Calculating your carbon footprint - a how-to guide

In case you weren’t aware, there is quite a lot of discussion about the current climate emergency we are facing. Earlier this year, a group of like-minded Badgers started ‘Green Badger’, an open forum and action group where we could discuss climate change related issues and think of ways to use our skills to contribute to the goal of reducing carbon emissions.

One of our first steps was to calculate our carbon footprint. Knowing what impact you currently have on the environment is key to being able to take effective action. What we learned was that this can be a very complicated and involved process, with little documentation being available for us to base our calculations on. So with that in mind, have a read of this guide on how you can calculate your company’s Carbon Footprint, and what challenges you might face.

Step 1 - Understanding Emission Scopes

 

 

Carbon Emissions can get a bit confusing. There’s a lot of data to get your head around. Something that helped us understand carbon footprints better was learning there are different types of emissions.

Emissions are categorised into three different scopes:

  • Scope 1 - Direct Emissions. These are emissions that you or your organisation are directly putting into the atmosphere. For example, a power plant would release fumes into the air when producing energy.
  • Scope 2 - Indirect Emissions from the purchase of energy. These are emissions caused by your organisation using purchased energy from an energy supplier e.g. Gas, Electric.
  • Scope 3 - Indirect Emissions from business actions & suppliers. These are emissions caused indirectly by any suppliers your organisation uses e.g. regular deliveries of stationery, food etc.

Step 2 - Gather your Data

Once you’ve got your head around scopes, it’s time to gather all the data you can about your company’s activity. Some are easier to gather than others, as I discovered whilst trying to discover what type of refrigerant our air-con units use...

For our calculation we needed to know:

  • Air Travel (Business) - Scope 3, tracked by our HR platform
  • Travel (Commuting) - Scope 3, gathered via a company wide survey
  • Travel (Conference/Training) - Scope 3, tracked by our HR platform
  • Energy Usage - Scope 2, provided by the building manager
  • Refrigerants (chemicals used in cooling systems such as air conditioning or fridges) - Scope 1, this information can usually be found in appliance manuals
  • Water Usage - Scope 2, estimated value as this info was unavailable

You’ll want to add to the above list based on what your company does. For example, if your company has a fleet of delivery vehicles to distribute a product you produce, you’d need to add in data for the fuel used by the vehicles, as well as the energy used in production.

Step 3 - Convert To CO2-e

Great, now you have all this information ready to go, you need to convert it all into CO2-e. This is what we measure a carbon footprint in. Fortunately, there’s a number of free to use calculators that make this conversion a breeze (through an off-shore wind farm).

For Energy, Heating and Refrigerants, use the Carbon Trust’s calculator

For employee commutes, use Map My Emissions

For air travel, use Shame Plane

For anything else, the UK government provides detailed conversions for just about anything you can think of

Step 4 - Get Your Results

carbon footprint

You’ll probably want to store all this data in a spreadsheet. It’s as simple as totalling up all your conversions. Whatever they add up to is your carbon footprint. Red Badger’s Footprint for 2019 was 86.7 tCO2-e!

Step 5 - Get Carbon Neutral!

 

Illustration of a tree with each bush containing a fact about Red Badgers carbon emissions.

 

So you know your carbon footprint! Now what?

Why not set the goal of becoming Carbon Neutral? Carbon Neutral means that for all the carbon emissions you produce, you also offset them in some way. There’s a few options as to how you can do this, with a number of services available. Take a look at ClimateCare, #TeamTrees or Carbon Footprint

Step 6 - Reduce, Reduce, Reduce!

Offsetting is just the first step here. Realistically, the benefits you hope to get from carbon offsetting schemes don’t take immediate effect. In Red Badger’s case, if we planted our 4250 trees, it’d still be nearly 20 years before they were able to take substantial amounts of carbon out of the air. In that time we’d already have done 20 times the damage and would need to plant even more trees, by which point it may be too late.

The longer-term goal would be to make your company more sustainable, aiming to reduce your annual emissions and waste in the future. Identify what the biggest contributors are to your footprint and try to mitigate them. For example, Red Badger’s footprint comes mostly from travel, so we’d aim to reduce the amount of travel the average Badger has to do throughout the year.

What did we learn?

  • The bulk of our emissions come from travel, highlighting how damaging air travel is.
  • Documentation on this process is so useful. If it doesn’t exist, write it yourself! There are so many mini-challenges you could end up dealing with. Why not make it easier for the next person taking on this task?
  • It was hard to find comparisons with other similar sized companies. Hopefully, taking accountability for your company’s environmental impact and publicising what it is becomes more commonplace within the next few years.

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