Do you know a Carbon bargain?

Published on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 09:22
Posted by Scott Buckler

Even with phrases like 'climate change' and 'carbon footprint' becoming part of everyday language, it's still hard to know what you, as an individual, have got to do with it all. Does it really make a difference if you turn the lights off at home or boil the kettle half full? And if you do all that to reduce your carbon footprint, does that help balance out the impact of your holiday to Barbados?

The Clear about Carbon project have been working with businesses and individuals in Cornwall to assist them in answering these difficult questions.

We've put this tool together to give you a sense of perspective on how much carbon is at stake when you make simple choices; where you travel to, how you get there, whether you buy something and so on. We know you don't need any more lists of things you can do to help save the planet, but this tool is about helping you work out where you can get the best return for your effort. 'Show me the carbon' is based on the concepts and invaluable data provided by Mike Berners-Lee, author of the fascinating book, How bad are bananas? The carbon footprint of everything.

The figures are given in kg of CO2e. That stands for 'carbon dioxide equivalent' and it means the total climate change impact of all the greenhouse gases caused by something (not just the carbon dioxide, but methane, nitrous oxide and refrigerant gases, too).

In each carbon footprint we've tried to include indirect emissions. That means, for example, not only the impact of burning petrol in a car, but the impact of the extraction, processing and transportation of the fuel to the petrol station. That's why our figures for car emissions appear a lot higher than those advertised by manufacturers.

Also, when exploring this tool, don't forget that a carbon footprint is only one way to measure an impact on the planet and its living beings; 'low-carbon' does not necessarily mean that products and processes have no other negative environmental or social impacts. We have tried to indicate how to take these wider impacts into account in our suggested tips.

One final thing to keep in mind is that accurate carbon footprints are hard to measure, unless we have a lot of specific data on a particular product or process. However, this tool is about making the most realistic estimates that are possible, and being honest about uncertainty. It's about helping you focus your attention on the areas that really matter and where you can make a difference.

Paul Holmes, Eden Project
David Morgan, Cornwall Development Company


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