can indeed make humans realize that it is crucial to reduce the carbon footprint because it already is higher than the average which is unacceptable. Thus, it is necessary to use the green energy, turn off devices when they are not used, replace the old light bulbs with energy-saving ones, wash clothes in cold water and not to use the dryer, drive car less, and recycle the materials to reduce one’s emissions. The lesser consumption of any product is, the more carbon footprint decreases. Together with that, it is vital to count the carbon footprint by summing the maximum number of elements to get the most relevant data that can show indirect emissions.
- EPA. (2018). “Household Carbon Footprint Calculator.” EPA, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www3.epa.gov/
- terrapass. (2018). “Calculate Your Carbon Footprint.” terrapass, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.terrapass.com
- WWF. (2018). “Footprint Calculator.” WWF, 2018. Retrieved from: https://footprint.wwf.org.uk