We give you five relatively simple tips on what you can do to reduce your climate footprint.
1. Can you choose green electricity? Check if your provider has a green electricity plan for you! Either on their website or by calling them. This can reduce your emissions significantly! In the EU, your electricity provider is obliged to let you know the energy source (referred to as electricity disclosure).
How much do I need to reduce my climate footprint to contribute to the Paris Agreement and the important 1.5 degree goal?
According to the study 1.5 degree lifestyles (2018), globally, in the year 2030, we can emit maximally 2.5 tonnes CO2eq/person to have a chance of managing the decisive 1.5 degree target. In 2040, we will be able to emit maximally 1.4 tonnes CO2eq/person, and in 2050 – a maximum of only 0.7 tonnes CO2eq/person. Read more about this here.
Currently, the average American emits nearly 20 tonnes CO2eq per year. Source: http://css.umich.edu/factsheets/us-environmental-footprint-factsheet
If you have spent more time online than usual lately – you are not alone! Especially streaming has had almost exponential growth, as our consumption patterns of movies and series has been revolutionized by online services. Have you ever wondered if all the hours on Netflix actually have a carbon footprint? We dig into the details!
Powering the internet uses a massive amount of energy, from the remote data centers all the way to the power of the device that you are reading this on. The scope of it makes it incredibly challenging to calculate, and even when we do, the numbers are almost too large to grasp – the carbon footprint of YouTube has been estimated to 10 000 000 tonnes CO2e. What can be said is that the internet is currently responsible for 2 percent of global carbon emissions, and this is because 80% of the energy used to run it comes from fossil fuels. This is basically the same amount as the emissions from the aviation sector! But let’s not forget, this also has to be put into perspective of the emissions that are avoided elsewhere – all the physical letters not sent thanks to emails and online bank services, just to give an example (although we all could probably reduce the number of emails we send and receive!).
Let’s start by saying that the carbon footprint of streaming is lower than driving to the cinema to watch a film there. This is not an argument to make people stop streaming, but to understand how our small actions add up to a big impact and that we should take responsibility – both for our own behavior, but also to encourage providers to do everything in their power to optimize operations.
A French think tank called the Shift Project first made some pretty horrifying calculations on this, estimating that watching 30 min of Netflix is equivalent to 1,6 kg of CO2 emissions. However, it seems like they based it on some wrong assumptions, as George Kamiya, Digital/Energy Analyst at the International Energy Association points out. According to his calculations and official IEA data, streaming a Netflix video in 2019 typically consumed 0.12-0.24kWh of electricity per hour, which is between 25 and 53 times less than the Shift Project estimation. So if we use the emission factor for the global average energy mix, that would give a carbon footprint of 0,028 – 0,057 kg (28 – 57 grams) CO2e for a 30 min Netflix session. Less than the carbon footprint of a banana!
So, it’s not actually that bad to watch Netflix (or, sending one email). However, we should consider how much traffic we generate, because it really does add up. Don’t leave things on in the background. If you listen to music, do so from a program that only gives you the music, and not the video stream (yeah, playing YouTube on another tab than the one you are watching is wasteful!). Pause videos that start just because you are scrolling on a page. Unsubscribe from all the newsletters that you don’t read anyway.
But more importantly, we need to make better IT design. How can we optimize data transfers? Do we need to send as much as we do? It will be both faster, cheaper and better for the environment if we can implement sustainable interaction design! Researchers from Bristol University suggested that digital waste could be reduced if YouTube stopped playing the video when the window isn’t open – and that this could save up to 500 000 tonnes of CO2e per year! And streamlining solutions like this one could potentially be found anywhere, helping us all to keep emissions from digitalization under control.
Do you work in IT? Could you design better systems to slim down the quantities of data that are being sent across the internet? Exciting challenges ahead of you!
There are different ways to calculate the carbon footprint of an individual. If you have tried out more than one calculator, you have probably noticed that the questions differ and so do the results. The quick answer to this is that it depends on which data the calculator is based off, and what assumptions are made. For the GoClimate calculator, we have explained the rationale between the choice of underlying data and the calculations that we base the tool on in the Methodology, which can be accessed HERE
If there is anything in the methodology that you find questionable, please reach out to us! Let us know if you disagree, have a better source of data for something, or how we could improve. The calculator will change over time because emission factors are updated regularly, which means that your result can change in the future. It could also change if we find better data or an even better way to calculate. These adjustments are however most likely minimal, and the biggest change is what you do yourself!
We calculate Food with general values from a UK study, Flights are calculated with our own API, Car with emission factors provided by national sources (so that differs depending on where you are), and Housing are the most complex calculations based on national data on energy and electricity usage and national emission factors. To this, we add a national average for Personal consumption which is the clothes, furniture and other things you purchase, and a buffer for Public consumption which is infrastructure, hospitals, education etc.
We have recently almost doubled the number of team members at GoClimate, with three new co-creators that allow us to proceed even faster and more efficiently towards our goal of creating a better tomorrow and a healthier planet.
Alexandra Palmquist is GoClimate’s climate advisor who came to us from the United Nations Development Programme in Bolivia, where she worked on climate and environmental projects. Previous positions include the European Commission in Belgium and the NGO We Effect, where Alexandra was stationed in Mozambique. Alexandra will work with measuring and reducing both individual and corporate climate impacts, and review of the climate projects we finance. Outside of work Alexandra recharges her energy by going running or dancing tango!
Tove Westling is the founder of the London-based PR agency VARG, which has worked with the establishment of brands such as Dagmar, DAY Birger et Mikkelsen, Filippa K, CDLP and Samsøe Samsøe on the British market. Tove has also been responsible for the agency’s focus on sustainability, and managed Vestiaire Collective’s PR in Scandinavia. With us, she works primarily with increasing climate commitment both locally in Scandinavia and globally. Beyond the climate issue, Tove’s heart is pounding for animal rights, above all with a commitment to stray dogs around the world.
Emma Bäckström is a trained civil engineer in media technology at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and has most recently worked as a developer at Mentimeter. At GoClimate, in addition to development, she also works with user experience and product development of our web service. In addition to saving the world, Emma wants to pet dogs and go running in the woods!
Besides the fact that we find it so exciting to have a living, growing team, we are extremely happy about what climate benefits this entails – as we can see that the number of co-creators is directly related to how much difference we make for the benefit of the climate. In 2017 we contributed to 660 avoided tonnes of CO2e per co-creator, in 2018 18, 000 avoided tonnes and in 2019 36,670 avoided tonnes per co-creator. We look forward to expanding the team further in 2020 and thus make even more positive difference!
If you’ve already taken a carbon calculator test, you should know approximately what the emissions are for your diet. If not, here’s a list of different ways of eating and how big or small the carbon emissions are per person per year.
The charts above are very clear and it might not come as a surprise to many of you that a plant-based diet is more climate-friendly.
Now, I’m not going to push you all to become vegan. But I do hope you will try to eat fewer animal products and more plants. It’s better for your health, the animals and the planet.
Meat production has increased 4 times in the last 50 years. And in many countries, it is common to eat some sort of meat with every meal – breakfast, lunch, AND dinner.
UN experts say that to be able to eat meat in a sustainable way, we should rather aim for having meat for ONE meal a WEEK.
Cow and lamb meat are the worst when it comes to environmental impact and should be cut down dramatically to reduce your personal emissions.
But it’s so much bigger than just about the amount of CO2 it creates. It’s not even all about the greenhouse gases (cow farts release high quantities of methane gas, which is many times more potent than carbon dioxide).
The consumption of animal products is also the main cause of deforestation in the rainforest. One of the planet’s most vital “lungs”, which captures the CO2 to then release oxygen. So the animal agriculture both emits an immense amount of greenhouse gases and remove the natural machines that suck CO2 from the air. It’s a double negative that doesn’t become a positive.
Another part of animal agriculture that worries experts is the high usage of antibiotics, which increases the risk of bacterias building up a resistance to it.
Did you know that 1/3 of all food that is produced for humans goes to waste? Tossing out edible food that took both resources like water, land use and creating greenhouse gases. Just imagine how much CO2 could be saved if we could stop food waste!
But of course, not all food waste happens in the home by us, the consumers. Edible food is first wasted when they don’t fit the aesthetic criteria (being too small, too big or too wonky). And then supermarkets sometimes order more food than they then accept, leaving literally tons of edible food going to waste before it even has a chance to be sold. And then as many of us are already aware of, many grocery stores throw away edible food to either make room for new items on the shelves. One broken egg makes the whole box being thrown away or when one of many vegetables or fruits in a pre-packaged bag is bad, they are all thrown away. Or perhaps it’s food related to holidays like Christmas or Easter that aren’t interesting for consumers after the holiday is over. It’s also common for products to be thrown away when it gets to close to “best before”-date even though the food will be good to eat long after that set date.
It’s calculated that in Sweden, the average worth of edible food thrown out each year per person is €400-600. Not only will minimizing your food waste save the planet, but it will save your wallet too. What would you do with an extra €400-600/year?
Where your food was produced, packaged and shipped from also matters. Some food is flown in, others are shipped by cargo ships and others can be produced locally to where you live!
Try to opt for a diet with products that can and is being grown in the country where you live, or as close to it as possible.
If you opt for food that is in season, it’s both cheaper and there’s no need to grow it in energy-intensive greenhouses. Of course, eating seasonally and locally is the best, but it’s also worth keeping in mind that not all food that is shipped from overseas is in season from where it was grown either. So try to learn, or print a guide that shows you what food is in season when to make it easier for you to plan your meals accordingly.
How it is grown
In the hunt of creating genetically perfect crops and crops that aren’t attacked by any type of insects, the soil was left out of consideration. Monocrops and pesticides stripped the vital soils of nutrition and biodiversity, leaving it unable to
“Conventional wisdom has long held that the world cannot be fed without chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Evidence points to a new wisdom: The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed.”
And this is where Regenerative Agriculture comes in.
Unhealthy/dead soil can’t absorb and hold carbon, the ability to hold and infiltrate water decreases which leads to higher risks of drought and floods. The earth also loses its nutritional value and this leads to a loss in life and biodiversity in the soil which makes it hard to impossible to grow food.
When soil is healthy it absorbs carbon, helping to fight climate change. Healthy soil also holds and attracts water more easily. When the soil is healthy the biodiversity and nutrition it high, making it great for growing food.
This means that the way we grow things can either be part of the cause of creating climate change or be one of the most efficient ways to fight it.
Try to research if there are any farms in your country or near you that do regenerative farming and try to support them.
If you want to learn more about Regenerative Agriculture, you can join the nonprofit community Kiss the Ground.
Plastic has gotten a terrible reputation when it comes to food packaging. And in many cases, the plastic packaging is unnecessary and non-recyclable but what a lot of people miss in this discussion is that the emission of the plastic packaging is tiny compared to the carbon footprint of what is IN the packaging.
Meaning that if the plastic packaging keeps the food fresh for longer and therefore minimizes the risk of food waste, it is saving the planet.
Now, there are of course other issues with plastic than the carbon footprint. It is made from fossil fuels and can’t biodegrade, which basically means it will never disappear completely once its been made. And even if the plastic is recyclable, it should rather be called downcycling, as it can only be recycled very few times, and each time it loses its quality until it is no longer usable.
So when it comes to products that won’t go bad quickly, getting it package free is the best option. But if it comes to fresh produce that quickly go bad – plastic doesn’t necessarily have to be that bad. If it does keep your food waste down, that outweighs the downside to the footprint of the packaging.
What is the most important action one can take for the climate in 2020? Well, different actions have different effects. Try to think big. If it feels awkward to go out in the streets and demonstrate or contact politicians, take a digital course in climate action instead to get an understanding for what the most important thing you can do is.
Become an active citizen and put pressure on systems, rules and norms to change. You can do this by:
Think BIG! Take a free digital quick course – the Climate Leader – in how you can influence at a system level.
Influence your tenant owners’ association. Ask them for example to install solar panels and chargers for electric vehicles, improve insulation to lower your energy consumption, change into renewable electricity and introduce sharing services like carsharing. In addition to having a lower climate footprint, it also makes your apartment block more attractive and resilient for the future.
Put pressure on your workplace, your university or school. Ask if they have a climate-smart travel policy in place, if they can introduce a veggie first policy and advise them on calculating their climate footprint. We have developed a tool for that here.
Support End Ecocide to make large-scale environmental degradation a crime. Fracking is one example that could potentially count as ecocide. Sign petitions, make a donation so that small island nations can afford to have representatives in place at international climate negotiations or get involved in the movement locally.
Contact your political party and demand that they adopt a policy in line with the Paris Agreement.
Become a conscious consumer. Reduce your own climate footprint and gain better knowledge of which area you should focus on. What makes the biggest difference for the climate – replacing the car with a bike for distances under 3 km or recycling every single package? Below we list what has the greatest climate impact for an individual.
Think half. Do half of the things that have the biggest carbon footprint in your life – eat half as much red meat, fly half as many times, buy half of the apparel and footwear you normally buy and use your car half as much. Or, focus twice as much on of what has a low climate footprint. Maximize your cycling, your train holidays and your vegan eating (tips – try Veganuary). Choose ONE area to focus on and it is more likely that it will happen.
Become a circulator instead of a consumer. Start using sharing services for stuff and transportation.
Check out the performance of your financial institutions at FairFinanceGuide and use your influence to demand change. Financial institutions like banks and insurance companies can use your money to facilitate the destruction of our planet by investing in for example coal companies. Ask them to stop doing that!
2020 is just
around the corner, and it has to be the year we all step up our efforts to stop
This needs to be a year of massive action, on all levels. Of course, we are all hoping for radical climate policy on national level, but we also have to be part of the transition on an individual level. That way, we signal to both politicians and big business that we are serious about wanting change! And we need to move towards minimal CO2 lifestyles, as fast as possible.
I have always travelled a lot, and it is a major part of my identity. The world is such a glorious place and I am so curious to experience it! I am convinced that it has helped me become both more informed about the complexities of today, but also more compassionate towards others. This, however, has had a massive CO2 footprint. Only in 2019, my flight emissions were 3,19 tonnes of CO2e.
Feeling regret about our past emissions is hardly helpful. We need to start somewhere, and it is never too late to do better. But if we want to stop climate change, we need to start now!
Therefore, my new years climate resolution is to stay on the ground to keep fossil fuels in the ground! I am keen to explore my more immediate surroundings by train, foot and other climate friendly means of transportation. After all, travelling in Sweden and Europe has a lot to offer! On top of that, knowing how many tonnes of CO2 I can keep from getting into the atmosphere is definitely a good motivation.
Kalle is already standing steadily with both feet on the ground! So his commitment to the climate and the environment for 2020 is to not buy any new electronics or clothes! The GoClimate blog has posts about electronics and sustainable fashion if you want some inspiration to join Kalle on his journey. A pair of jeans is estimated to emit 6 kg CO2eq, whereas a 15-inch MacBook Pro is 560 kg CO2eq – and that is not considering the potential pollution and ethical concerns regarding mining for minerals.
Cissi has worked a lot on her own emission sources, and for 2020 she wants to, at least, participate at twice as many climate strikes compared to 2019 and have a larger impact on her surroundings by influencing her tenant owners’ association. By talking to her neighbours, she is aiming to take the lead to make the apartment block more sustainable. That way, they can make collective decisions (perhaps some solar panels?) but also she can reach individuals in her immediate surrounding and lead by example.
Evelina wants to focus on food and soil health for 2020. She wants to lower her food waste, eat more locally produced and learn more about regenerative farming.
Our collaborator Marlena has decided to “be a more annoying customer” – to ask at the restaurant if they have sustainable (MSC certified) fish, if the taxi company has electric cars, etc. By doing so, she will voice the demand for sustainable offers from customers to service providers. Doing so, in a positive and encouraging way! Take the lead!
Are you also staying on the ground in 2020? What is your pledge for a cooler future? Let us know and join us in being part of the solution!
If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, you first need to know how big it is today. You need to know which parts of your footprint are the largest and how large they are in order to shrink it.
It can be extremely hard to know which changes you make that have the biggest impact. Knowing this ensures that you don’t spend most of your time and energy on something that will make a very small difference in relation to your emissions.
That’s why we are creating a series of blog posts showing you how to lower the different parts of an individual’s footprint, with the numbers and comparisons to show you where it might be worth making your changes, as we all have different lifestyles and our carbon footprints are all different.
Step 1 – calculate your carbon footprint
Here are some different tests you can try out. We suggest you try a few of them, as they are all different from each other and will together give a clearer picture of your ecological and carbon footprint.
We’ve exceeded the allowed consumption of natural resources available for us in 2019. And this day occurs sooner every year. In 2018 Earth Overshoot Day took place on August the 1st, while this year it was 3 whole days earlier, on July 29th.
This is the date for when the world had used up its resources, but many countries have their Overshoot Day sooner.
With the rate at which we are using our resources now, we would need 1,75 earths.
If everyone lives as the Americans, we would need 5 earths.
If we all lives as Australians or Swedes, we’d need 4 earths.
By using up our natural resources before they have time to regenerate, we are stealing resources from ourselves, and even more of the children who will grow up in a world where growing food is hard, where fresh drinking water is scarce and where biodiversity is at an alarming low.
There is a campaign called #MoveTheDate started by Global Footprint Network, where we can all give tips or show how we work to Move The Date forward.
What can be done to lower our impact as a whole?
If we would cut CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning in half, Earth Overshoot Day would occur 93 days later.
If we reduced global meat consumption by 50% and replaced these calories through a vegetarian diet, we would move Overshoot Day 15 days
If every other family in the world had one less child, we would move Overshoot Day 30 days by 2050.
If we reduce our Footprint from driving by 50% around the world and assume one-third of car miles are replaced by public transportation and the rest by biking and walking, Earth Overshoot Day would move back 11.5 days.
To know what you as an individual can do to lower your Footprint, it’s best to take one or a few tests to see in which areas there’s room for improvement. You can take a test to calculate your footprint here:
10 things you can do to lower your personal footprint
1. Carbon offset your lifestyle. You can do that here on GoClimate.org
2. Fly less, or much better – don’t fly at all. At least skip the leisure flight trips
3. Skip animal products. Beef is the worst, but the entire animal agriculture industry is one of the most harmful to our planet in more ways than just carbon emissions.
4. Shop less. We buy way too many things these days, which is made by using resources we now need to be extra careful with. And then the shipping across the world has a toll as well. Only buy what you need, and try to get it second hand.
You can get tips on how to shop less newly produced things here:
5. Where does your money go? Most banks fund industries which most people would never knowingly support. Like the fossil fuel industry as well as weapon industry to name a couple. Look over your savings and try to move them to a bank that invest in a brighter and greener future.
6. Sell your car, if you have one. Is it possible for you to walk, cycle or take public transportation to work/school? Then save money and the planet by selling your car. You will then only drive when absolutely necessary and then you can borrow or rent a car. If you can’t get rid of your car, try to fill it when you use it. Try not to drive alone. Do you have any neighbors going the same way? Any colleagues who live one the way to work you could pick up?
7. Live smaller or with more people. A lot of energy goes into warming and/or cooling your home. The more people per square meter, the better. A bonus is that mental health often improves when living with others.
8. Waste less food. While avoiding plastic packaging might be getting more attention when coming to food when trying to live more sustainably – the food wasted has a way bigger impact than the actual packaging. Here’s a post where you can read on some things you can do with your food waste instead of throwing it away: http://www.earthwanderess.com/stop-food-waste/
9. Switch to green energy
10. Use your technology less. The internet requires an immense amount of energy so use it shorter and use it wisely. The tech industry is not sustainable at all, and you can expect some posts about that in more details during August.
We have done some research about the carbon footprint of running cloud, data center and on-premise servers.
Our goal has been to find a way to estimate the carbon footprint from the servers we need to calculate emissions for in our business carbon footprint calculator. We wanted to find a good approximation of the emissions without forcing the business to enter everything about the server-model and kWh-consumption they use in our calculator.
We quickly realized that just requiring the number of servers running is a too rough measurement, often resulting in estimations 5-10x lower or higher then a precise calculation. So we needed to require more parameters from our business users to not be too off in our approximation.
After some experimenting and reading we found that there are two factors that both are fairly easy to find out and also make a big impact on the carbon footprint of servers, if the electricity used is green or not and if the servers are in the cloud or not.
Therefor we divide our calculations of the carbon footprint for servers into four categories. More categories could easily be constructed to achieve more precise estimations, but as stated earlier, our goal was also to make this an as easy as possible thing to find out for the business calculating the footprints.
The four categories we ended up with are:
Cloud server using 100% green electricity
Cloud server using non-green electricity
On premise or data center-server using 100% green electricity
On premise or data center-server using non-green electricity
To find out which category to use, you need to know if the electricity your servers are using is 100% green (or if the electricity not green is being offset in a credible way) and if your servers can be considered running in a cloud.
How do I know if the electricity our servers are using is 100% green?
With green electricity we mean fossil free electricity, so both renewable energy sources and nuclear energy are considered green – and are in our calculations considered having a zero climate impact. This is not 100% true since both renewable sources and nuclear sources have a carbon footprint from construction and maintenance, but the climate impact are negligible in comparison with electricity from fossil sources.
Depending on where your servers are located, there are different ways of finding out if the electricity your servers use is green:
On premise-server – check your electricity contract or contact your electricity-provider
Data center-server – check your contract or contact your provider
Cloud server – this is a bit more tricky. But if you want the short answer per provider:
Google Cloud – 100% green
Microsoft Azure – 100% green
Amazon AWS – Non green electricity for all locations except US West (Oregon), Europe (Frankfurt), Europe (Ireland), GovCloud (US-West), Canada (Central). More locations might appear in the future here: https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/sustainability/
This might sound like an easy question, but there are many local providers that have smaller cloud-like solutions that might be as energy effective and utilize servers as good as the larger ones.
So the question you should ask yourself here – if you are unsure if your servers can be considered being in the cloud or not – is if your provider can utilize servers about as effective as the larger providers and if they can have the same energy efficiency as the larger ones.
The difference between the carbon footprint of servers running in large cloud providers and not can be big. According to the studies we have found on this:
We have decided to apply a simple factor of 0.5 for the energy consumption and server utilization of servers in the cloud. Amazon AWS claims a reduction of 84% in the amount of power required, but since we don’t have data for other providers we prefer to be bit more conservative here.
The energy consumption from manufacturing and use
In our carbon footprint business calculator we have chosen to use data from a standard 2019 R640 Dell server. This is deemed as a high end but not unusual server being bought 2019. An exact server model would give more precise data here, but we decided that it was not reasonable to expect people using our business calculator to know the exact name of the servers if the have been bought by the business, and in the cloud it’s close to impossible to know exactly what hardware model your server is run on anyway.
The server is consuming 1760.3 kWh / year and has a manufacturing climate impact of 320 kg CO2e/year, assuming a four-year life span.
If you are doing a calculation of your own and you know exactly what kind of server you or your provider uses, you should use those numbers instead.
The Four Carbon Footprint categories
We have used the Nordic Residual Energy mix as the factor for CO2e emissions per kWh. The factor is 0,25076 CO2e / kWh. The reason for us using this is that most business using our calculator are expected to be in the Nordics.
So if we use these number and assumptions from above:
Emissions from production of servers for use on premise: 320 kg CO2e/year
Emissions from production of servers for use in cloud (since 50% is manufactured for use in cloud): 160 kg CO2e/year
Emissions from green power consumption: 0 kg CO2e/year
Emissions from non-green consumption for premise power or self managed servers : 1760,3 kWh / year * 0,25076 CO2e / kWh = 441 kg CO2e
From non-green cloud power consumption : 1760.3 kWh / year * 0,25076 CO2e / kWh * 0,5 = 221 kg CO2e
This results in these factors four our four categories:
Cloud server using 100% green electricity: 160 kg CO2e / year and server
Cloud server using non-green electricity: 381 kg CO2e / year and server
On premise or data center-server using 100% green electricity: 320 kg CO2e / year and server
On premise or data center-server using non-green electricity: 761 kg CO2e / year and server
Please comment to this post if you have any questions or comments!