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!

Uberlândia landfills I and II Energy Project

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

For the first time, we are investing in a project located in Brazil. Parabéns to us! The project is a Landfill to Gas Energy Project located in Uberlândia, in the state of Minas Gerais. Here, greenhouse gas emissions from two adjacent landfills are collected and converted into energy.

Collecting GHG from the landfill to convert it to energy

How does this work? As in most places in the world, the garbage that is generated by the local population is collected by garbage collectors and taken to a solid waste deposal site, also known as a landfill. In this case, this is done by a local company called Limpebrás Resíduos Ltda. The first of the Uberlândia landfills received waste from 1995 to 2010, and the second one started in 2010 with an expected 18 years of lifetime. Uberlândia I has during its operation received approximately 2,100,000 tonnes of domestic waste! This is being treated with significant care for the environment to prevent environmental damage, especially to avoid leachate into the ground.

Carefully managed landfill

But the contamination is not the only concern for landfills. The decomposing of organic waste in the landfill is also causing significant emissions of the greenhouse gas methane, CH4. Methane is a less common but stronger greenhouse gas than CO2, so the climate impact is about 25 times higher! This is why we in some places (like in Sweden) can collect separated organic waste and turn it into energy. However, this infrastructure is not yet available in all parts of the world. So, this project instead aims to collect the methane that is generated at the existing landfills, then combust it in a contained environment in order to produce energy for the local energy grid. The project will last for as long as the landfills release methane, which is until a few years after the landfill is full.

Landfill to Gas Energy Plant

Some people call this renewable energy. We are not too happy with that definition, as garbage in itself is not a renewable resource. Project Drawdown calls this “a transitional strategy for a world that wastes too much” – which we agree with. “In a sustainable world, waste would be composted, recycled, or re-used; it would never be thrown away because it would be designed at the outset to have residual value, and systems would be in place to capture it”. GoClimate fully supports this statement, while recognizing that we are not there yet. As the waste is already at the landfill and causing these emissions as we speak, we’re on board to do what we can to stop them and turn it into energy, until the global waste management can catch up in terms of reduction and recycling. Given the climate urgency, this is not an either-or question, we need to do both!

The workers who collect the garbage

 Apart from the reduced emissions from collecting the methane, we are also helping to displace fossil fuels as we provide alternative energy to the network. The project is also creating more qualified job opportunities for the local population, and the monitoring of the project has not found any negative impact for the people who do ad-hoc recycling of the garbage. Finally, the project has also reduced the odor coming from the landfill. When the project was initiated, there were no landfill to gas projects in the country which did not receive additional financing from carbon credits, so we feel confident that this is a project with high additionality.

Read more about the project in the Gold Standard Registry or in the CDM Registry

See our retired credits HERE

Want to contribute to this, and other similar projects? Calculate your carbon footprint and transition to a climate neutral life today!

Vote for the climate!

Many people feel small when it comes to climate issues. “I’m only one person, and the government is just not doing enough!” It is indeed very frustrating that we as individuals can’t just fix the problem completely ourselves. But the idea of democracy is that we actually do have a say in who decides for us, and we can choose those whose priorities are most in line with our own.

Given that in most democratic countries, elections for government only happens every 4-5 years, this is a major opportunity for citizens to vote for the candidate that can do the most good for the climate. Now, of course there are many different issues that are important to us in a presidential election. But make sure to take into consideration what the different candidates’ stance on climate policy is!

Voting is your way to make your voice heard

On November 3rd, 2020, citizens of the USA are allowed to vote for president. Unfortunately, the voter turnout is very low in the US – only 61,4 % compared to 87,2 % in Sweden. There are many different reasons for this, some being restrictions imposed on members of society, but IF YOU CAN, please vote and be the difference!

Politicians need people to vote for them, so they will prioritize issues and stances that they think are relevant to the people that actually turn up to vote. Imagine if only people who work in coal mines would vote – then it would be impossible for a politician to close down any coal mine. Rather, they would have an incentive to make the coal mine as great as possible, to keep the voters happy (assuming that they don’t want any change). When we have both coal miners and environmentalists voting, politicians have a strong incentive to close down the coal mine, but also to support coal miners in transitioning to better jobs, perhaps in renewable energy.

If we could get more environmentalists to vote, we could get more politicians to focus on issues like climate change. This would not eliminate other issues from their agenda, but we want them to focus on what is most urgent and try to find synergies between issues. As an example – if we prioritize air quality and implement measures that will provide cleaner air, people’s health will improve (numbers vary, but studies find that air pollution currently causes over 100 000 premature deaths per year in the US). This will reduce the burden on the health care system, and healthier people are more productive members of society. Win-win!

If you think it is hard to find the right information, NGOs like 350.org and Greenpeace assess politicians (in this case the candidates for the US presidential election) on how well they score on climate issues. This provides good guidance and based on this, you can read more to form your own opinion. You don’t have to agree with everything the NGO stands for to make use of their guidance.

How to know if you can vote in the US: check the US Government’s webpage explaining the requirements. If you can vote, you need to register to do sothe deadline is approx. one month before the election, but it varies by state.

Remember that there is definitely a lot that you can do in between elections as well. You can contact responsible politicians regarding specific issues, sign petitions, or demonstrate. Democracy is not a one time incident, it should be sustained all the time! Your voice has the right to be heard.

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

Best (climate) reads for lazy summer days!

Working hard to stop climate change and making the world a better place is great everyday life. But even heroes need holidays, to recharge the batteries and enjoy the small things around us. Stopping to smell a flower, having a cup of coffee in no rush at all, maybe even turning off the phone. Taking a break from the digital world can be so refreshing! And when you do that, what better way to spend time than with a book? We at GoClimate have a diverse taste in books, but we decided to present some related to climate change.

GoClimate enjoying books!

(Two years ago we did another blog post about this, find it HERE)

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable by Amitav Gosh. The Indian novelist wrote his first non-fictional book in 20 years on the topic of climate change, highlighting the cultural shift that is needed to address this issue. Climate chance is not too unrealistic to be portrayed in popculture anymore.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural Story by Elizabeth Kolbert (US). This book has been very praised for how it narrates the story of the process we are currently living in, and how humans are the protagonists in this.

The Sixth Extinction

What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action by Per Espen Stoknes. This is perhaps the most facts-y book on the list, where the Norwegian Psychologist identifies psychological barriers to climate action, and addresses them with concrete strategies. Now that we know what we know, how do we handle that? He also gave a TED talk on the topic!

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate and On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal by Naomi Klein (Canada). This Changes everything was published in 2016, presenting a strong argument for the links between climate change and the current free market economy. This book has had a monumental impact on the climate movement, and its sequel is explaining how bold climate action can be a blueprint for a just and thriving society.

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast  by Jonathan Safron Foer. This American author has previously produced both fiction and the arguably best book on veganism: Eating Animals. The book is a peculiar and personal take on climate change and our diets, and worth it because the writing and randomly connected thoughts are so poignant.

We are the Weather

Oryx and Crake and The year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (Canada). Known for an extensive body of literature (for example, The Handmaid’s Tale), Atwood is building the Maddaddam Trilogy on a backdrop of climate change. Perhaps more relaxing than the fact-filled books!

Tentacle by Rita Indiana (Dominican Rep). Not all climate books are non-fiction! This is a novel built on Caribbean storytelling, covering climate change, Yoruba rituals, time travel, queer politics, poverty, sex, colonialism and contemporary art. Try something new!

Tentacle

What are you reading this summer? Drop us a comment below!

What is a climate project?

So you already know that when you sign up at GoClimate, you support climate projects through carbon offsetting. But how do these projects actually work?

The main purpose of a climate project is to avoid the emission of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. There are different ways to do this, and the carbon market is constantly evolving with new projects and better methods for measuring emissions reductions.

One way that is easy to measure and easy to understand is therefore projects that produce renewable energy. By creating the kind of energy that does not cause emissions, we give people the opportunity to stop using fossil fuels. For example, when we build wind power in India and connect more people to the electricity grid, they no longer need to use diesel generators or burn charcoal, which is often the case before the project is implemented.

Sidrap Wind Energy Park in Indonesia
Sidrap Wind Energy Project in Indonesia

Some examples of projects that GoClimate have supported which produce renewable energy:

The reason we want to contribute to this in countries like India and Indonesia is that wind power is still too expensive to be built without the income from carbon credits – this is what is meant by additionality. Wind power can produce the same energy in Sweden, but the marginal utility will be higher elsewhere as we avoid combustion of coal and diesel and contribute to raising the standard of living on site.

Another type of climate project is the capture of greenhouse gas emissions that occur in different processes, and converting them into energy instead – so-called biogas projects. The projects often involve installing improved technology so that greenhouse gases from biodegradation of organic matter, for example in landfills or in waste water, are not released into the atmosphere but are contained and converted into energy. Here we immediately avoid the emissions, and do something useful with the energy instead! This is often a bit more expensive than, for example, building wind power, which rank among the cheapest projects.

Landfill Gas to Energy project in Chile
Landfill Gas to Energy Project in Chile

Some examples of biogas projects which GoClimate have supported:

Another type of project aims to improve methods of cooking. A large proportion of the world’s population cook their food over open fire, which leads to deforestation when more and more people need firewood. By offering better equipment, the people responsible for cooking, usually women, do not need to collect as much wood. This saves both trees and time for them, and with the improved equipment it also reduces air pollution and air born particles, which has a positive impact on their health. These projects thus have great potential benefits, but are more difficult to implement because it implies changing behaviors, and then it is more difficult to measure the results. The risk is thus higher, but the benefits can be very significant.

Improved cookstoves being used in Rwanda

GoClimate has financed a few projects of this kind:

Another type of climate project has to do with trees. This can be reforestation of areas that have been deforested, the planting of trees on areas that have not had a forest before, or protection of existing forests. Projects of this kind are incredibly important because the trees bind carbon dioxide from the air, and there are many potential benefits such as increased biodiversity, improved microclimate, etc. Nevertheless, we at GoClimate have chosen not to invest in this kind of climate project. The main reason is that the carbon that is bound in the tree is admittedly absorbed, but it is not a permanent storage of carbon dioxide as it, intentionally or unintentionally, can be released into the atmosphere again. The lack of permanence and the risks associated with it means that we do not want to offset in this kind of projects.

This is a brief summary of some different types of climate projects, but there are more on the market, and more are being developed at the time of writing. Of course, since the projects are so different, the prices of the projects vary, and there is thus no fixed price for a ton of carbon dioxide. In addition, all projects have administrative costs – if no one designs, administers and supervises the project, there will be no projects and we also could not guarantee the quality of them. But that’s why we exist – to do part of the job for you who want to save the climate by offsetting emissions. Part of the cost also goes to the certification, to ensure the quality of the project. In this way we avoid projects that don’t make positive impacts, and protect ourselves from corruption and inefficiency.

Does this sound like something you want to be a part of an contribute to? Sign up here for a carbon neutral life!

Further questions? Please leave a comment!

GoClimateNeutral becomes GoClimate!

GoClimate logo

GoClimateNeutral started out as a small side project with a big ambition, that took place as soon as the kids had fallen asleep, on weekends and holidays from regular jobs. Ideas saved as phone notes, lots of pitching to friends, and slowly putting the pieces together. Can we build a company offering a simple solution that makes a significant difference for the climate? 

Three years later, the answer is clearly yes! We are currently 4500+ members, seven employees, and some 200+ companies on board who have together avoided the emission of 333,836 tonnes of CO2 – that’s so cool! 

We are working hard to continuously improve the service, to make even more difference for the climate. As part of this, we have decided to change our name! We are dropping the “Neutral” to become GoClimate – a name we felt is more powerful and straightforward. Also because over time, we will need to do more than just become neutral – and our capacity to go beyond that is also growing. 

This is the next step in our improvement process – we have already launched the updated version of the carbon footprint calculator, and we have more exciting things for you in the pipeline. All through, the service we provide remains the same – the monthly subscription is not changing, and the projects we invest in on your behalf are of the same star quality. We have expanded our work with companies and their offsetting, which gives a higher margin than what we charge from individual members. Thanks to that, we get more space to grow. 

So, join GoClimate to be part of this journey! We can stop climate change, and we need to do so together!

Methodology behind the carbon footprint calculator

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.

Go to our main page to try the calculator for yourself – and compare your result to your national average!

Emissions from different ways to travel

travel emissions from different types of travel

Have you wondered what the climate footprint are for different ways to travel? How big is the difference between flying and taking the train? Now you can use our new travel emissions calculator to see the different emissions from different modes of transportation.

You can easily see that climate emissions from flying and petrol and diesel cars are a lot higher than going the same trip by train or an electric car. The difference between flying and train is quite mad when you start thinking of it.

When you have calculated the travel emissions, please register to offset your emissions as well!

I WORE THE SAME DRESS FOR 31 DAYS STRAIGHT

i wore the same dress for a month

I came across “National Simplicity Day” which is all about simplifying your life, whether it’s decluttering your home or using your electronics less.

I saw this as a great opportunity to challenge my outlook on fashion.

I chose to wear one single dress for 30 days straight.

The dress is one of my favourite items – an organic dress from natural fibers that I got second hand from a clothing rental company that was selling off their old clothes to make space for new ones. So this dress has been pre-loved by many others before me.

Just imagine, not getting to or having to spend a single second for a month about what to wear!


30 days has passed, and I even wore the dress on day 31 because I wanted to.

But here’s my thoughts throughout and after this experience.

Oh but first. Yes, I washed the dress during this month. A few times. I have gotten this question so many times, so thought I’d put it here before getting started so you don’t have to read this thinking I walked around smelling bad for a month. Although it is worth mentioning that because the dress is made from natural fibers, airing it out worked perfectly fine the majority of the time.

You can read more on how to take better take care of your clothes so they last longer here:

HOW TO MAKE YOUR CLOTHES LAST LONGER

The Dress

WHY DID I DO THE CHALLENGE?

I personally quit fast fashion several years ago, moved to sustainable and ethical brands. But I realized after a while that it was still using virgin materials in most cases, and that’s when I decided to quit new fashion as well.

Second hand and upcycled clothing are very easy to find these days when you live in larger cities and through thrifting apps or websites.

So I started buying more clothing than ever before. Because it’s thrifted, so I can get as much as possible without any impact, right?

Well, not really true.

I realized I need to go back to my minimalist approach to fashion.


DAY 1

I noticed a change in my behaviour on the first evening. When it was time to go to bed, I hung the dress up instead of throwing it on the ground as I normally do. I felt I had gained a different kind of respect for the item, knowing how important it would be to me the following 29 days.


Things I’ve done in the dress

Worked

Travelled to Stockholm

Travelled to Läckö Castle

Gone on a date

Gone on a second date with the same person, wearing the same dress both times 

Been interviewed on Live TV

On live TV on the Norwegian show God Sommer Norge on TV2

CHALLENGES

I’m not gonna lie.

This wasn’t challenging for me at all.

I only experienced positive things during this month and I’d do it again.

As for weather conditions, I was lucky to not have a pretty stable weather throughout the month, but during colder days or evening I’d jump into a pair of stockings and put a turtleneck under the dress and if needed, a jacket on top.

I think that one of the things that made this challenge so easy was that I chose a garment that I already used a lot and knew that I loved and always felt good in. And that’s how I want all of my wardrobe to be like. Knowing that no matter what I put on, I feel great.

Having fewer items, but where all of them make me feel great when wearing.


WANT TO DO THE SAME CHALLENGE? HERE ARE MY TIPS

  • Choose an item you already wear often and that you always feel great wearing
  • Try to pick an item made from natural fibers

You can read more about natural and synthetic fibers here:

  • Since you’ll be washing the garment in the evening and let air dry during the night, try to opt for one that dries relatively fast
  • You can always mix up the look with the help of accessories and different hair- and makeup styles
  • Tell people about the challenge and why. Not only might it make you feel more comfortable seeing your coworkers or class mates every day wearing the same thing (chances are most people won’t even notice) but it also brings awareness to the cause
  • It doesn’t have to be a dress. It could be a pair of trousers, a blouse or other
  • Looser fit makes it less likely to get the item smelly from arm sweat (cause even with deodorant, it can happen)

For more posts about Fast Fashion check these out:

WHAT IS FAST FASHION?

PLASTIC CLOTHING – Pros, cons and how to deal with micro plastic pollution

CLOTHING: Which materials are the best and worst? – A sustainable fashion material guide

NOT BUYING NEW CLOTHES? Here’s what you can do instead

HOW TO SHOP SUSTAINABLY – When you are living a very busy life


This post was written by our blogger Evelina Utterdahl. You can read more about her here