Untangling the climate vocabulary

There are currently multiple terms floating around regarding the climate and our relation to our emissions. This can be especially complicated for companies, who want to communicate their efforts to do good for the climate, but want to avoid confusion and even being accused of greenwashing. Therefore, it is important to use the right terminology with the right intent. Let’s figure this out!

The way forward for companies include some balancing

What does carbon neutral mean?

“Carbon neutral” is something (like a product or a company) where the carbon emissions it causes are balanced, or compensated for, elsewhere. The result is that no additional CO2 reaches the atmosphere because of this product/company.

In order to call something carbon neutral, we must first measure the emissions that it causes, and make a careful documentation on this (GoClimate uses the GHG Protocol to measure the carbon footprint of companies). Then, efforts to reduce the emissions are implemented. This is obviously important because all emissions need to be drastically lowered to save the climate, but also to demonstrate commitment and integrity. Finally, the emissions that for some reason cannot be immediately abated are compensated for by offsetting (see our previous post of types of offsets). It is also important to note that all emissions throughout the life cycle and value chain should be included, not just the emissions from your own chimney.

There are two international standards which define carbon neutrality – ISO 14021 and PAS 2060.

Climate neutral is often used interchangeably with carbon neutral. Some argue that climate neutral distinguishes itself by including all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and not only carbon. However, the common practice is that non-carbon GHG emissions are converted into CO2-equivalents, to make for a fair comparison and easier overview. Therefore, carbon neutral is in practice usually also climate neutral.

Which direction should your company go in?

What does Net Zero mean?

The IPCC defines net-zero as that point when “anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere are balanced by anthropogenic removals over a specified period”. The Paris Agreement sets out the need to achieve this balance by the second half of this century.

The process for becoming Net Zero is therefore fundamentally similar to being carbon neutral – emissions need to be measured, reduced and balanced. The difference lies in the level of ambition and as a consequence, the execution. The reductions should follow a serious plan to be aligned with the Paris Agreement, which implies reducing emissions by at least 50% every decade. The offsets to compensate for the remaining emissions need to be of the type called permanent removals, which actually binds atmospheric carbon dioxide and stores it with confidence in its stability (see our previous post of types of offsets).

The requirements for what can be classified as Net Zero is an ongoing work, currently driven by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Their comprehensive paper Foundations for Net Zero gives a solid description of the common ground, and which challenges still need to be resolved regarding this concept.

Climate positive

There is currently no common standard definition of climate positive, and sometimes the expression climate negative is even used to define the same idea. This is however built upon the concept of carbon neutral (climate neutral), and means that what it refers to (a product, usually) has been compensated for with more offsets than it actually causes. This means that the product comes with added climate benefits.

Business as usual

In this context, business as usual means to continue operations as if climate change didn’t concern you at all. We can all do better than this!

Hopefully this breakdown made these concepts clearer to you. If there are other terms you come across and would like to see included here, please leave us a comment below!

Different kinds of carbon offsets – a quick guide

Since the start of carbon offsetting, a lot has happened. We have learned more about how we can efficiently and effectively finance the transition to a sustainable society, and these insights have allowed for the offsets to develop in several aspects. Here, we will explain the different kinds of offsets that one can choose from.

Avoided emissions

At GoClimate, we offer carbon offsetting in a type of projects that are referred to as Avoided Emissions. The idea is to prevent emissions which would have been released if it had not been for this project.

To explain with an example: in a village, everyone is cooking over open fires and collect firewood in the forest nearby. The project developer supplies improved cookstoves, which contains the heat and reduces the amount of firewood needed. The savings in firewood (reduced deforestation) is measured, and then converted into a common unit – tonnes of CO2, which can be purchased by those who want to support this project.

Perhaps the most common type of projects that can be categorized as avoided emissions are renewable energy projects. The current (polluting) energy production is compared to the installation and production of clean energy, and the difference is considered avoided emissions.

You can read more about climate projects in this previous post, and on our project page.

One kind of improved cookstove

Another type of project that avoids emissions can be natural resource management, or the protection of forests. Areas which are in danger of being deforested are identified and the protection of them is financed, to make sure that they keep storing (and capturing) carbon dioxide. This has additional benefits of biodiversity protection, but it can be hard to prove that the flora would be degraded without the protection.

Removals

Another type of offsets is referred to as removals. There are two main types of removals, where the simplest form is tree planting (reforestation or afforestation*). Tree planting can have additional benefits for the biodiversity and local populations, and is definitely needed to restore damaged ecosystems. However, although the trees bind CO2 while they grow and live, this will be released at the end of their life. This can happen unintentionally in a forest fire or naturally after 80 years, but this does not guarantee a permanent removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Are there permanent removals of CO2 from the atmosphere? Yes, but it’s costly and energy intensive. These technologies are sometimes called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), or Direct Air Capture (DAC). The most well-known initiative for this is probably the Swiss company Climeworks, whose technology aims to “vacuum clean” the air from CO2. Another pioneer is Project Vesta, which will use natural wave energy to capture CO2 into rocks (weathering). These technologies are under development, and need to scale up to be really useful.

Climeworks aim to suck CO2 from the air

What should you choose?

What should we focus on? We at GoClimate believe that “if your faucet is running, you should turn it off before you start mopping the floor”, which is why we are offering offsets in the form of avoided emissions. We urgently need to stop emitting CO2, and offsetting is effectively a way to help finance the transition to renewable energy globally. But the scary truth is that as we are not doing this fast enough, we will need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to keep global warming from spinning out of control. And to invest in it now is necessary for the research and development to happen fast enough for the technologies to scale. If these methods are only available in 50 years, it will simply be too late.

Therefore, GoClimate is currently investigating how we can also support removals as a way to stop climate change. Stay tuned to find out more and be part of the movement!

* Afforestation is the establishment of a forest or stand of trees (forestation) in an area where there was no previous tree cover

Capturing methane from manure and saving energy – Biogas project in China

We have now offset another 25,000 ton CO2eq in a Gold Standard certified project! Thank you for taking part in this!

This is our project

In the province Shuicheng in China, this project aims to help small-scale pig farmers to build methane digesters. In these digesters, organic matter (including manure and wastes) are decayed an aerobically. According to the preparatory study, there are on average 4.3 pigs in every peasant household. Therefore, and a standard biogas digester with a volume of 8m3 is constructed. This anaerobic digester can fully handle the manure of these pigs, and collects the biogas generated during the treatment process for heat supply. This meets the thermal demands of the households themselves, by using the biogas stove with rated power 2.33kW each unit. 18 934 of these methane digesters were installed, to the benefit of an equal amount of small-scale farmers and their families.

What was the situation before?

Before the project construction, all the swine manure was stored in an uncovered anaerobic mature management system (i.e. deep pit). Large amounts of methane was emitted to the atmosphere during the manure storage, due to the anaerobic condition in the deep pit. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has an impact on the climate change some 25 times worse than CO2! Moreover, according to the preparatory investigation, the householders were using coal for cooking and heating. This was also releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, and caused indoor air pollution from particulate matter (soot), which is harmful to human health.

The outcomes of the project

The project thus results in a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in these two ways: on the one hand, the recovery and utilization of biogas from digested slurry in the biogas digester, which reduces methane emissions that would otherwise have aroused from the deep pit storage. It prevents methane emissions by changing the management practice of manure in order to achieve the controlled anaerobic digestion, equipped with methane recovery system. Moreover, the biogas is used as thermal energy to replace the fossil fuel (coal) currently used to meet the households daily energy needs for cooking and heating. The heat generated from burning biogas effectively replace an equal amount of the heat which would otherwise be generated by a coal stove. The combined annual GHG emission reductions for both components of the project is estimated at 50,113 tCO2e annually.

The proposed project will have positive environmental and economic benefits and contribute to the local sustainable development in the following aspects:

  1. To recover methane and substitute the consumption of fossil energy,
  2. To increase employment for the local people through the construction of methane pools and the follow-up service,
  3. To improve the living and cooking conditions and the health of the local people,
  4. To popularize practical energy technology.

Read more about the project in the Gold Standard Registry

A big thanks to all of you for enabling this development!

Do you want to contribute to this, and other similar projects? Calculate your carbon footprint and start your offsetting today!

Climate-proof your business

Why should a company act on climate change?

We are all part of the problem, so we can all be part of the solution! Since the causes of climate change are deeply rooted in our way of living, change needs to happen on all levels in society. From the governments setting the right direction, all the way to end consumers who choose what to purchase. In the middle, companies should align with the global goals, and provide products and services which are truly sustainable and don’t harm the planet.

What should companies actually do?

The first step is to understand how the company is contributing to climate change. The best way to do this is to analyze its operations and find out where greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions arise (in production, from energy consumption, or in the value chain?), and quantify the impact on the climate. GoClimate helps companies follow the international reporting standard to accurately measure the GHG emissions.

Once the company knows their climate impact, it is time to set a goal in line with the Paris Agreement to keep the increase of global temperature below 1,5°C. Knowing what emissions are caused in our base year (the first year we measure), we can set the ambition to reduce the emissions. At this point, we also know which part of the business is causing the most emissions, and GoClimate offers guidance on how to reduce these emissions in the most efficient way possible. Then, we can follow up on a yearly basis if the company is successful in reaching these goals.

A way to take responsibility for the emissions that cannot be abated immediately, is to offset the emissions. This is done by purchasing a corresponding amount of carbon credits from projects that avoid emissions elsewhere, or in some cases capture carbon from the atmosphere. GoClimate offers offsetting from high-quality projects certified by Gold Standard

Sidrap Wind Energy Park in Indonesia
With carbon offsetting, we make sure that this wind farm is being paid for, to the benefit of the local population in South Sulawesi, Indonesia

What are the benefits of doing this?

First and foremost, we do our part in ensuring a livable planet for ourselves and our children. As if this wasn’t enough, we simultaneously risk-proof our own business by understanding if we are currently a part of the problem, and how we can be part of the solution.

Some other positive effects are:

·      Attracting more talent – employees care about the company they work for! This is true for new hires as well as for retention of the existing team.

·      More customers – this gives an advantage over competitors, as sustainability becomes a key parameter when choosing suppliers and service providers

·      Sustainability efforts also offer a marketing advantage

GoClimate is your partner

Reach out to us, and we can help you understand what this would look like for your  company and offer support based on your needs. GoClimate will be there to answer any and all questions, and make this journey as smooth as possible for you. Get in touch by sending us an email at [email protected]

READ MORE: 

The 1.5°C Business Playbook helps organizations to set a 1.5°C aligned strategy and move to action. It focuses on simplicity and speed and is anchored in the latest science

Science-based targets show companies how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

More support to wind energy in Aruba

We have now offset another 50,000 ton CO2eq in a Gold Standard certified project! Thank you for taking part in this!

Cactus overlooking the energy production

This is our project

Aruba is one of the islands moving towards reduced dependency on fossil fuels and increased share of renewables. The first initiative for wind energy production on the island is the Wind Park Vader Piet N.V, which we are supporting through the purchase of carbon credits! This is the second time we support this project, so find the first blog post about the project HERE.

This wind park consists of 10 wind turbines that are located on an uninhabited part of the island. With a production capacity of 3 MW each, these turbines supply 12-14% of the total energy needed on the island! Since all energy consumed before the implementation of this project came from fossil fuel, the carbon intensity of the electricity available on the island was very high. Fortunately, Wind Park Vader Piet N.V has instigated a change for the better.

More support from GoClimate

We purchased credits (the proof of avoided emissions, expressed in tonnes of CO2) from this project last year in September, and now decided to do a second purchase. The climate projects issue new credits every year, corresponding to the amount of avoided emissions they can prove each year. Hence, with the kind of credits that we purchase from Gold Standard certified projects, we know that the emissions have already been avoided.

The continuous support that the project receives from selling credits every year makes sure that they can, for example, pay back loans that they had to take to build the wind power plants, and ensures the financial sustainability of the project. When the project is planned, this financial support from selling credits is taken into account in the economic balance. The project developer has to show that without this economic support, the project would not be financially feasible. This is what is referred to as ‘Additionality’ when we talk about climate projects.

Imported wings for the wind power plants came by boat to Aruba

What are the larger implications?

Vader Piet has permission to sell credits for 10 years. This has been an interesting time for the island Aruba. We have been talking to the electricity company on the island, WEB Aruba N.V., on what this has meant for them, and this has been proof that there is more that can be done in the area of renewables. It is especially impactful when we can support a project that is the first of its kind in a place, such as this one.

We have previously also supported the Sidrap Wind Energy Project, the first wind power park in Indonesia. This is important both for the public, to see for themselves what a wind energy park can do. Moreover, provides a great learning opportunity for local professionals to learn new skills, which can be replicable in future projects. Aruba is now in the planning stage of a second wind power plant, and we are so exited to be a part of that story!

Read more about the project in the Gold Standard Registry

A big thanks to all of you for enabling this development!

Do you want to contribute to this, and other similar projects? Calculate your carbon footprint and start your offsetting today!

A survey on the view of the individual carbon footprint, carbon offsetting and GoClimate

During the summer 2020, we conducted a Swedish and an English survey with ten questions among all the people who offset their carbon footprint with GoClimate. A whopping 620 people participated, corresponding to 13% of our members at that point in time.

According to our English survey, 76% have reduced their carbon footprint since they joined GoClimate. Among other things, they have installed solar panels, they eat less meat, fly less and eat more vegan food than before. 23% say that they have not made any changes to impact their carbon footprint and 0.6% (1 person) say that they have increased their footprint.

In response to the question of how they view their personal carbon footprint, around 90% of the English respondants (80% of the Swedish) state that they are working actively to reduce their footprint. 3% say that they would like to, but don’t know how. Another 4% say that they are not working actively with reducing their footprint. Political actions and financial incentives are mentioned as critical parts to enable necessary lifestyle changes.

What's your attitude to your individual carbon footprint? This diagrams shows the number of people who use carbon offsetting that are actively working on reducing their carbon footprint and how many that are not.
90% of all members that carbon offset say they are working on reducing their carbon footprint.

Most members are happy with our calculator and the type of projects we support. What we can get better at is providing guidance and support to reduce the carbon footprint. Over 20% didn’t know that we have a blog, where we educate on topics related to the carbon footprint and offer tips for how to reduce the emissions.

The reasons for our members to carbon offset with GoClimate is that it’s easy, that people want to do everything they can for the environment, and because there are parts of the carbon footprint which are hard to amend. Other reasons are that GoClimate is a small organization offering transparency about where the money goes, and that it’s perceived as clear, agile and trustworthy. This is an easy way to make an extra difference for the climate, adding to what is already done in the everyday life by these committed people.

Among the respondents behavioral change was considered important to stop climate change. The answer to the question “How important do you think behavioral change is to stop climate change?” was 8.8 in average on a scale 0-10.

The majority of the respondents found out about us via recommendations and social media. So please keep discussing the climate with friends, tell them about us and share blog posts and our infographics on Instagram.

Find the results of the 2019 member survey on carbon footprint, carbon offsetting and GoClimate here.

GoClimate New Year’s Resolutions for 2021!

One year ago, the GoClimate team set our climate resolutions for 2020 – personal challenges, because for us saving the climate is more than a job, it’s a life mission. This is an overwhelming task, and therefore setting a specific goal to a specific time frame makes it all more approachable. Now we have another new year ahead of us to make better habits for the future!

CECILIA :star2:

One of my resolutions for 2020 was to participate in twice as many climate strikes compared to 2019. And then Covid19 happened. For 2021, my resolution will be “Spread the word” – to talk more about the climate crisis and the climate action I am taking via social media and with my friends in order to hopefully inspire others to take action.

ALEXANDRA:star2:

My new year’s resolution for this year was to stay on the ground and not travel by plane. It was easier than I had expected and it reduced my carbon footprint with 3.19 tonnes compared to 2019. For 2021, my climate commitment is to move one step closer to a vegan diet. I have been a vegetarian for 10+ years, and for next year my intention is to only eat egg/dairy products when they are served by someone else. That means, at home and at restaurants/cafes I will always choose vegan, but if I’m invited to a dinner I will accept vegetarian food. Curious to see what challenges this will bring me and how I can handle that!

Home made salad w quinoa, hummus, veggies and fruits!

TOVE :star2:

I wish all climate actions came as easy to me as sticking to a vegan diet and not driving a fossil-fuelled car, but staying on the ground is a huge challenge to me. It breaks my heart on a regular basis that catching a flight to London, which I consider my second home, is no longer an option for me as I simply can’t justify the harm it causes the planet. My resolution for 2021 is to look closer into climate friendly alternatives to flying, rather than giving long-distance traveling up altogether (which has been the situation in 2020, needless to say). I’m excited to look in to options by road and rail and aim to make the actual travelling a fun part of the experience too, making it an adventure rather than just a transfer.

STEFAN :star:

My new years resolution for 2021 is to think long-term with all of my purchases. I will only purchase brand-new products if I’m confident I will get at least 5 years of good use out of them.

KALLE :star:

For 2020, my new year’s resolution was to not buy any new clothes nor electronic devices. I aim to keep that going for the full year of 2021 as well.

EMMA :star:

I’ll continue sticking to my vegetarian diet, plus avoiding dairy. I will also make sure to cut out beef and lamb when feeding my dog (who’s moving in with Emma in January, welcome to the GoClimate family little one). Whenever I feel the need to buy new items, I make a list of what it is that I “need”. I then give it a week or two before asking myself if I still want or need it? If the answer is still a yes, I research if there are any other ways to achieve what it is that I crave other than making a purchase – perhaps renting or borrowing? Or can it at least be bought second hand? If buying a newly produced item is the only option, I compare alternatives and chose the one with the seemingly lowest climate impact.

The carbon footprint of public consumption

By now, it has become evident that almost all of our choices have an impact on the climate. Still, there are some factors that affect our carbon footprint, which we only have a limited ability to choose – the public emissions. These are the emissions caused by society (state, county and municipality), whose benefits we share and whose carbon bill we have to split in between us. Let’s take a closer look at what these are!

Authorities

A large responsibility that we entrust our states with is to provide safety and justice for its citizens. Therefore, this category includes emissions caused by the police, the judiciary, political activity, environmental protection, and the military. The emissions for this vary widely between countries, and is not regularly disclosed. Some estimates say that the UK military causes 13 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, which is 195 kg co2e per person. One study from a city in Sweden determined that the emissions from authorities were 520 kg co2e per person.

Fire fighters

Health and social care

This makes up about 4% of carbon emissions in the largest economies, resulting in an average carbon footprint of healthcare of 600 kg co2e per person. The US is a major outlier here with 1510 kg co2e per capita. On the other hand, since healthcare is largely privatized in the US, the emissions are not shared equally by all citizens. Another area to consider is the care facilities for children, elder and people with special needs. Emissions from social care are difficult to estimate.

Education

This varies significantly between countries, depending on how to account for private education. Data from a study on a city in Sweden shows that the emissions from the education system amount to 220 kg co2e per person. Noting that all education, including universities, is publicly funded Sweden (and school lunch is included), this number could well be both lower or higher in other places.

Public education

Recreations, culture and sports

Public spending on these categories vary significantly from country to country and can sometimes, such in the case of world championships or olympic games, soar through the roof. Data from a study on a city in Sweden shows that the emissions from recreations, culture and sports amount to 90 kg co2e per person. This could be a reasonable baseline for a European or north American person, excluding large scale events. 

Construction

This includes infrastructure maintenance, and construction of roads and tracks. Again, this will vary widely depending on where you live. It fluctuates depending on how much the state invests, so the economic situation is an important determinant. Data from a study on a city in Sweden shows that the emissions from construction are 220 kg co2e per person, however, this can be both lower and higher in other places.

Public transport

Since public transport is often subsidized by public funds, this post covers the emissions that result from everything other than the emissions per passenger km, which are included in the personal travel category. In Gothenburg, Sweden, public funds cover 50% of the public transport, and there the emissions from public transport reach 50 kg co2e per person. Again, this will vary a lot between places.

Public transportation

… and yet more

There can be more posts for public emissions, varying between place and methodology. This can range from agricultural subsidies or the EU membership fees, to financing the royal family in a monarchy. 

It might seem unfair that you are held accountable for road works, when you don’t drive. But remember that this is how food gets to the supermarket, and how other things that you get benefits reach their destinations. It may seem unfair that you are held accountable for the emissions from the education system, or the healthcare system. Regardless, this is the contract that we all agree on as citizens of a state. We are also the ones funding it with our taxes. 

Impact society beyond your own emissions

The ability to impact these emissions are more indirect than for our personal consumption. However, if we invest energy in reducing these emissions, our impact goes well beyond our own carbon footprint. Therefore, if we want to take climate change seriously, we need to become active in this sphere too. From the bare minimum of voting for politicians who have ambitious climate action on their agenda, to joining civil society organizations to campaign for green policies. Or maybe even join a party yourself? This effort has to permeate all sectors and everything we do!

Do you work in the education or healthcare system? Maybe you can be the one to raise the question of renewable energy with the board! Do you see something in your community that could be improved? Contact your local representative! This way, we take collective responsibility for the climate and support the democratic process. When we show our commitment, politicians can enforce serious climate policy on the national and international scale. But they will not do it unless we show that this is what we want.

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 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!