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What is Carbon Footprinting?

Updated: May 23

A carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon that an individual, company, entity, or activity emits into the atmosphere. Carbon footprinting has been used to understand the full environmental impacts over the lifecycle of a product or activity and can help aid decision-making for consumers or businesses. It is a useful tool when aiming to reduce impacts on the environment.




 

Understanding Carbon Footprints

Many factors contribute to carbon footprint calculations. To break this down and make it easier to understand, we categorized emissions into three Scopes.


Scope 1 emissions are any emissions directly related to the entity or activity. 

An example for an individual is anything you consume. Think gas, heating, food, etc.

A product or business under Scope 1 is anything related to production or basic business activities. This could include manufacturing, transportation, heating, etc,


Scope 2 emissions are all about electricity. Any electricity consumed.

For an individual, this is normally just your energy bill, but can also include EV expenses.

For a business, this is also their electric bill or KWH usage.


Scope 3 is much harder to define, but this is an emission that is interconnected in the value chain.

For individuals this is normally purchasing habits, think your online shopping.

For businesses, this can be any emissions from suppliers, waste, investments, distributions, travel, and much more.

Scope 3 is very hard to calculate and many times is left out of carbon accounting practices.


 

Measuring Carbon Footprints

There are a variety of different methodologies for measuring carbon footprints that exist. It is important to use the most accurate one available for the entity you are trying to measure. This includes using location-based and market-based methodologies. For businesses, it is recommended to use the widely recognized Greenhouse Gas Protocol carbon reporting and accounting standards (GHGP). These are comprehensive accounting standards that have been developed over the past 2 decades. For individuals there are many online carbon footprint calculators, Forevergreen has a simple and accurate calculator that can be completed in just a few minutes. For those wanting a more accurate and in-depth analysis, the EPA has an extensive Household Carbon Footprint Calculator that can be done online or in an Excel spreadsheet.


Major Contributors to Carbon Footprints

The major contributors to carbon footprints are broken down into transportation, diet, and energy. For business, this varies slightly but can still mainly be transportation, energy consumption, and industrial or commercial processes. Globally electricity and heating emissions are the leading contributors to total carbon emissions [1]. 




Transportation Emissions

For personal transportation emissions flights are the main contributor. The average domestic passenger flight in the US emits just under 1 ton of CO2 (.9 tons per flight) while an international flight is about 1.35 tons of carbon dioxide. Next is emissions from passenger cars, which on average emit about 400 grams of CO2 per mile, which may not sound like much but if you drive as much as the average American (300 miles per week) can equate to 6.24 tons over a year. 


Diet Emissions 

Diet emissions can be pretty simple. It mainly just comes down to how much meat you eat. Due to the large amount of CO2 required in meat production processes, this can add up. At Forevergreen, we simply classify your diet into 5 different categories as worrying about each serving can be tedious and contribute to climate anxiety. It is best to focus on reducing overall meat consumption and eating a healthy diet that you enjoy.


Pounds of CO2 per serving of different foods Food carbon footprints by diet

Energy Emissions 

Energy emissions also play a big role in your carbon footprint. Typically these come from any heating or cooling you may do in your home. Depending on how you heat your home, electric, propane, or natural gas, your emissions can vary slightly depending on energy efficiency or insulation. The best thing you can do is switch to more energy-efficient methods of temperature control and opt into renewable sources as well. If you are interested in learning more about energy emissions and how to reduce them, read Top 6 Tips for Reducing Energy Consumption in Your Home.


Reducing Carbon Footprints

When it comes to reducing carbon emissions and footprints it is important to understand what contributes the most and avoid those behaviors. The number one thing you can do is calculate and measure your footprint regularly and aim to reduce it over time. That is what businesses are required to do as well as policy and climate targets become more strict. National and global policies such as carbon pricing or the Paris Agreement have forced companies to allocate resources to measure, report, and reduce carbon footprints. We should all hold ourselves accountable as well, regularly measuring and reporting our carbon emissions to make progress towards a better future. At Forevergreen, we recommend a monthly emissions calculation and taking action to offset or reduce through our services. 


Conclusion

Carbon Footprinting is a valuable calculation that can illustrate impacts on the environment. For too long we have been taking advantage of the planet and its natural resources without understanding the consequences of our actions. Carbon has a negative impact on the environment and we can see that with global temperature rise and climate change. It will become more and more important to understand the impact we have on our natural environment and carbon footprints are a great way to develop your understanding. We hope you learned a little more about carbon footprints and wish you the best of luck in your reduction journey. 



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