If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, you first need to know how big it is today. You need to know which parts of your footprint are the largest and how large they are in order to shrink it.
It can be extremely hard to know which changes you make that have the biggest impact. Knowing this ensures that you don’t spend most of your time and energy on something that will make a very small difference in relation to your emissions.
That’s why we are creating a series of blog posts showing you how to lower the different parts of an individual’s footprint, with the numbers and comparisons to show you where it might be worth making your changes, as we all have different lifestyles and our carbon footprints are all different.
Step 1 – calculate your carbon footprint
Here are some different tests you can try out. We suggest you try a few of them, as they are all different from each other and will together give a clearer picture of your ecological and carbon footprint.
We’ve exceeded the allowed consumption of natural resources available for us in 2019. And this day occurs sooner every year. In 2018 Earth Overshoot Day took place on August the 1st, while this year it was 3 whole days earlier, on July 29th.
This is the date for when the world had used up its resources, but many countries have their Overshoot Day sooner.
With the rate at which we are using our resources now, we would need 1,75 earths.
If everyone lives as the Americans, we would need 5 earths.
If we all lives as Australians or Swedes, we’d need 4 earths.
By using up our natural resources before they have time to regenerate, we are stealing resources from ourselves, and even more of the children who will grow up in a world where growing food is hard, where fresh drinking water is scarce and where biodiversity is at an alarming low.
There is a campaign called #MoveTheDate started by Global Footprint Network, where we can all give tips or show how we work to Move The Date forward.
What can be done to lower our impact as a whole?
If we would cut CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning in half, Earth Overshoot Day would occur 93 days later.
If we reduced global meat consumption by 50% and replaced these calories through a vegetarian diet, we would move Overshoot Day 15 days
If every other family in the world had one less child, we would move Overshoot Day 30 days by 2050.
If we reduce our Footprint from driving by 50% around the world and assume one-third of car miles are replaced by public transportation and the rest by biking and walking, Earth Overshoot Day would move back 11.5 days.
To know what you as an individual can do to lower your Footprint, it’s best to take one or a few tests to see in which areas there’s room for improvement. You can take a test to calculate your footprint here:
10 things you can do to lower your personal footprint
1. Carbon offset your lifestyle. You can do that here on GoClimate.org
2. Fly less, or much better – don’t fly at all. At least skip the leisure flight trips
3. Skip animal products. Beef is the worst, but the entire animal agriculture industry is one of the most harmful to our planet in more ways than just carbon emissions.
4. Shop less. We buy way too many things these days, which is made by using resources we now need to be extra careful with. And then the shipping across the world has a toll as well. Only buy what you need, and try to get it second hand.
You can get tips on how to shop less newly produced things here:
5. Where does your money go? Most banks fund industries which most people would never knowingly support. Like the fossil fuel industry as well as weapon industry to name a couple. Look over your savings and try to move them to a bank that invest in a brighter and greener future.
6. Sell your car, if you have one. Is it possible for you to walk, cycle or take public transportation to work/school? Then save money and the planet by selling your car. You will then only drive when absolutely necessary and then you can borrow or rent a car. If you can’t get rid of your car, try to fill it when you use it. Try not to drive alone. Do you have any neighbors going the same way? Any colleagues who live one the way to work you could pick up?
7. Live smaller or with more people. A lot of energy goes into warming and/or cooling your home. The more people per square meter, the better. A bonus is that mental health often improves when living with others.
8. Waste less food. While avoiding plastic packaging might be getting more attention when coming to food when trying to live more sustainably – the food wasted has a way bigger impact than the actual packaging. Here’s a post where you can read on some things you can do with your food waste instead of throwing it away: http://www.earthwanderess.com/stop-food-waste/
9. Switch to green energy
10. Use your technology less. The internet requires an immense amount of energy so use it shorter and use it wisely. The tech industry is not sustainable at all, and you can expect some posts about that in more details during August.
We have done some research about the carbon footprint of running cloud, data center and on-premise servers.
Our goal has been to find a way to estimate the carbon footprint from the servers we need to calculate emissions for in our business carbon footprint calculator. We wanted to find a good approximation of the emissions without forcing the business to enter everything about the server-model and kWh-consumption they use in our calculator.
We quickly realized that just requiring the number of servers running is a too rough measurement, often resulting in estimations 5-10x lower or higher then a precise calculation. So we needed to require more parameters from our business users to not be too off in our approximation.
After some experimenting and reading we found that there are two factors that both are fairly easy to find out and also make a big impact on the carbon footprint of servers, if the electricity used is green or not and if the servers are in the cloud or not.
Therefor we divide our calculations of the carbon footprint for servers into four categories. More categories could easily be constructed to achieve more precise estimations, but as stated earlier, our goal was also to make this an as easy as possible thing to find out for the business calculating the footprints.
The four categories we ended up with are:
Cloud server using 100% green electricity
Cloud server using non-green electricity
On premise or data center-server using 100% green electricity
On premise or data center-server using non-green electricity
To find out which category to use, you need to know if the electricity your servers are using is 100% green (or if the electricity not green is being offset in a credible way) and if your servers can be considered running in a cloud.
How do I know if the electricity our servers are using is 100% green?
With green electricity we mean fossil free electricity, so both renewable energy sources and nuclear energy are considered green – and are in our calculations considered having a zero climate impact. This is not 100% true since both renewable sources and nuclear sources have a carbon footprint from construction and maintenance, but the climate impact are negligible in comparison with electricity from fossil sources.
Depending on where your servers are located, there are different ways of finding out if the electricity your servers use is green:
On premise-server – check your electricity contract or contact your electricity-provider
Data center-server – check your contract or contact your provider
Cloud server – this is a bit more tricky. But if you want the short answer per provider:
Google Cloud – 100% green
Microsoft Azure – 100% green
Amazon AWS – Non green electricity for all locations except US West (Oregon), Europe (Frankfurt), Europe (Ireland), GovCloud (US-West), Canada (Central). More locations might appear in the future here: https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/sustainability/
This might sound like an easy question, but there are many local providers that have smaller cloud-like solutions that might be as energy effective and utilize servers as good as the larger ones.
So the question you should ask yourself here – if you are unsure if your servers can be considered being in the cloud or not – is if your provider can utilize servers about as effective as the larger providers and if they can have the same energy efficiency as the larger ones.
The difference between the carbon footprint of servers running in large cloud providers and not can be big. According to the studies we have found on this:
We have decided to apply a simple factor of 0.5 for the energy consumption and server utilization of servers in the cloud. Amazon AWS claims a reduction of 84% in the amount of power required, but since we don’t have data for other providers we prefer to be bit more conservative here.
The energy consumption from manufacturing and use
In our carbon footprint business calculator we have chosen to use data from a standard 2019 R640 Dell server. This is deemed as a high end but not unusual server being bought 2019. An exact server model would give more precise data here, but we decided that it was not reasonable to expect people using our business calculator to know the exact name of the servers if the have been bought by the business, and in the cloud it’s close to impossible to know exactly what hardware model your server is run on anyway.
The server is consuming 1760.3 kWh / year and has a manufacturing climate impact of 320 kg CO2e/year, assuming a four-year life span.
If you are doing a calculation of your own and you know exactly what kind of server you or your provider uses, you should use those numbers instead.
The Four Carbon Footprint categories
We have used the Nordic Residual Energy mix as the factor for CO2e emissions per kWh. The factor is 0,37199 CO2e / kWh (updated 2022). The reason for us using this is that most business using our calculator are expected to be in the Nordics.
So, if we use these number and assumptions from above:
Emissions from production of servers for use on premise: 320 kg CO2e/year
Emissions from production of servers for use in cloud (since 50% is manufactured for use in cloud): 160 kg CO2e/year
Emissions from green power consumption: 0 kg CO2e/year
Emissions from non-green consumption for premise power or self-managed servers: 1760,3 kWh / year * 0,37199 CO2e / kWh = 655 kg CO2e
From non-green cloud power consumption: 1760.3 kWh / year * 0,37199 CO2e / kWh * 0,5 = 327 kg CO2e
This results in these factors four our four categories:
Cloud server using 100% green electricity: 160 kg CO2e / year and server
Cloud server using non-green electricity: 487 kg CO2e / year and server
On premise or data center-server using 100% green electricity: 320 kg CO2e / year and server
On premise or data center-server using non-green electricity: 975 kg CO2e / year and server
Please comment to this post if you have any questions or comments!