Did you notice the shift? Last year in May, we Bangalorians were casually donning shrugs and jumpers to keep out the slight chill in the air. Fast forward to November’23, and we're still on an AC scavenger hunt at our office. Bangalore's once-chill vibes are now playing a new tune – "Let's turn up the heat!"
Why the sudden change? Carbon Footprint is right there at the top of the list. The increase in global GHG (Green House Gas) emissions like carbon dioxide, methane, Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and more have trapped excessive heat in our troposphere, leading to significant climate change.
While this trapped heat is what keeps our planet habitable during the absence of sunlight (during nighttime), excessive carbon footprints have slowly morphed our comfy ‘aerial blanket’ into ‘sauna walls’ that are quite literally baking up the planet.
Over the last 50 years, GHG emissions have accumulated heat and energy, equivalent to 25 billion atomic bombs in the atmosphere. Oh, and we didn’t ‘bake’ this up!
Well, is it time to shut down shop and de-evolve into the Stone Age? Maybe not! The Kyoto Protocol (2015) was the turning point! Environmentally conscious nations across the globe came together to discuss the effects of carbon footprint and ideate measures to cut down GHG emissions.
So, what is a ‘Carbon Footprint’? How does one measure it? Read on to know more…
What is a Carbon Footprint?
Carbon footprint refers to any change in the climate as a direct or indirect result of human activities that alter the atmospheric composition. Be it vehicular emissions, industrial plants, transportation, manufacturing, heat requirements, refrigeration, or even water consumption, every single activity directly or indirectly leaves behind footprints of different magnitudes.
While major emphasis usually lies on CO2 emissions, other emissions like Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) also contribute their fair share to the global oven.
Now that you know what a carbon footprint is, it is crucial for you to understand it’s not just organizations and big businesses that are responsible for this. Even we, at an individual level, leave behind footprints depending on our daily activities.
There are 3 broad types of carbon footprints - individual carbon footprint, product carbon footprint, and corporate carbon footprint.
The 3 Types of Carbon Footprints
Individual Carbon Footprint
As the name suggests, individual carbon footprints are calculated based on the total carbon emissions associated with the day-to-day activities of an individual. For example, calculating carbon contributions stemming from transportation, electricity, water, cooking, heating, cooling requirements, etc.
Product Carbon Footprint
The manufacturing industry has intricate processes responsible for creating the final end product. Each of these processes, ranging all the way from sourcing raw materials to transportation, processing, packaging, and shipping, leaves behind a significant footprint collectively known as the product carbon footprint.
Corporate Carbon Footprint (CCF)
The CCF is a cumulation of all GHG emissions that are caused directly or indirectly by an organization’s activities. This includes three scopes:
Scope 1: These emissions are under the direct control of the company. For example, energy associated with fuel combustion, like burning furnaces, owning fuel-based transport fleets instead of electric vehicles, etc.
Scope 2: These are emissions that result from an organization's energy expenditures. For example, electricity usage to run organizations.
Scope 3: These are emissions that are not produced by the company directly or indirectly but rather by third parties that contribute to the organization's value chain. For example, production of packages used for shipping end products.
Now that we know about the types of carbon footprints, let’s delve deeper into the objectives of measuring carbon footprints and how this emission data can be used by an organization.
Rewards for Carbon Footprint Calculation
Calculation of carbon footprint provides organizations with visibility on inefficient operations, opens up opportunities to optimize functions, prevents environmental regulatory breaches, and reduces operation costs like energy consumption. Let’s dive deeper into these objectives:
Meet Sustainability Requirements
With increased mandates and regulations on CCFs being implemented by the government, it is crucial for Indian companies to have complete visibility of their carbon emissions. India’s Carbon Credit Trading Scheme (CCTS) further incentivizes organizations that meet their carbon footprint targets via carbon credit certificates and penalizes those who fall short. Thus, visibility over your CCF is a necessity today.
Reduce Operation Costs
Visibility on carbon footprints also helps you identify high-cost operation touchpoints which are usually linked to heavy charges in terms of energy consumption and transportation. Identifying these operational loopholes and making appropriate amendments can help organizations keep their operation costs in check.
People have become much more sympathetic towards the environment, and guess what? A major reward for carbon footprint calculation was increased consumer sympathy and brand recall. Companies who consciously work towards carbon neutrality and maintain transparency about their carbon footprint often gain a competitive advantage.
Remember the love and attention Apple Inc. received for its unique sustainability report that was recorded as a short story? While their creativity was off the charts, their efforts in achieving carbon neutrality were what made some serious ‘head-turns’!
Well, now that you know what needs to be done, here’s a little something on how it can be done.
How do you Measure Carbon Footprint?
There are two approaches to measuring carbon footprint: Data Collection and Carbon Footprint Calculation
Individual Carbon Footprint Calculation
Ever wondered how to measure the carbon footprint of members in your household? Want to know how much of an impact you leave on the environment? Here’s how you can do it:
Electricity Consumption: Your electricity bill will tell you about the units of electricity you consume in a month. Collect the power units (1KWh of electricity) for a month and multiply it by 12 (no. of months) to get annual electricity consumption. (You can also add up each month's consumption at the end of the year)
Fuel Consumption in Transportation: Simply sum up the liters of fuel consumed by you in a year or, in other words, multiply your monthly fuel consumption by 12.
LPG Consumption: The Units of LPG consumption can be calculated by multiplying the number of cylinders used in a year by 14 (Kg of LPG in each cylinder)
The carbon footprint calculation for individuals has a generic formula - (Input Values/Year) X (Emission Factor) = Output in Kg of CO2
Electricity Consumption: Input Value (KWh/yr) X 0.85 (Emission Factor for Electricity Units)
Fuel Consumption: Input Value (Liters/yr) X 2.296 (Emission Factor for Petrol)
Input Value (Liters/yr) X 2.653 (Emission Factor for Diesel)
LPG Consumption: Input Value (Liters/yr) X 2.983 (Emission Factor for LPG)
Total Carbon Footprint of one year = Sum of 1,2 and 3 (Output in Kg of Co2)
Now, divide the total carbon footprint calculated above by 1000 to get it in a ton of CO2 or tCO2
The ideal carbon footprint of an individual should be between 2.73 - 7.25 tons per year. If you are exceeding this range, the time to make corrections was yesterday!
In case you are wondering how to calculate the carbon footprint of your organization or product, we have both difficult and good news for you.
Product Carbon Footprint Calculation
The calculation of a product's carbon footprint or that of an organization’s is slightly trickier considering the bulk load of data required for accuracy. Here’s a brief mapping of the data required:
The formula for calculating the carbon footprint is pretty much simple post-data collection:
(Activity Data/year) X (Respective Emission Factors*0.001metric tons) = Output Tons CO2 Emissions or tCO2e
In addition to the above standards, make sure that your organization is aligned with the regulations and objectives laid down in the GHG guidelines for relevance, completeness, consistency, transparency, and accuracy.
Well, that sums up everything you need to know about what a carbon footprint is and how you can calculate it at home or at your organization.
At a Glance
Understanding sources and reducing our carbon footprint is crucial now more than ever. The risks of unchecked emissions are affecting our everyday climate, evident in the recurring year-over-year changes.
Calculating carbon footprints isn't just a trend; it's a necessary step towards a sustainable future. In our conversation above, we have unraveled the benefits – from operational efficiency to cost reduction and even gaining a competitive edge in an eco-conscious world.
So, whether you're an individual looking to tweak your daily habits or a company aiming for greener practices, the journey to a lower carbon footprint is a shared responsibility. Let's make every step count!