How can I calculate my carbon footprint

Now calculate your carbon footprint in 3 steps

Every activity leaves “footprints” in climate change. This assumption is the basis for the climate footprint, also known as carbon footprint or CO2 footprint. You too can use the CO2 footprint as a measure of the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused by your activities or arising over the life stages of your products. In order to cover all facets of climate impact, all other greenhouse gases or additional factors are included in the calculations and converted into their global warming potential.

As an evaluation method for climate protection aspects of products, processes or entire organizations, the CO2 footprint is becoming more and more popular worldwide and is increasingly becoming the norm for the representation of climate impact.

The problem: There is still no fixed standardization and hardly any instructions on how a satisfactory CO2 footprint can be calculated. My example calculation shows you step by step how to proceed effectively here.

How to calculate the global warming potential of different gases

The global warming potential is a measure of the contribution of an emission to the greenhouse effect. It indicates how much a certain amount of greenhouse gas is contributing to global warming. Carbon dioxide is used as a comparison value; The CO2 equivalent of the gas is calculated. The abbreviation is CO2e (e for equivalent).

These are the greenhouse gas potentials of the most popular greenhouse gases:

The total global warming potential is then calculated by multiplying the amount of gas by the CO2 equivalents.

Example: 4 tons of methane have the global warming potential of 84 tons of CO2e (4 t x 21 CO2e = 84 t CO2e).

Use officially available emission factors for easy calculation

However, if you want to determine the carbon footprint of one of your products or processes yourself, you do not have to record all direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. This would be far too time-consuming for most companies. It is easier to use the existing calculations of of fi cial emission factors.

Example: Global warming potential of a teaspoon

The principle is simple: if you z. B. use 17 g of stainless steel sheet and 0.3 kWh of electricity to make a teaspoon made of stainless steel. B. the ProBas database of the Federal Environment Agency determine the global warming potential (

It is not necessary to consider all preliminary stages. You can fi nd this data in the ProBas database, in the process details under tab 3: “Environmental aspects”, section “Air emissions”.

Electricity: If you e.g. For example, if you purchase pure electricity from hydropower through your electricity provider, the global warming potential is 5,703 kg CO2e / TJ; if you use the German electricity mix, it is already 145,313 kg CO2e / TJ. The conversion from TJ (Terajoule) to kWh is done by dividing the value by 277,777.78. Electricity from hydropower then causes 20.5 g CO2e / kWh, the German electricity mix 523 g CO2e / kWh.

Stainless steel: The production of stainless steel, including the upstream chain, causes a global warming potential of 4,529 kg CO2e / ton, i.e. 4.529 kg CO2e / kg.

Calculation of the CO2 footprint for the teaspoon

  • Stainless steel: 0.077 kg CO2e (0.017 kg x 4.529 kg CO2e / kg)
  • Electricity (German electricity mix): 0.157 kg CO2e (0.3 kWh x 0.523 kg CO2e / kWh)
  • Electricity (hydropower): 0.006 kg CO2e (0.3 kWh x 0.0205 kg CO2e / kWh)

The CO2 footprint of the teaspoon when using electricity from a German electricity mix is ​​234 g CO2e. Using electricity from hydropower could reduce the CO2 footprint to 78 g CO2, which is 67%.

This simple example already shows the procedure for determining the CO2 footprint.

Always proceed in 3 steps

  1. Determine the amounts of material and energy that are used in production or in the process. A clear attribution to the process or the product is imperative in order to get an unadulterated result. This is easier with the use of materials; with the use of energy, additional electricity or quantity meters may be required.
  2. Determine the global warming potential of the materials and energy used. You can obtain a remarkable range of these, uncomplicated and free of charge from the ProBas database. The values ​​for transports or waste can also be taken from the database.
  3. Use these values ​​to calculate the carbon footprint, as shown in the example.

Also interesting: Immission control officer - these are your tasks, rights and obligations

Author: Christian Schweizer

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