The carbon footprint of shopping

One share of our emissions come from the category broadly defined as “shopping”. This is an area where we spend much of our energy thinking about how we can be climate or environment friendly. Perhaps this is because it feels like we can control it, and how we spend (or not spend) our money defines our identity to some extent. 

Where does your money go? This is not directly proportional to our emissions, but an indication of where your emissions come from. Also, the wealthier we are, the higher emissions we have. When looking at our bills and bank statements, we get proof of our consumption behavior. It is possible to estimate emissions based on the money spent, however, often what is best for the climate is to make one sustainable purchase and stick to it, rather than cheaper ones which need replacement. So a long-lasting investment looks like it has high emissions, even though it balances up over time. 

Let’s look at some of our main spending categories and their associated emissions!

Clothes and shoes

A lot has been written about the climate impact of fashion. There is even a specific fashion footprint calculator if you want to know the climate impact of your wardrobe! The footprint of a pair of jeans is approx 15 – 20 kg co2e, a t-shirt just above 2 kg. Weight of the item is a good indicator of the footprint, although material matters a lot too. Polyester has twice the carbon footprint of cotton.

Do’s: Buy long-lasting garments from sustainable brands. Buy second hand and resell/donate your used garments. Avoid tumble-drying. Mend what’s broken!

Borrowed, second hand, up-cycled?

Electronics

The purchase of electronics has a high footprint mainly due to the mining of minerals. The footprint of a new smartphone is around 70 kg co2e, a new laptop in the range 200-400 kg. Again, weight of the item is a good indicator of the footprint. Some major electronics companies are moving towards carbon neutrality! This is usually a significant investment for a person, so it is worth doing some extra research on the product’s sustainability before spending hundreds of dollars.

Do’s: Use your products for as long as possible, and repair them if they break. Purchase second hand or from sustainable brands.

Communication

Staying connected is good! The consequence is that the carbon footprint of the internet is ever increasing, which we have discussed elsewhere. In our calculator, the carbon footprint of your internet use is partially included in the home category, as this covers your electricity. The per capita carbon footprint of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Sweden was 140 kg co2e in 2015. This has probably increased by now, but is still comparatively low to other emission sources. 

Do’s: Use the internet mindfully! And don’t worry too much. 

Consider what you buy, but use it guilt-free.

Leisure, entertainment and culture

This category is so broad that it’s impact is near impossible to describe. The carbon footprint of an average American film is 500 tons of co2e, and the 2010 South Africa World Cup was 2.8 million tons. But how do you even measure how many people benefit from this? And at the other end of the spectrum is an acoustic concert at your local bar, which probably has a negligible impact on the climate. What sports do you practice? Do you need particular equipment for that? 

Do’s: Consider if your entertainment is fossil free. If you find that it isn’t, search for a way to improve it!

Pets

Animals mainly contribute to climate change via their diet. The good news is that their fodder is often waste/leftover from meat production for human consumption, so it’s impact is less than for human food. But it is still considerable – one study found that the annual carbon footprint of an average dog ranges from 349–1.424 kg co2e

Do’s: Beef has the highest carbon footprint, so consider fodder made from poultry or fish. If possible, consider a vegan/vegetarian alternative food. Don’t feed your pets more than they need. 

Natural meat lover!

Furniture, household items, maintenance

Swedes especially love to renovate and re-style their homes. Redo the kitchen, new furniture, fresh bathroom – construction generally has a high carbon footprint. Although wood and some other materials bind carbon, what we are generally concerned with is the turnover rate. A couch can have a carbon footprint of 90 kg co2e, and an office chair 70 kg. Material choice is key here, where steel and metals have higher footprint than other materials such as synthetic fibers and cotton. 

Do’s: Use your products for as long as possible, and repair them if they break. Purchase second hand or from sustainable brands. Consider if you can repaint or reuse something you have instead of purchasing new items. 

Irregular purchases

Some sources of emissions are more irregular, but have a high carbon footprint. Buying a home or a vacation house, for example, or buying a car or a boat, have high footprints – the carbon footprint of a conventional car is 7 tonnes co2e, and an electric car 10 tonnes. These purchases may only happen a few times in our lifetimes, but our recommendation is that whenever we make investments, we should consider the sustainability of it. 

Do’s: The more money you spend, the more time you should invest in researching the sustainability and climate impact of your purchase. 

Healthcare and education

In Sweden and some other countries, this is funded by taxes and thus not included in the private consumption. Because of variability in methodology and other factors, the carbon footprint of a university can range from 2507670 kg co2e per student. This depends among other things on campus facilities and investments. Healthcare makes up about 4% of carbon emissions in the largest economies, resulting in an average carbon footprint of healthcare of 600 kg co2e per capita. The US is a major outlier here with 1510 kg co2e per capita. 

How do you spend your money?

Considering all of the above, it is apparent that there are many factors to consider to understand our carbon footprints, and to use a calculator that takes all factors into consideration is near impossible. Another way to make approximations is to use CO2 emissions per money spent, where in Sweden the average euro spent causes emissions of 0,44 kg co2e (noting that a weighted average is slightly lower, 0,3 kg per euro).

It is worth mentioning that climate friendly and environmentally friendly, although strongly interconnected, does not always lead to the same priority of actions. Hence, sustainability requires us to keep several parameters in mind simultaneously, and that can often be confusing. What is important is to not fall into the trap of either/or, but stick to doing our best and hopefully do more/both.

Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series:

Me and my carbon footprint
What is a “carbon footprint”?
The carbon footprint of a home
The carbon footprint of a diet
The carbon footprint of our traveling
The carbon footprint of long distance traveling
The carbon footprint of shopping
The carbon footprint of public consumption

Or go to www.goclimate.com to calculate your carbon footprint now!

The carbon footprint of long distance traveling

“Does it really matter that much if I fly?” – it’s the question that all of us who both love to travel and care about the climate ask ourselves. The short answer is yes, because it is such a large part of the emissions you as an individual can control. But let’s investigate a little more!

According to the European Environment Agency, aviation globally accounts for 3 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions. It may not sound like much, but to this we must also add the radiative forcing index* which increases the impact on the climate by another 70-90%. 

Moreover, the impact from flights is not evenly distributed over the earth’s population – 80% of the earth’s population has never flown (estimate)! So we who fly contribute a disproportionate amount. International flight traffic from Sweden has actually increased by more than 90% since 2005! We who fly thus belong to a relatively small group that contributes very much to this part of the global emissions.

Are you a frequent flyer?

How much does a flight actually emit?

Considering the radiative forcing index and the most complete calculations of fuel production and consumption, one passenger flight hour causes approx 200 kg CO2e. This is a rough estimate as many factors are unknown; airplane model, wind speed, occupancy rate etc., but is a good rule of thumb to get the right perspective.

So this is how much long flights can add to your carbon footprint:

  • London – Rome – 290 kg CO2e
  • London – New York – 857 kg CO2e
  • London – Cape Town – 2311 kg CO2e
  • London – Sydney – 4905 kg CO2e

In comparison, traveling from London to Rome by train emits only 52,2 kg of CO2e – but it sure takes a lot more time too. 

What can we do to reduce our emissions from flights?

The first question to ask is, can the flight be avoided? Many business meetings could be held remotely, and save a lot of stress for workers as well. But business travelers make up only 12% of passengers, so the leisure trips are far more. 

Cut your flights with 50% – there are two ways of doing this, either to fly half as often and maybe go every other year, or cut the distances in half. Instead of flying London to New York, perhaps Istanbul or Marrakesh could be interesting alternatives for half the CO2 budget. Or, you know, the train to Paris. 

Is there an alternative to flying? Train, or coach, is often the only imaginable option. This means we have to change our expectations, and make the journey part of the experience. Perhaps you can get an overnight train? Or get some work done? Or some alone time, finally catching up on that book you’ve been meaning to read. If you are going to meet someone, consider if they can meet you halfway. London to Rome is far, but perhaps a weekend in Lyon or Geneva could be a good compromise!

Seeing the bigger picture

It is evident that we need more change. Some push for it on an individual basis, like Mattias Goldmann who takes the train from northern Sweden to Barcelona, to companies improving night train connections within Europe to China building the next generation of high speed trains. Is there something you can do? Can you be a pioneer train rider, write letters to politicians, or engineer the next generation of trains? If we are to continue traveling, this all needs to be resolved!

*Radiative Forcing Index
This means that the climate impact of aviation is more than just carbon dioxide emissions, because emissions of water vapor and nitrogen oxides at high altitudes (from around 8000 m) and the condensation streaks from the plane also affect the climate. How this is calculated is very complex, as it depends on many different factors and the effect varies. A rough estimate lands on 70-90% higher climate impact than just carbon dioxide emissions – almost twice as much!

Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series:

Me and my carbon footprint
What is a “carbon footprint”?
The carbon footprint of a home
The carbon footprint of a diet
The carbon footprint of our traveling
The carbon footprint of long distance traveling
The carbon footprint of shopping
The carbon footprint of public consumption

Or go to www.goclimate.com to calculate your carbon footprint now!

The carbon footprint of our traveling

Us humans are really good at getting places. Nowadays, we do it both for fun and for necessity – and sometimes the line between fun and necessity is very blurry. There is no shame in traveling and wanting to go places! But how we do so has an impact on our climate, so it is worth considering how we travel, and how much we do so.

The average Swede is responsible for emitting 1.64 tonnes of CO2 from travels every year – excluding international flights. The estimate for Germans is slightly lower – 1.56 tonnes. To reduce this number by 50% every decade can be tackled in two ways: reducing the number and distance of our journeys, and traveling by more climate-friendly modes. Using both strategies and adjusting our behavior as well as reducing the climate impact of our vehicles will take us all the way, literally!

How do you get to school or work every day?

What are the best ways to get around?

The zero emission options are walking and biking (obviously). Sure, producing bikes and shoes has a carbon footprint, but compared to all other means of transportation, it’s minimal. And if you take good care of your bike, it will last for decades! If you know how to bike and live in an area where it is safe enough to do so, it is also a healthy means of transportation. If you plan your trip using a service like google maps, you can see how long it takes you to get places by foot or by bike and in cities, it is often not much more than other alternatives. If the weather allows, this is a good option!

If walking or biking is not possible, the second best option is public transport. The big win here is that the emissions are shared with other travelers, but also that the number of vehicles used is significantly reduced. A standard bus can carry 50 passengers, so even if it’s only half full, it reduces congestion on the roads, and we need less cars! General emission per person traveling on a local bus is 90 grams of CO2 per km, and 30 grams for coach (long distance bus). If there is a rail option, that’s even less: 30 grams per passenger km for metro (London Underground) and 35 grams for light rail and tram. For long distance trains the emissions are 40 grams per passenger km in the UK, and only 6 gram for international trains. This depends on the energy source for the trains: in Sweden, almost all trains run on renewable energy, whereas in Germany many regional railways still operate on diesel.

Two million people travel in the London Underground every day

Does it really make a difference?

How does this compare to a car? The average diesel car in the EU emits 146 g co2 per km! This is five times more than taking the metro and 1,5 times as much as the local bus. And petrol (gasoline) cars are on par with that, at 148 g co2 per km in the EU. It is worth noting, however, that cars in the US emit significantly more – 252 g co2 per km, or 404 g co2 per mile. This is because the average car in the US is larger and consumes more gasoline than cars in the EU. The same is true for the Australian car fleet.

Commuting to work, 20 km per day 5 days per week for 47 weeks per year would thus result in:

  • 141 kg co2e by metro
  • 423 kg co2e by local bus
  • 701 kg co2e by diesel car (EU – 1 passenger)
  • 1210 kg co2e by gasoline car (USA – 1 passenger)

Drive in a better way?

What can be done about this? First of all, try to avoid unnecessary driving. If you have to go by car because there is no public transport, see if you can share the ride with someone, or plan your errands efficiently. If you are anyways going to the supermarket, maybe your neighbor could need a ride too, or just a bag of oranges? Another option is to join a carpool – there are even alternatives offering electric cars! For less frequent drives and especially in larger cities, this can be a great option.

Moreover, we need to use cars that are not as bad for the climate! If you can, using an electric car and running it on renewable energy is the best option. There are other alternative fuels that are also better for the climate than diesel and gasoline – see if you can find HVO (hydrogenated vegetable oil), FAME (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester) or CNG (Compressed Natural Gas).

We need to stop using fossil fuel to power our vehicles

This post has covered everyday travels, but also check out the post on long-distance traveling.

Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series:

Me and my carbon footprint
What is a “carbon footprint”?
The carbon footprint of a home
The carbon footprint of a diet
The carbon footprint of our traveling
The carbon footprint of long distance traveling
The carbon footprint of shopping
The carbon footprint of public consumption

Or go to www.goclimate.com to calculate your carbon footprint now!

The carbon footprint of a diet

We have a complex global system, where what we eat is often produced somewhere far away from our own kitchen. According to the OECD, agriculture is responsible for 17% of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, and land use change accounts for another 7-14% (when we cut down forest to make more room for agriculture). Other sources offer even higher numbers. So if at least one fifth of our emissions come from the food that we eat, we have reasons to carefully consider what we put on our plates.

Land use change caused by expanding agriculture causes significant emissions

Our diets are a hard nut to crack, because there’s no one time fix that can set us on the right track for the long run. We need to continuously make good choices, and it can be very hard to know what is actually the right thing to eat. Should you go for the local produce from a greenhouse, or the organic that has grown in the sun, but been shipped here?

In this post, we aim to give a few good indications, which should serve as general guidelines.

Reduce the amount of red meat

The one, big adjustment that you can do that makes a significant change to the carbon footprint of your diet is to reduce the amount of red meat. The less meat, the better for the planet. If you are going to have a treat, make sure that the meat is high quality, and avoid meat from Brazil (where the rain forest is pillaged to make room for cattle).

A heavy meat diet (more than 100g per day) has a carbon footprint of 2,62 tonnes per year. By reducing to a low meat diet (less than 50g per day) where you can still enjoy your occasional treats, but restrict the everyday consumption, you can come down to 1,70 tonnes. This reduction is equivalent to driving over 6000 km in an average diesel car! Average mileage for a car in the EU is 12 000 km per year.

Big burgers – less often!

Fish is a better alternative

Cutting out meat completely but still eating fish is referred to as a pescetarian diet. This reduces the carbon footprint even further, to 1,42 tonnes per year. Given that fish and seafood has relatively low carbon footprint, the difference between this diet and a vegetarian one is actually not that big – vegetarians are 1,39 tonnes per year. It is worth noting that fisheries have other environmental side effects (over fishing and disruption of ecosystems), but specifically in terms of climate, fish is not the bad guy!

However, climate conscious vegetarians still want to be mindful about their dairy consumption – the difference between a vegetarian (no meat, fish) and a vegan (no meat, fish, dairy, eggs) is significant, and can take you from 1,39 to 1,05 tonnes. This is because the dairy cows emit greenhouse gases, especially methane.

Throwing food away is the most wasteful alternative

Last but not least – do not waste. If you happen to cook more than you want to eat – put it in the fridge for later. If a banana goes brown, put it in a smoothie. So much food is wasted, that the FAO estimated that a whopping whole third of all food produced is thrown away along the chain. Much of that happens before it reaches the consumer, but we can definitely be mindful not to contribute to the enormous amount of waste.

Too late – you should not eat mouldy food!

These are the main things to keep in mind to make your diet more climate-friendly. Other factors to consider is transport, but even so, the carbon footprint of 100g of protein from tofu is 2 kg, whereas 100g of beef protein is 50 kg. You can transport that tofu anywhere in the world and never reach the carbon footprint of beef. For those who are keen to look into details, we recommend the 2019 paper by Poore and Nemecek, Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers.

As an end note, we see that the climate impact from an average diet in the US is much higher than the average diet in India. Apart from ingredients, these differences also depend on portion size. Needless to say, no one should go to bed hungry. We encourage healthy diets, and emphasize that our caloric needs vary greatly from person to person. The climate can supply us all with the quantities we need. 

The carbon footprint values for the general diets come from a 2014 paper by Scarborough et al, Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK. These are to be seen as general estimates, noting that there are variations within the diets. 

Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series:

Me and my carbon footprint
What is a “carbon footprint”?
The carbon footprint of a home
The carbon footprint of a diet
The carbon footprint of our traveling
The carbon footprint of long distance traveling
The carbon footprint of shopping
The carbon footprint of public consumption

Or go to www.goclimate.com to calculate your carbon footprint now!

The carbon footprint of a home

The first question in our carbon footprint calculator is “Where do you live?”. This is important to know because you are (most likely) connected to the electricity network in your home area, and it also gives us a range of alternative energy sources for heating/cooling. 

If you know your energy consumption in kWh (or other unit), and the source of your energy, you can calculate the exact impact on the climate by looking up the emission factor. But as this varies from country to country, we use average values in the calculator to give you a good estimation of what the carbon footprint is.

What do we use the energy for?

In our homes, there is usually some kind of heating, through radiators (the values from eurostat can differ if you live in a warmer climate and use more cooling!) Heating can come from electricity, but the variation is wide. In Sweden and Finland, district heating is very common. In other countries, natural gas is more prominent. If you live in a rental, you may not even know what the source of the heating is, and your possibility to change it may unfortunately also be limited. If you own your home, making a decision on changing your heating can be a big investment, but the impact you can have is big too. In the US, the best option for the climate is to electrify – and use green electricity. Regardless of where you are, you want to move away from fossil fuels. Remember, natural gas is also a fossil fuel!

Water heating can be done with electricity, gas or other energy sources. The most climate friendly way is to electrify – and use green energy!

Generally, in our homes we use electricity for appliances such as the stove and fridge, the microwave, the washing machine, lighting, the tv, computer, etc. Exactly what we use it for obviously varies from home to home. The electricity bill tells us which company supplies our energy and through them we can find out what the source of the electricity is. Today, many suppliers offer electricity plans from renewable energy sources. This can be a tiny bit more expensive, but it makes a massive difference on your carbon footprint!

What is the climate impact?

“Regular” energy in the EU emits 295,8 g CO2 per kWh, in the US it is 452,8 g. However, renewable energy emits only 10-20 g CO2 per kWh, depending on the source.

A 3-4 bedroom home in the UK uses on average 3100 kWh of electricity per year. If the source is regular grid electricity, the CO2 emissions are 723 kg. If renewable energy is used, the emissions are only 47 kg!

If you also heat your home with electricity and can switch your electricity plan from regular to renewable energy, you can reduce the carbon footprint from 2 tonnes to 100 kg (based on average values in our calculator). That’s amazing!

Of course it is great to always turn off appliances, and be mindful about how we consume energy in our homes. The greenest (and cheapest) kWh is the one we don’t spend! But to make the most impact possible, focus should be on the changes that make a big difference, not on a lot of small actions that have low impact. It is better to hang-dry your clothes than using the tumble dryer, but if you leave your phone charger plugged in it really won’t make a big difference. 

To do’s:

  • Switch to green electricity
  • If possible, electrify your heating or check what other renewable energy sources are available where you live (geothermal energy?)
  • Electrify your water boiler!

Wild cards:

  • Consider putting solar cells on your roof
  • Insulate the house
  • Get an air-pump (reduces energy consumption)

Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series:

Me and my carbon footprint
What is a “carbon footprint”?
The carbon footprint of a home
The carbon footprint of a diet
The carbon footprint of our traveling
The carbon footprint of long distance traveling
The carbon footprint of shopping
The carbon footprint of public consumption

Or go to www.goclimate.com to calculate your carbon footprint now!

What is a “carbon footprint”?

What equals one kilo of CO2? Is a tonne of CO2 a lot? And how do our personal lifestyle choices affect how much is released into the atmosphere? This can all be hard to grasp because we can’t really see or touch the emissions. Below, we have listed some examples of how much CO2 is linked to different objects, what the impact is and info we hope will serve as a helpful tool to get this under control.

[Reminder] Globally, we emit about 40 gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. That number is so large that It feels impossible to understand. The info you may want to keep in mind going forward though, is that we need to reduce this number in half every decade to stay reasonably safe from climate change. That means, in 2030 we need to be down to 20 gt, in 2040 to 10 gt, and in 2050 to 5 gt.

Rockström, Gaffney, Rogelj, Meinshausen, Nakicenovic, Schellnhuber. Science 24 March 2017

The mindset to continuously half the emissions can and should be applied universally – by everyone. That includes governments, companies as well as us as individuals. It might seem like a big stretch, but let’s start with the low hanging fruit to start making an impact today – and it will just get easier from there!

Step one is to measure your carbon footprint. Countries are obliged to do this with data continuously tracked and updated by the UNFCCC. Some companies are obliged by national legislation to report their carbon footprint, while others do it on a voluntary basis. Individuals are currently not held accountable for their emissions, but judging by how rapidly our community is growing there are a lot of like minded people out there, seeing that they too can make a change and help contribute to meeting the targets needed for our planet’s well being.

The individual CO2 emissions of someone living in a western country is roughly 10 tonnes CO2. In some places it’s a little less, in the US and Australia it’s usually significantly higher (we will explain why in future posts). But this is a good general number to go by – 10 tonnes. Now, to start your own climate journey – go to our start page and calculate your personal footprint!

The strongest indicator of carbon emissions for an individual, is income level. That means that if you make 40 000 USD per year in Sweden or in South Africa, your emissions are likely more similar than between two people living in the same country but on different ends of the income spectrum. We still focus on economically wealthier countries in our business, as most of the consumption takes place in western countries and we therefore need to assume more responsibility.

Which items have a low vs high footprint? 

Banana0,08 kg
Streaming Netflix for an hour0,056-0,114 kg
a PET bottle0,43 kg
120 g cheese burger2,5 kg
A pair of running shoes14 kg
Train London – Paris15 kg
New iPhone 1172 kg
Couch90 kg
Laptop 15 inch MacBook Pro356 kg
Flight Paris – New York1,1 tonnes
Average driving in the US5,4 tonnes per year
New conventional car7 tonnes
New electric car10 tonnes
New house50 tonnes
1 hectare (10 000 m2) of deforestation500 tonnes

Hopefully these examples will help you focus on what is important. Try following these guidelines:

  • The things that fall under 1 kg – don’t stress about it.
  • If it’s more than 1 kg and you do it regularly – be mindful about your habits.
  • Purchases around 100 kg – it is definitely worth looking for climate friendly alternatives. Could you possibly find it second hand?
  • 1 tonne – is this really necessary? If there is no way to avoid it, offset the impact.
  • More than 3 tonnes – this should only be things which you cannot live without.
  • More than 100 tonnes – Is there anything you can do about this, even something small? Then you probably should!

The impact of 1 tonne of CO2 released into the atmosphere is terrifyingly easy to measure – it melts 3 square meters of arctic ice. So the impact of an average swede’s lifestyle is causing the disappearance of 30 m2 of arctic sea ice every year – that’s the size of 2,5 parking lots. Now let’s do something about that!

Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series:

Me and my carbon footprint
What is a “carbon footprint”?
The carbon footprint of a home
The carbon footprint of a diet
The carbon footprint of our traveling
The carbon footprint of long distance traveling
The carbon footprint of shopping
The carbon footprint of public consumption

Or go to www.goclimate.com to calculate your carbon footprint now!

Me and my carbon footprint

We at GoClimate are striving to help people understand their carbon footprint. This is step one in our series of making it easy to grasp what your own emissions stem from and how to handle them!

A lot of the things we do emit carbon dioxide (and other Greenhouse Gases) into the air, directly or indirectly. Big corporations are responsible for a large share of emissions through production of fuels and different products, and governments are responsible for national policies and collective emissions. But as individuals, we are also responsible for a share in all of this through our lifestyle choices and consumption. That’s why we need to come together in order to change this, and create a better way of living that doesn’t harm the climate.

Global emissions – who is responsible?

Globally, we humans emit about 40 gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. That number is so large that It feels impossible to understand. If we break it down by country, we need to remember that some countries, like China and Saudi Arabia, have high emissions because they produce goods that are being consumed in other countries. Usually the national emissions are presented based on the production, not the consumption, of goods. Measuring the consumption is more difficult, but perhaps more important if we are interested in responsibility.

In terms of production, Sweden emits something like 42 million tonnes of CO2 per year, or 4,25 tonnes per capita (our world in data 2017). However, when we look at consumption, we are responsible for 9,87 tonnes per capita (Naturvårdsverket 2017) – more than twice as much! We use Sweden as an example here, because not all countries report data for consumption based emissions. To make sure that we take responsibility for what we can, as individuals we need to focus on the consumption-based emissions.

How should we handle this?

It would be so great if all governments came together and established (and implemented!) legislation which prevented the emissions of CO2 which destabilize our climate. But right now, they are not, and this problem is too urgent for us to accept inaction. If we all join forces, we can both reduce emissions on an individual and collective level, as well as exert pressure on governments to improve legislation. This is not an either/or situation, we need to do everything!

We at GoClimate have developed our carbon footprint calculator as a first step in understanding the carbon footprint of an individual. It is a simple calculator based on average values, which is enough to give you an overview of what you are currently doing to contribute to climate change, and focus on what the main areas are where you can reduce your emissions.

How does each person cause emissions?

As mentioned above, an average Swede emits 9,87 tonnes per year. Transport is the cause of 1,96 tonnes, adding to that international flights of 1 tonne, food is 1,41 tonnes, private consumption (“shopping”) is 1,01 tonnes and housing is 0,9 tonnes. Adding to that public consumption and investments, 0,98 and 2,6 tonnes respectively. This indicates that there is a large part that is hard to reduce on your own, and that we also need to push politicians to make the right decisions to get this under control. But the larger share is ours to handle! Empowering, right!?

Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series:

Me and my carbon footprint
What is a “carbon footprint”?
The carbon footprint of a home
The carbon footprint of a diet
The carbon footprint of our traveling
The carbon footprint of long distance traveling
The carbon footprint of shopping
The carbon footprint of public consumption

Or go to www.goclimate.com to calculate your carbon footprint now!

Switching to an electric car without breaking the bank

Note: This is a personal story from team member Stefan

I just recently moved out of the city and to a town in the mountains of Sweden. Having always before been able to use public transportation, I found myself in a place where I now need a car to get around, while also being fully out of reach of any car sharing services. This is my story of researching reasonably priced alternatives for getting a car with the least possible climate footprint.

If you are able to use car sharing services or public transportation, you should always consider not owning a car at all. If not, read on to learn a few surprising facts that make getting a brand new electric car more reasonable than you’d think.

Note – make sure to top up your car with green electricity!

Requirements and options

I knew from the outset that the long-term goal was to get an electric car. I just didn’t know if our fincancial situation would support this right away. My partner and I make good money, but not by any means enough that we can afford to freely just lease or buy any car. We do, however, have the ability to increase our loans at a reasonable interest rate to be able to pay for a new car, provided that the purchase doesn’t turn into the money sink that new car purchases traditionally are.


We are looking for a car that works for typical usage. We’ll be driving both short distances and long. It’s going to be our only car. So what we end up with has to:

  • Have range enough to be workable on long journeys.
  • Be big enough that we can bring outdoors gear like skis and big backpacks on trips.

Getting into specifics, I looked into three categories of cars to consider:

  • Fully electric cars, new from dealerships.
  • Plug-in hybrid cars, second hand.
  • For comparison and as a last resort, lower priced regular gasoline cars, second hand.

The reason that second hand fully electric cars are not on this is that they’re very close in price to brand new cars (more on that later), and by going for a new car we would have the ability to get a tow bar that we can mount a bike rack on. If you don’t need a tow bar, there is a (small) market of second hand fully electric cars with long range (350 km/220 miles or longer). If you’re able to get one of those, you can make the financials for electric cars later in this post even better.

Go for a long drive without emissions

Plug-in hybrid cars

My initial thought was that plug-in hybrid cars would be the most reasonable option while waiting for fully electric cars to come down in price. But after looking into it, two factors make them less attractive than one would think.

First, if you regularly drive longer than the battery lasts (usually around 30-40 km/20-25 miles), you end up with a very thirsty car. Most plug-in hybrids are very heavy cars and have fuel consumption upwards of 10 l/100 km (as low as 25 mpg) after the battery depletes. For all but the very shortest trips, this defeats the fuel savings of having a battery.

Second, these cars are basically two cars in one that both need maintenance. In terms of maintenance cost, they are are, if anything, more expensive to keep running than even traditional combustion cars.

If you’re able to charge at home, drive almost exclusively within the short battery range and are strictly limited in purchase price, then maybe a plug-in hybrid car be a good option. Otherwise, I have a hard time justifying them as a way to reduce one’s carbon footprint. For us, getting an efficient combustion or non-plug-in hybrid car, would actually have been a better choice.

Brand new electric cars

Fully electric cars used to be crazy expensive, but this is fast changing. For sale right now with 350 km/220 miles of range or more in the most affordable price range are three models: the Kia e-Soul, Kia e-Niro, and Hyundai Kona Electric. Available for order this year and with delivery dates within a year you’ll also find the Volkswagen ID.3 and Skoda Enyaq iV.

All of these sell for around €45,000 (in Europe), but a few insights helped me realize this relatively high price isn’t as bad as it seems:

  • Many countries have government grants when buying new electric cars. In Sweden, the grant is about €5,800.
  • Maintenance, vehicle/road taxes, and, most strikingly, driving costs are way lower for electric cars.
  • Value depreciation is, as mentioned earlier, not at all as bad as with non-electric cars, especially when taking government grants into account. For the models I looked at, one year old cars with above average milage were selling for just around €5,000 – €7,000 lower than the brand new price after grants. This reasonably gets much better (on a monthly basis) if you keep the car for 2 or 3 years, but there are no numbers for that as all these models initially went for sale just last year.

The numbers

So let’s look at the numbers. All figures are yearly costs in Sweden converted to Euros. I’ve used the best sources I could find, trying to find actual maintenance costs from current owners and quoting insurance for these models for myself.

New Hyundai Kona ElectricSecond hand Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (2017)Second hand Opel Astra (2015)
Maintenance€210€500€500
Vehicle/road tax€35€35€135
Insurance€350€650€350
Electricity1 3€380€3502
Fuel1€4052€1,360
Total€975€1,940€2,345
  1. Using the average yearly milage in Sweden of 15,000 km per year.
  2. These calculations assume 50% usage on battery for the plug-in hybrid.
  3. Electricity costs of 0.2 Euros/kWh.

At this point, before financing, we’re looking at a monthly cost of €81 for the fully electric car, as compared to €161 for the plug-in hybrid and €195 for the combustion car.

So you’ll have €114/month extra to put towards financing of the more expensive electric car. Even though this is better than one might think already, chances are that the €114 won’t be enough regardless of how you choose to finance the car. Which brings me to…

How to make the car free

More and more people want to drive electric and more and more people are looking to car sharing services to replace car ownership. So for those of us who have to own a car, let’s contribute to the other side of that equation and make our cars available for others to rent. Renters will look to the cheap-to-drive and climate friendly electric cars, and owners of those cars can use that income to bridge the cost gap compared to traditional cars.

Sharing is caring – also for the climate

Looking at the two big options available in Sweden, Snappcar and GoMore (also available in a number of other European countries), you can expect around €300-400/month for renting your car a few times each month. Together with the €100+/month you’re saving in driving costs, you’re now looking at upwards of €500/month in combined savings and income that can be put towards financing of the car. This sealed the deal for us, because depending on how much we rent the car out, we actually have a decent chance of having the car pay for itself entirely.

On top of that, we’re now helping others reduce their carbon footprints in addition to reducing our own.

Making the change to green electricity!

Is it finally time to swap to green electricity? This is how much of a difference it will make!

Swapping your standard electricity plan for a green one is perhaps the most impactful one-time action you can take to reduce your personal carbon footprint. This post explains why and how to do so with tips specifically for the UK, the US and Sweden, but the principles are the same pretty much everywhere.

Before we start – green energy is often disclosed as having zero emissions, but in this post and generally throughout our calculations, we assume 15 g CO2e per kWh to account for maintenance and grid operations – just to be on the safe side.

We all use electricity at home, let’s make it green!

UNITED KINGDOM

Average electricity consumption in the UK for a 1 or 2 bedroom house/flat is 2,000 kWh, for a 3 or 4 bedroom house 3,100 kWh and for a 5+ bedroom house it’s 4,600 kWh. This considers only general electricity use, and not gas consumption for heating and hot water. Using “regular” electricity in the UK which has an emission factor of 255,6 g CO2e per kWh, this result in CO2 footprints of:
511 kg CO2e for a 1 or 2 bedroom house/flat,
792 kg CO2e for a 3 or 4 bedroom house and
1176 kg CO2e for a 5+ bedroom house.

Comparing that to renewable energy, the CO2 footprints would instead be
30 kg CO2e for a 1 or 2 bedroom house/flat,
46,5 kg CO2e for a 3 or 4 bedroom house and
69 kg CO2e for a 5+ bedroom house. That’s amazing!

The market for green energy in the UK is similar to that of Sweden. The big companies often offer green plans, but there are also smaller suppliers which can give even better packages and other added benefits. Since homeowners in the UK often have electricity and gas from the same provider, it is worth considering the overall benefits of also changing to a supplier that offers green(er) gas.

T3.com is one of the the UK’s leading consumer lifestyle websites, and they have an up-to-date guide on the best green energy suppliers, as well as a guide on how to switch and a price comparison. Check out the suppliers HERE

In the EU, according to the Directive 2003/54/EC, electricity providers have to disclose source of the electricity (how it is produced), and the environmental impact, at least the CO2 emissions and nuclear waste. So you as a consumer can feel confident that you know the difference between the options!

USA

The average household in the US consumes 10.972 kWh annually, noting that there is great variability between states. Given that the average emission factor for electricity in the US is 456 g CO2 per kWh (again, with great variability between states), this standard home is responsible for emitting 4998 kg of CO2 per year! That’s almost five tonnes! Changing electricity provider to a green energy plan can make a huge difference here, and if you want to reduce your carbon footprint this action probably has the highest return on effort invested.

How? The first step is to check if your current provider offers a renewable/green energy plan that you could transfer to. Some power companies supply this as an alternative, it’s often referred to as “green pricing”.

If you want to change provider, you’ll have to find one that supplies green electricity in your area. The Center for Resource Solutions offers a database for Green-e certified renewable energy. Search for “Residential Renewable Energy”, you can also filter the results by state. Another alternative is CleanChoice Energy, also available in several states. If that doesn’t give you any good options, try a google search for your state/city and renewable energy providers.

Given the structure of the energy market in the US, not everyone can actually choose their energy provider (it depends on the state regulations). If you are still willing to go the extra mile for green electricity, you can purchase green certificates or “Renewable Energy Certificates” (REC). This means that you pay the price difference between the market price for regular electricity and the price for producing green/renewable energy, and you therefore contribute to financing sustainable energy even if you can’t have it served in your own home. The Green-e database allows you to search for “Residential Renewable Energy Certificate”, and if you can’t find anything there – Google is your friend.

Again, given the massive difference it can have on your carbon footprint, it is worth investing some time in! Especially given that once you’ve made the switch, you don’t have to do anything else!

Sidrap Wind Energy Park in Indonesia
We support a renewable energy project in Indonesia, but what about buying renewable energy at home too?

SWEDEN

In Sweden, an apartment uses on average 2000 kWh of electricity per year, and a house uses 6000 kWh for general electricity use. For heating and hot water, an apartment uses on average 10000 kWh and a house uses on average 15000 kWh.

For “regular” energy, the CO2 emissions per kWh is 338,52 g. This means that for general electricity use, an apartment causes emissions of 677 kg CO2 and a house 2031 kg CO2. If the home is also heated with electricity, the apartment causes emissions of 4062 kg and the house 7109 kg.

For green energy, the emission factor varies depending on the source, but a safe value to use is 15 g of CO2 per kWh. This means that for general electricity use, an apartment causes emissions of 30 kg CO2 and a house 90 kg CO2. If the home is also heated with electricity, the apartment causes emissions of 180 kg and the house 315 kg. This is a massive difference! The price difference is less than 10%. What are you waiting for?

How to move ahead: First check which provider you currently have. This is specified on your electricity bill (paper or digital), or you can check where the money goes on your bank statement. If you want to stay with the same provider, see if they have a green electricity option. Otherwise, you can do a Google search and see if you find a provider that is more appealing – either with price or with other factors, like sustainability. There are services like https://www.elskling.se/ where you can compare prices and filter for green electricity.

This is perhaps the easiest step to make a significant difference to your carbon footprint. Let us now in the comments if you’ve made the change and what tips you have for others!

Want to offset your entire carbon emissions? Calculate your carbon footprint and transition to a climate neutral life today!

5 climate tips to reduce your carbon footprint

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).

2. Cut the meat in favour of a more plant-based diet. This can reduce your diet’s footprint by 50%. For more info read our “Meat eater’s non-dogmatic guide to becoming more vegetarian” and “How to reduce your carbon footprint from food”. Find vegan and vegetarian food inspiration at Sweet Green Vegan, Green Kitchen Stories, Plant-Based RD and A Vegan’s Paradise.

3. Skip the car – take the bike. In average an car in the US emits 5,4 tonnes a year while biking has no carbon footprint at all.

4. Take a free digital quick coursethe Climate Leader – to understand how you best take climate action.

5. Carbon offset your lifestyle with us and help accelerate the transition to renewable energy around the world.

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

Climate tips to save the planet