Sunday, March 22, 2009

Carbon Footprint

Following on from seeing the Age of Stupid premiere at the weekend I decided that it was about time we worked out our carbon footprint.

I googled "Carbon footprint calculator" and there were a lot of choices, I also remembered that the Energy Saving Trust had a calculator.

With my electricy and gas bills to hand I clicked the "household" options for each of the following.

Energy Saving Trust - Carbon Cutter
Easy to use calculator in three sections, Household, Appliances and Your travel. The Household bit is all about energy bills and energy saving measures like double glazing, loft insulation. I decided to fill in the details for energy use in KWhs rather than amount paid.
The Household results for a year:
Household: 3.27 tonnes of carbon
Applicances: 8.3 tonnes!
Travel: 1.02 tonnes.
Total: 12.59 Tonnes.
I strongly suspected that the appliances section was wrong, so completed it again to see if I've filled anything in incorrectly. It came out with the same result which is over 4 times the national average. I was furious. I don't leave any appliances on standby (the electricity use was already accounted for in the first section), and we don't have half the appliances they were asking about. The Transition Housewife emailed the Energy Saving Trust (EST) team. It turns out that there is a major programming error in that part of the calculator which they are now going to fix. Not good EST, but good that they reacted quickly to our feedback. I'll update this post when they've put it right.

Direct Gov - Act on CO2
This calculator has exactly the same questions as the EST one, but is an interactive "flash" version.
On that site the household results (for a year) were:
Household: 3.26 tonnes of carbon
Applicances: 0.61 tonnes
Travel: 1.28 tonnes
Total: 5.11 Tonnes.
Act on CO2 results for the Transition House

WWF Footprint calculator
The World Wildlife Fund's calculator is slightly different. When you have completed it, it works out how many planets the world would need if everyone lived in the same way as you (not the household).
WWF Footprint calculator results for the Transition HouseThe first sections can be completed quite quickly and cover; Food, travel, home and stuff. You can then go on to refine your answers and (hopefully) lower your footprint score.
My score for the year was;
Food: 1.04 tonnes.
Travel: 2.09 tonnes.
Home: 2.09 tonnes.
Stuff: 1.74 tonnes.
Total: 6.96 tonnes or 1.63 planets.

CarbonFootprint.com
A commercial site, that would like to sell you ways of off-setting the carbon that it calculates. The 8 sections are quick to complete and include: welcome, house, flights, car, motorbike, public transport and secondary (buying organic, local produce etc). The transport section had the option of including "radiative forcing" in the calculation for flights.
The results for our household for the year were:
Household: 0.45 tonnes.
Flights: 0.6 or 1.73 tonnes.
Car: 0.83 tonnes.
Public Transport: 0.05 tonnes.
Secondary: 2.96 tonnes.
Total: 4.89 or 6.02 tonnes.

Summary
Most of the sites say that for a UK household the average carbon footprint is around 10 tonnes per year. Depending on the calculator, we are between 5 and 7 tonnes. Of course none of the calculators are exact and the questionnaires are designed to be short enough to glean some info, but not so long that you become bored and give up.

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