How To Calculate the Carbon Footprint of a Product (Calculator)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Carbon Offsets Credits | March 15, 2024

Scientist holds a calculator and wonders how to calculate the carbon footprint of a product while various products circle in her thoughts with the question on how to calculate carbon footprint of a product and its emissions scope and lifecycle.

Production industries account for a large portion of carbon emissions, and the more you buy, the higher your personal carbon footprint…but some products have lower cost to the planet than others, and knowing how to calculate the carbon footprint of a product can help you manage your emissions. 

It’s no secret that the higher a person’s income, the more emissions they’re responsible for. Recent studies indicate that the top 10 percent of the wealthiest people in the world are responsible for nearly half of all carbon emissions, and the top one percent (the richest) generate about one fourth of the planet’s emissions

Part of those emissions are generated by traveling and purchasing.

For example, a lot happens in a product’s life cycle, from obtaining the raw materials, to the final packaging and shipping.Check out this calculator that measures the carbon footprint of paper:

By knowing and understanding how to calculate the carbon footprint of a product, you can make informed decisions about where and what products to buy that will lower your personal carbon footprint.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of a Product and Why Is It Important?

As companies begin to measure their carbon footprints and find effective ways to offset their emissions, knowing the carbon footprint of a product has become more mainstream.

Besides directly releasing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, businesses must also account for their products’ carbon footprint (PCF).

PCF is the number of emissions caused by one product through its life cycle.7

The company tracks the environmental impact of all the stages in the product’s existence, from the raw materials, creation, shipping, storage, use, and finally, waste disposal, and the results are in CO2 per product per kg.

Graph shwing the carbon footprint of consumption for some products, such as imported flowers, toilet paper, plastic water bottles and others.

Measuring this helps the company identify emission hot spots and know how best to tackle them. It also keeps the customers informed about what it means to purchase and use the product.

How To Calculate Carbon Footprint of a Product at Various Stages: Product Lifecycle

Buying a product for personal use or any other reason impacts the environment.

Clients and manufacturers share the blame for the effect caused by producing and purchasing items. A product undergoes certain stages in its life, and each is responsible for CO2 emissions.

Graphic that shows the Products Life Cycle that includes raw material extraction, manufacturing production, transportation, utilization reuse, and disposal and recycle on green images.

The following stages are vital when calculating your company’s PCF.

Phase 1 (Raw Materials Acquistion)

The first stage of product creation is gathering raw materials, and it is the initial step in measuring a product’s carbon footprint. You must determine how many raw materials you need and the emissions caused by transporting them to the industry or warehouse.

Phase 2 (Production and Assembly)

This step is one of the heaviest carbon emitters from companies. Industries are rated as the top pollutants since they release billions of tons of GHGs into the atmosphere.

Phase 3 (Transportation and Shipping)

The products must ship to the consumer immediately after production for direct sales or through retailers.

Therefore, the company must also account for the fuel emissions depending on the shipping mode and the distance.

Phase 4 (Usage)

The product will finally reach the consumer after purchase, and opening the package and consuming the goods means more carbon emissions, depending on the product.

For example, a t-shirt will be washed during it’s usage, which contributes to the carbon footprint. Likewise, a gas powered lawnmower will generate emissions during its use as well.

Phase 5 (Disposal and Recycling)

When the consumer throws away the packaging or burns it in an open pit, it directly releases greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, making it a source of outdoor air pollution.

When rubbish is collected and placed in landfills, the resulting methane release is even more harmful to the atmosphere.

How To Calculate the Carbon Footprint of a Product: Carbon Footprint Calculator

Knowing how to calculate the carbon footprint of a product manually is a handy skill, but the simplest way to go about it is by using carbon ecological footprint calculators.

They are extensive and provide accurate results as long as you give correct and sufficient details.

You can calculate your company’s carbon footprint at each production stage, from the raw materials, accounting for the extraction methods, to delivery, accounting for the fuel consumption.

You can also calculate the GHGs caused by your manufacturing activities, which is usually the highest measure out of other company activities.

After product creation, the next aspect to account for is the transportation methods since it means burning fuel in vehicles or shipping across countries.

How To Calculate Carbon Footprint of a Product Manually

One of the best aspects of calculating a company’s carbon footprint is that the company records most of the details you enter, making the process cheap and fast.

While you can use online software to find the product’s carbon footprint, you can also make manual computations.

All you need is to collect the data to analyze and multiply it with the activity’s emission factor.

Input per ton x emission factor = carbon footprint in kg of CO2 per ton

If you want to avoid all the manual computing, you can hire third-party consultants to audit the carbon emissions or use online carbon footprint calculators.

How To Measure Carbon Footprint of a Company: Steps To Take

Conducting a carbon footprint audit helps tackle the climate crisis by helping the organization check on emission hotspots throughout the production chain.8 Companies worldwide analyze and report their footprints to stakeholders and use the results to make more sustainable choices.

The following are the three main steps to measure your business’s carbon footprint.

  • Step 1 (Data Collection)

You start with compiling data from the last 12 months regarding electricity, gas use, water supply, fuel company vehicles use, air travel details, and waste disposal or recycling.6 The key is to collect accurate information to obtain better results.

  • Step 2 (Data Conversion)

With detailed and accurate data, the next step is to convert your findings using an emission factor, a value that alters records from the activities to measures of carbon emissions.

GHG emissions= Data Collected x Emission Factor

Alternatively, it is easier to use a business carbon footprint calculator online, which is faster and more effective. You can find free sites online, but most specialize in computing individual carbon footprints.

There are various methodologies, but you can opt for one that applies to your company. You can use a simple spreadsheet or an international standard based on your data type and intentions with the results.3

How Does the Carbon Footprint Calculator for Students Work?

The world changes when kids and youth are involved in climate change justice, and various international footprint calculators do the job perfectly.9

They give online questionnaires in four parts: food, personal purchases, household energy use, and transport.

While basic versions apply to kids in middle school aged 10-13, secondary and college students can use the advanced options. Luckily, carbon footprint calculator for students is free and ideal for any curriculum for teachers to join in too.

Educators can open up discussions with learners about daily activities that are heavy carbon emitters, like consuming meat and dairy products, and why eating local food is ideal.

They can also explain the essence of reforestation, types of greenhouse gasses, how they work, and how much making small daily efforts contributes to climate justice.

How To Calculate Carbon Footprint of a Company Using Carbon Footprint Calculators

If you are planning to take a step to reduce your company’s carbon emissions, the first thing is to measure the footprint and use the data to plan your way forward. The simplest way to do this is to enter details on a business carbon footprint calculator to estimate your GHG emissions accurately.

If you are using the calculator for the first time and don’t know how to calculate the carbon footprint of a product using it, it only takes a few steps. First, you enter your business type and industry, then the number of employees and their transportation mode.

You can also compile details about the number of facilities used in the company, their square footage, and whether they have LEED certification. Some calculators also allow for cost options and operational expenses like labor and materials.

The best part of using online calculators is that companies usually have all the data needed, making the process cost-friendly.

Also, remember to use a comprehensive, updated calculator that can measure various companies’ footprints regardless of industry.

Business and Company Carbon Footprint Calculator

Product Carbon Footprint Database for Scope 3 GHG Inventories

You can find various sources online if you seek more information about the data for a product’s life cycle and the inventories of scope 3 greenhouse gasses.2

When you click on a particular database, you can receive all the content you need about corporate value chains of the scope besides the life cycle.

However, note that some pieces of information don’t meet the GHG protocol, and it helps to review the report first to check that the details are transparent and complete. Below are some sources you can use:

  • Athena Institute
  • 3EID
  • Bath Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE)
  • Biomass Environmental Assessment Tool (BEAT)
  • Carnegie Mellon
  • Defra
  • CEDA
  • E3IOT
  • ELCD

There are more such databases, and the upside of these sources is that you can utilize them directly as an inventory professional, and users can go to their website for more details.

Calculating Your Carbon Footprint Worksheet: How To Calculate Individual Emissions

The most significant percentage of carbon emissions comes from human activities. Many believe that companies are mostly to blame for global warming, but everyone’s daily activities account for most GHGs.

If you want to measure your carbon footprint but are uncertain where to start, it is easier to follow online worksheets.10

Generally, calculating personal carbon footprint involves entering some crucial details.

For instance, worksheets ask for your home energy use, where you determine how much carbon you and your family emit by using electricity, propane, fuel, and natural gas.

Graph showing the carbon footprint of food, most common types of meats and veggies.

You can tally the total amount in pounds per year, and secondly, the system seeks the emissions due to transportation. The calculator measures the level of emissions caused by vehicle or air travel.

You will also enter other aspects of your lifestyle that contribute to releasing harmful gasses, like the type of food you eat.

Features of the Best Carbon Footprint Calculator: The Product Carbon Footprint Calculator

You may not know how to calculate the carbon footprint of a product, company, or household, and even when you want to start. Also, it may be hard for you to choose the best online site.5

This is because each is uniquely designed for various users, and you may want to know the best qualities to look out for.

The WWF footprint calculator is the ideal platform if you live in the UK. It is user-friendly since instead of prompting you to provide exact numbers, it offers multiple-choice options to pick.1

The data is from the national statistics office, and you can compare the findings with the government’s targets.

On the other hand, a personal carbon footprint calculator offers a comprehensive overview of your lifestyle, from your transport mode to electricity usage and how much you spend on clothing and leisure activities.

Your best bet should be a detailed, flexible, and accurate calculator with up-to-date analysis.

Product Carbon Footprint Standards

For the world to achieve its climate targets, there should be steps in the right direction, and one way to ensure this entails stakeholders devising strict standards.

Various methodologies measure products’ carbon footprints, and each applies to particular groups no matter how much experts try to blend them.

A PCF (Product carbon footprint) accurately accounts for GHG emissions from services and goods.11 Most companies audit their product carbon footprints to connect with their clients and suppliers, improve their reputation, and meet the laid-out PCF standards.


The standards usually take two forms: while group 1 deals with emissions directly affecting the climate, group 2 has a comprehensive approach to cover general environmental issues.4

These standards are practical for companies since they ensure that companies are transparent while quantifying their carbon footprints.

How To Use Carbon Footprint Calculator for Kids

Grasping concepts at tender ages means the brain can store the information for a lifetime. What better way to teach children about the environment than by introducing them to carbon footprint calculators?

Raising a whole eco-conscious generation is easier if they understand that all their actions can impact the entire planet.

Kids’ calculators are special to be simple, fun, and interactive for them to participate actively. Teachers and parents can also get involved and help them make specific lifestyle changes to help reverse the climate crisis.

Embodied Carbon Database: The ICE Database

Embodied carbon refers to all the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from building projects.

It involves construction, transporting, manufacturing, extraction, building installation, and all the related aspects until the same materials cause the final emissions.

This carbon arises from the use of embodied energy in products.12 Typically, it is from the cradle gate (factory), cradle site (use), and finally, the cradle to the grave (end). Therefore, embodied carbon is how much emissions result from producing a material.

You can find the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE database) to find information for free access by professionals worldwide. It features more than 200 materials summarized into about 30 main material classifications

Embodied Carbon of Construction Materials List: List of Common Construction Materials and Their Carbon Footprints

Humans construct buildings for their homes, workplaces, businesses, and places of worship but one aspect many seem to ignore is how the materials used contribute to environmental pollution.

Different building materials emit certain emissions levels, and the following is an overview of some common types.13

  • Softwood timber- comes from gymnosperm trees like pines and has an embodied carbon footprint of 110 kg per cubic meter.
  • Steel- very affordable, flexible, and firm but has one of the highest carbon footprints of 12 090 kg.
  • Stone- is one of the pioneer building materials preferred for its durability. Its embodied carbon footprint is 237 kg per cubic meter.
  • Clay brick- easy to create and highly resistant with a 345 kg carbon footprint.
  • Glass is a common building material but features a relatively high embodied carbon footprint of 3600 kg/ m3.

How Emissions Database Helps in Carbon Footprint Management

Emission inventories are critical for governments to identify the sources and pollution levels to devise future regulatory measures. These databases are crucial in developing models to estimate the environmental impact and determine amicable solutions thanks to monitoring trends.

You can find details about emissions from the National Emissions Inventory, which gives a comprehensive database based on various pollutants within particular regions.

Experts develop such inventories after constant monitoring of emission sources, extrapolation of short-term effects, and computation with emission factors.

CO2 Emissions By Material: Carbon Emissions of Common Building Products

The following table represents the carbon emissions from some common materials in metric tons.

Material Carbon emission (Billion metric tons)
Iron and steel 3.7
Cement 2.9
Plastic and rubber 1.4
Wood 0.9
Aluminum 0.6
Other metals 0.5
Glass 0.4

Chart that shows the carbon emissions of common building products on a bar graph with carbon emissions in billion metric tons on the x axis and iron and steel, cement, plastic and rubber, wood, aluminum, other metals, and glass on the y axis.

If you own a business but want to ensure that you have the most negligible impact on the environment, you should first know how to calculate the carbon footprint of a product. Many companies focus more on their direct emissions, forgetting that products account for a percentage of the GHG.

You can consider all the product life stages and how much emissions come from each, from the raw materials and production to the shipping and usage. With a clear picture, it becomes simpler to make adjustments to help reduce the GHGs.

The process may seem daunting initially, but everything is straightforward thanks to product carbon footprint calculator online.

You can also use simple calculations to make manual computations, although website software is more convenient for users.

Knowing how to calculate the carbon footprint of a product can help you efficiently manage your carbon footprint.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Calculate the Carbon Footprint of a Product

What Was the Carbon Footprint of COP26?

The October 2021 COP26 was responsible for around 102 500 tCO2e, meaning that it emitted almost thrice the amount from Glasgow Airport in the previous year. The high emissions were from business travel for all the delegates before the event and the water, energy, and other aspects of accommodation.

The COP26 carbon footprint was a record high, unlike the previous year’s emissions. For instance, the COP25 emissions reached only 51 101 tCO2e and the COP15 recorded about 26 000, while the Paris COP21’s footprint was 43 000.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Milk?

Several factors determine the carbon footprint of milk since it is a dairy product, and you must account for the land, water, feeds, and cow emissions. Therefore, the level will vary based on the region.

While the emissions are usually equivalent to 2.4 kg CO2e per kg, the footprint in the US and Europe stands at around 7.5 kg per kg of milk, while the rate in Africa is 1.5 kg CO2e.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of a Single Ethereum NFT Transaction?

Calculating the carbon footprint of blockchains can be tasking, but most of the impact comes from power use. Transacting in Ethereum is usually intensive and often leads to high energy usage.

The entire process can generate about 146.42 kg of carbon, while a single exchange is responsible for 33.4 kilograms. However, these values vary for each user due to the nature of the process.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of the Internet?

The internet is worldwide, and most people have at least one gadget for surfing. Calculating the carbon footprint of the internet means factoring in electricity and gadget use, eventually leading to a massive count. Experts state that the internet generates approximately 3.7% of global emissions, equivalent to the emissions from all air traffic worldwide.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Building Materials and How To Calculate The Carbon Footprint of a Product During Construction?

Calculating the carbon footprint of building materials equates to estimating the footprints of construction products. The emission level usually depends on the materials used and the construction size.

According to the World Green Building Council, the building industry emits approximately 39% of the total emissions worldwide. Generally, the total footprint can reach 14 000 tons for a 420 sqm project.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Data Centers?

Unlike other sectors, data centers are typically power-hungry, explaining why they generate excessive emissions. The carbon footprint of data centers is responsible for about 3% of the worldwide GHG, a value almost similar to the levels the global airline industries emit.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Wind Turbine Construction?

Unlike alternatives like coal, wind energy has one of the lowest carbon footprints. If you account for the total carbon emissions from a wind turbine and divide it by the electricity it produces, you will get about 6g of CO2 per kWh. The carbon footprint of wind turbine construction accounts for only 11 g of GHG emissions, and most carbon footprint comes from raw construction materials.


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