How To Calculate Carbon Footprint Manually: How Carbon Calculators Work

Carbon emissions scientist shows how to calculate carbon footprint manually while pointing to a calculator and holding a book of CO2 footprint amounts while a woman in the background tries to measure her literal footprint.

In recent years, both individuals and companies have been learning how to calculate carbon footprint manually.

Many online calculators make this easier, but knowing the parts of your lifestyle or workplace that have the most impact on the emissions you generate can help you reduce them.

Just, what is a carbon footprint? The term is used to indicate impact you have on the planet.

In fact, if you know how to calculate carbon footprint manually, you can make huge emissions reductions without changing a whole lot. And, the remaining emissions can be offset using tree planting programs, like a hipster lifestyle carbon footprint, that erase the unavoidable greenhouse gases you create.

This complete guide breaks down how to calculate carbon footprint manually, and how those measurements have changed over the years.

Carbon Footprint Assessment: Why Is It Important To Know How To Calculate Carbon Footprint Manually?

Your total carbon footprint measures how much greenhouse gas and ecological cost you generate by performing certain activities of everyday life.8 Measuring individual carbon footprint involves any task you do every day, from the food you eat to your preferred transportation.

The measurement of the carbon footprint calculation is done using these amounts. And the things that impact it the most are where you live and how wealthy you are.

You can also estimate a company or business’s total greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing stages until the product reaches the consumer. Footprints are usually annual tallies, but some corporations give theirs based on each product.

The same applies to a service based business.

When you understand how to calculate the carbon footprint manually, you will notice that the basic measurement unit is in carbon dioxide equivalent, metric tons (CO2e). Despite carbon forming the most significant part of GHG, other gasses like nitrous oxide and methane are also included.4

What Is a Person’s Average Carbon Footprint?

When dividing the number of people on the planet but the amount of emissions generated each year, the average person’s carbon footprint is 7 tons a year.

But, this amount can vary based on a number of factors, not the least of which is wealth.

Billionaires are responsible for a million times more greenhouse gas emissions than the average person. Research by Oxfam, the international charity found that the investments of just 125 billionaires emit 393 million metric tons of CO2, which is equal to the yearly emissions of 85 million cars.

Likewise, this same study showed that 10 percent of the world population generates 50 percent of the emissions.

It may seem excessive, but accurate if you put it into perspective, including private flights between continents, purchases, and more.

This range differs not only between individuals but also between countries; for instance, a US citizen’s average footprint is significantly higher than that of a citizen in Malawi. On average, a person in the United States emits up to 16-20 tons each year.

How To Calculate a Carbon Footprint: What Is My Carbon Footprint?

You can learn how to calculate your carbon footprint manually using a number of resources.

The easiest way to manually calculate a carbon footprint is to use a worksheet, but you can also find a manual calculator.

Alternatively, Alexandra Shimo-Barry also invented a formula to help estimate the count at home using the following steps:9,3

  1. Calculate your monthly electricity bill × 105
  2. Calculate your monthly gas × 105
  3. Calculate your monthly oil bill × 113
  4. Multiply your annual car mileage by 0.79
  5. Calculate your number of flights in the last year × 1100 (if less than or equal to 4 hours)
  6. Calculate your number of flights in the previous year × 4,400 (if more than or equivalent to 4 hours)
  7. If you don’t recycle newspaper, add 184
  8. If you don’t recycle aluminum, add 166
  9. Add all the results you find in 1-8 to find your carbon footprint

An ideal count should be anywhere between 6,000 – 15,999 pounds annually; if you find 16,000-22,000, your carbon footprint is average.

This process can simplify the manual calculation, but if you want to be very accurate when learning how to calculate carbon footprint manually, then you’ll need to pinpoint all the elements that create the carbon footprint, these include:

  • Where you live
  • Your expendable income
  • The size of your home
  • The type of electricity you use
  • Whether or not you have a pet (you can get a pets carbon offset)
  • Your diet (the carbon footprint of food)
  • Your employment
  • Your spending habits (every single item you buy)
  • The amount you spend on services (like beauty shop appointments or Netflix)

Each of these, and other habits, contribute to the overall footprint you have.

How Does Carbon Footprint Calculator for Kids Work? How To Calculate Carbon Footprint Manually for Kids

Kids should also know that everything they do impacts the environment and learn how to calculate their carbon emissions.

Carbon footprint calculators for kids are simplified and fun for them to understand what they are doing. The questionnaires on the software are straightforward and use simple language; all they need is to enter the relevant data, and the system will generate their total carbon footprint.

How Does Carbon Footprint Calculator for Students Work?

If you are an educator who wants to instill the value of protecting the environment in your students, you can introduce them to a carbon footprint calculator for students. It helps them understand sustainable living and adjust to make their lifestyles kinder to the planet.

Similarly, if you are an eco-conscious student and always want to positively impact the world, you can use the calculator to determine your footprint. You feed the data into the software and let it calculate it.

Carbon Footprint Questionnaire: Questions To Expect on How To Calculate Your Carbon Footprint Manually

Some critical questions about your lifestyle help the carbon ecological footprint calculator generate an accurate figure. Everyone’s carbon footprint is different since routines and preferences vary. Below are the questions to expect from a carbon footprint questionnaire.

  1. Home: Electricity, gas, measures of any other cooking or heating methods
  2. Flight: The distance you covered, how many trips you made, the class (economy, business, first)
  3. Car/ motorbike: Mileage and type of vehicle
  4. Public transport: Mileage of the bus, taxi, subway, coach, or tram
  5. Secondary: How much you spend yearly on education, insurance, hotel, clothes, furniture, hotels, electronics, etc.

How To Measure Carbon Emissions of a Company

Companies conduct their operations in environmentally friendly ways, and the following are the three main steps they take to ensure they check their carbon footprints.

Choose a Calculation Method

There are several ways for a company to measure its carbon footprint, including those from global environmental bodies or state-mandated reporting with more stringent protocols.

Alternatively, some make in-house assessments considering their energy use and other factors.

Chose a Scope

Regardless of the calculation method the company goes for, it is crucial to note the scope first. There must be a boundary for what will feature in the data collection and how to compile the measurements.

There are three main scopes according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.1 First is the highest degree where the emitter fully controls the emission source, whether gas or coal.

The second scope is where the company can control its energy consumption but have no rights to the production, and finally, the last is where there is the least ownership, like employee travel and supply chains.

Seek Assistance

If the company is large or there is no time to handle footprint calculations, other organizations can take over the job, including consultants, NGOs, and EPA. There also exists online software that helps automate the process using a business carbon footprint calculator.

Carbon Footprint Recycling: Impact on Carbon Emissions

Manufacturers cause most greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere due to the nature of the process.10

Industries are huge emitters, right from the product’s design and actualization process, shipping it, and all the stages until it reaches the final consumer.

Four recycling bins in a park.

(Image: imordaf12)

However, recycling materials helps reduce the number of manufactured goods since manufacturers will use fewer raw materials. Otherwise, creating products afresh requires energy and the emission of more carbon.

Recycling is one of the most effective ways to reduce a company’s and individual’s carbon footprint. Instead of manufacturing new products, the industry can use old ones and save costs and carbon emissions.

Travel Carbon Footprint Calculator: Impact of Traveling on Your Carbon Footprint

The travel mode significantly contributes to your total carbon footprint because cars, motorbikes, planes, and other transport methods are substantial carbon emitters.

All calculators include the transport mode, and the questions center around the mileage and other related factors.

For instance, you will enter the mileage and the vehicle’s brand if you travel by car. Similarly, if you travel by plane for work or leisure, you will disclose the total distance covered and the class (business, first class, or economy).

Public transportation also counts and is a heavy contributor to the total footprint since people commute daily for work and school. A lot is involved when considering travel footprint because you have to factor in the manufacturing cost of the mode and its mileage.

Manual vs Automatic Carbon Footprint Calculation

You can use the Alexandra Shimo-Barry formula for carbon footprint calculation or you can use the EPA worksheet that is free, but most prefer faster and more accurate software. While calculating your footprint on each daily task may help with a rough estimate, getting more accurate data, preferably an annual record, is crucial.

Online calculators know the most crucial aspects of daily activities and generate more accurate averages that you can use. The process is also faster, taking minutes, and some sites even include how you can make offsets.

How To Use Carbon Footprint Calculator From Online Sites

Calculators on online sites have unique ways to show you how to calculate your carbon footprint manually by asking some questions about your daily activities. If you give accurate data, the tool will generate the correct figure that you can use to adjust your routine.

You will enter your energy consumption at home, including electric and gas use, and information about your transport modes, including car rides and flights.

Other details like how much you spend on clothes and electronics will also be handy.

How Can You Use and Interpret Individual Carbon Footprint Calculator?

You can use online software or AI that helps you generate your individual or business’s carbon footprint through individual carbon footprint calculator. You only have to enter the data as the calculator requires, and the system will do all the computing for you.

You will disclose all the information about the energy you use at home and your transport modes. You will also factor in other secondaries, like how much you spend on clothes, insurance, and other utilities.

Ideally, the count should be 6,000- 15,999 pounds yearly. If the results are 16,000-22,000, you have an average footprint, but any more than that is excessive, and you may want to consider some lifestyle changes to reduce it.

How To Calculate the Carbon Footprint of a Product: Aspects To Consider

If your business involves manufacturing products and you want to know how to calculate carbon footprint manually, the following are the key areas to consider.

Raw Materials

You should factor in the various materials that constitute a product, how much you need, where they come from, and how you will transport them to your industry or warehouse.

Packaging

How you package the product before presenting it to the consumer also matters, given that you use cover materials depending on the size and nature of the contents. Therefore, you should also consider the package’s size, who supplies them, and whether the material you use is recycled.7

Shipping

Lastly, you have to consider how the customer will receive the product. Unless you produce on a small scale and deliver by bicycle, you will calculate variables.

You will include the product’s weight, the shipping mode (land, sea, or air), and the total distance between you and the consumer or between the customer and the distribution center.

How To Calculate Carbon Footprint of a Building: Steps To Take To Make Calculation Easy

Buildings cause 39% of emissions, and maintenance or renovations contribute to a significant chunk of landfill waste.5

The UN estimates that the city populations will rise by double digits by 2060, meaning people will need twice the space.

Overview of city skyscrapers.

(Image: Tanishka13)

Calculating a building’s carbon footprint may seem daunting, but various software can help when you provide some critical data.11

You can disclose its location, the total area it covers, how much electricity it uses monthly, the primary materials used in construction, and whether it is new, existing, or renovated.

Carbon Footprint Calculator for Business: Where To Start and What You Need

Below is what you need to calculate the carbon footprint of a business.

Note the Business’s Operations

The initial step is identifying the activities that emit GHG in your business, like heating, shipping, sourcing raw materials, and other related aspects.

Also, remember to use the correct measuring system where fuel should be in liters and electricity in kilowatt-hours.2

Data Collection

The next step is to collect the data from the activities you have identified above and remember to include the direct and indirect aspects for which you will need larger datasets. You may ask the suppliers and other parties involved to provide their numbers if uncertain.

Calculation and Interpretation

The final stage is to calculate and interpret your findings. Doing this will help you identify the activities that are heavy emitters that will help you plan the way forward as a business.

You can use AI tools online to help with accurate and quick results or find a consultant.

Carbon Footprint Formula for Electricity: How To Calculate Your Carbon Emission From Using Electricity

The first step is determining your annual electricity usage in your home in Kilowatt hours (KWh).

If you have the data in months, you should convert them to yearly rates by multiplying by 12, the number of months in a year.

While calculators can give you the exact carbon footprint from the information, you can also compute it manually using your country’s emission factor, as the energy provider dictates on the bill.

Take the input value in KWh a year and multiply it by the factor, which is 0.3929 in the US. Given the multiplying factor, your footprint will vary based on how your country measures electricity units.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Common Aspects of Everyday Life?

Some of the common products and services in life have set carbon footprint amounts, but it’s always important to remember that these amounts can vary depending on how much ecological impact is included in the calculation.

For example, if you have an avocado tree at home, that fruit won’t have a footprint from shipping and processing. The same is true for any veggies you grow at home. However, if you spend more than 4 hours on the internet every day, your footprint will be higher than someone who rarely surfs online.

ItemCarbon Footprint
Meat/ Beef36 kg per kg (this amount can vary based on the meat or beef brand)
Avocado0.9 kg per one kilogram
Wine1.2 kg for one bottle
Eggs0.2 kg for one kilogram
Chicken12.27 kg per kilogram
Tofu0.7 kg in ½ cup
Dogs770-2500 kg in one year
Internet3.7% of total global emissions
Wood burning stovesUndefined (burning wood releases almost the same carbon the tree absorbed in its lifetime)
Space travel1-3 tons for each passenger
Lithium-ion battery production150-200 kilograms
Fireworks60,000 metric tons yearly
Polyester6.4 kgs for each 2m2 fabric
TimberUndefined or relatively small since trees are carbon neutral
Steel1.85 tons for each ton produced
Laptop420 kg (manufacturing, shipping, and 4-year usage)
Building materials14 000 tons for 420 m2 area and 56 000 total weight
Data centers3% of total global emissions

Determining and managing an individual or company’s total carbon footprint is a giant step toward achieving countries’ climate goals. It requires commitment from everybody, and even slight lifestyle changes can cumulatively make significant differences.

Your travel mode, the type of food you eat, the clothes you buy, the electronics you use, and several other aspects of daily living determine your annual count. Companies must also consider the raw materials they use, packaging, and shipping type when calculating their carbon footprint.

It may seem complicated to calculate all the direct and indirect emitters, but thankfully, there are guides on how to calculate carbon footprint manually using software in quick, straightforward processes.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Calculate Carbon Footprint Manually

What Is NFT Carbon Footprint?

Although there is no accurate data concerning NFTs, research estimates adding one to a chain uses about 83 kg of carbon.

An average NFT can produce around 211 kg of carbon over its lifespan during creation and purchase and one tree offsets 60 kilograms of carbon, so it may take 3.53 of them to offset the lifespan of one NFT.

What Is the Truck CO2 Emissions Per Km Calculator and How To Calculate Carbon Footprint Manually for a Truck?

If the average trucker drives 120,000 miles yearly, which translates to 400 miles daily, six days weekly, and 50 weeks a year, the average rate is around 6.5 miles for each diesel gallon. Therefore, the average truck’s footprint is approximately 201,834 kg of carbon.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Meat?

Meat has a higher carbon footprint than other food, with a record 3.3 tons of emissions. According to the UN, animal products are responsible for about 14.5% of greenhouse gasses worldwide.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Beef?

If you exclude methane, the carbon emissions from beef are 36 kg per kilogram. This rate is four times the footprint of chicken or 10-100 times the emission from plant-based sources.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Avocado?

The carbon a kilogram of avocado emits is the same as driving a car for 2 miles/ 3.25 kilometers. It takes about 0.9 kg of carbon to make one kilogram/ 2.2 pounds of fruit.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Dogs?

Most of the carbon footprint from dogs comes from the food they eat, and the value varies depending on the size. While an average-sized one creates around 770 kilograms yearly, a more massive dog may emit up to 2,500 kg.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of the Internet?

The internet is responsible for 3.7% of the world’s total emissions, which is equivalent to the amount produced by air traffic worldwide. This figure is also likely to double in a few years.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Wood Burning Stoves?

Burning wood is usually carbon-neutral because trees absorb massive amounts of CO2, and burning releases the same amount into the air. Essentially the carbon goes back into the atmosphere, and the level added is zero.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Space Travel?

Space travel can cause 1-3 tons of emissions for one passenger, yielding 6% of global warming and 0.02% of total black carbon.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Lithium-Ion Battery Production?

Lithium-ion batteries are essential components of electric cars, meaning their production entails heavy carbon emissions, which is more than 200 kilograms.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Wine?

The wine industry is also a heavy emitter such that a single cork captures 309 g of carbon while an average bottle, when full, accounts for 1.2 kilograms.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Fireworks?

The fireworks in the US alone are responsible for over 60 000 metric tons of carbon each year, which is a higher value than the production of 12,000 gas-powered vehicles.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Polyester?

Two square meters of polyester fabric emits about 6.4 kg of carbon, which is the same as driving for 32.5 kilometers.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Timber?

Approximately half of the timber’s weight comprises carbon because each ton produced takes 1.8 tons of CO2 from the air, which stays intact throughout the wood’s lifespan.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Steel?

On average, the carbon emission from steel is around 1.85 tons per ton. Every year, 7-9% of all emissions from fossil fuels are from the manufacture of steel.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of a Laptop?

A laptop’s carbon footprint is approximately 422.5 kilograms, factoring in the manufacturing process, shipping and usage in four years. However, this rate may vary depending on the hours of use and the manufacturer.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Eggs?

A kilogram of protein in free-range eggs produces 0.2 kg of carbon, a value less than the GHG produced by a kilogram of red or white meat.

What Is the Carbon Footprint Chicken?

Chicken emits less carbon than beef and is the cleaner meat option. Its footprint is 12.27 kg per kilogram, which is 6.6 times less than beef.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Tofu?

Tofu’s carbon footprint is 0.70 kgs per half a cup. Its emissions are relatively lower, at 12.5 times less than that of a burger.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Building Materials?

The World Green Building Council estimates that the construction industry emits about 39% of all carbon emissions globally. Roughly, the footprint is 14,000 tons for 420 m2 area and 56,000 total weight.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Data Centers?

Data centers generate massive amounts of GHG and are responsible for 3% of global emissions. This value is almost equal to the emissions from the airline industries in the world.

Read More About How To Calculate Carbon Footprint Manually


References

1Buildings. (2013, March 15). How to Calculate Your Carbon Footprint. Buildings. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://www.buildings.com/smarter-buildings/article/10189039/how-to-calculate-your-carbon-footprint>

2Gençer, G. (2022, January 20). Top 4 Digital Technologies that Improve Corporate Sustainability. AI Multiple. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://research.aimultiple.com/digital-transformation-and-sustainability/>

3Just Energy. (2022, August 10). Calculating your carbon footprint. Just Energy. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://justenergy.com/blog/how-to-calculate-your-carbon-footprint/>

4Mailchimp. (2020, September 8). Everything you need to know about… calculating your carbon footprint. Mailchimp. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://mailchimp.com/courier/article/calculating-your-carbon-footprint>

5Pierson, R. J. (2019, December 18). Calculating Carbon Footprint of Buildings,The EC3 Calculator. Ecohome. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://www.ecohome.net/guides/3477/calculating-the-carbon-footprint-of-buildings-introducing-the-ec3-calculator-from-skanska/>

6The Nature Conservancy. (2022). What is your carbon footprint? The Nature Conservancy. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/>

7Daniel. (2021, June 5). How To Calculate The Carbon Footprint of Your Product. Visonic Dome. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://visonicdome.com/2021/06/05/calculate-product-carbon-footprint/>

8United States Government. (2020, March 19). Greenhouse Gases. US EPA. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/greenhouse-gases>

9Wikipedia.org. (2022). Alexandra Shimo. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandra_Shimo>

10United States Government. (2022, August 5). Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. US EPA. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions>

11National Library of Medicine. (2022, February 18). The Carbon Emission Assessment of a Building with Different Prefabrication Rates in the Construction Stage. NCBI. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8872307/>

12Photo by imordaf. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/images/id-237874/>

13Photo by Tanishka. Pexels. Retrieved from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/aerial-photography-of-city-escape-during-cloudy-day-view-973226/>