The era of carbon awareness has arrived. Everyone wants to be carbon neutral,
or even better, carbon negative. People are flying less, minimising their waste production, recycling, planting trees or offsetting emissions. Businesses are focusing on scopes 1 to 3, hoping to be able to reach their ambitious goals for 2025, 2030 or even 2050. Carbon dioxide - CO2 - is a transparent gas, elusive in its state and in our ability to grasp it. To make it more tangible, Efrat Friedland, founder of materialscout, proposes to take us on a carbon journey.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced by burning carbon and organic compounds, by fermentation and by respiration. It can be naturally found in the air and is absorbed by plants during the process of photosynthesis. As one of the greenhouse gases, a notorious group that also includes fluorinated gases, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), it was cho- sen to be their representative. As a result, the environmental burden is calculated as Xkg equivalent to kilograms of CO2 - in short, the carbon footprint.
Calculating a carbon footprint is no easy task. Companies use the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tool to quantify the environmental impact of their operation. This allows the impacts of a product, process or activity throughout the entire life cycle to be calculated; from the extraction of raw materials through to processing, transport, use and end of life.
LCAs are conducted by experts and tend to be time and cost intensive. This has prompted several start-ups to create easy-to-use, online tools that allow a more simplified calculation of the carbon footprint, including a few that are free of charge. Focusing on household emissions in the US market is the CoolClimate Calculator that includes the four main categories of household consumption. Its UK equivalent, the WWF Footprint Calculator, is considered the most comprehensive and user friendly, offering multiple choice questions. However, it is limited to UK residents. The Business Carbon Calculator is a global calculator, offering SMEs a free online tool to calculate their operational impact. Perhaps the most revolutionary is the calculator developed by Swedish fin- tech company Doconomy. Their 2030 calculator can be used by any product, brand or manufacturer to quickly calculate the carbon footprint of their products. They offer additional corporate and lifestyle calculators, and even a carbon-offsetting credit card that monitors purchases according to their carbon emissions and puts a cap on spending based on the user’s impact on the climate.