The need for urgent action on climate change is clear but there are complex Carbon impacts to every one of the thousands of choices we make in our lives every day. It is all too easy to become bogged down in guilt about not doing enough and confusion about knowing where to focus effort.

There is a lot of what can be called Technological solutionism in climate change policy, it is the idea that “the technology will get us out of this”, but is that really the case? With policy makers meeting later this year for the next round of climate negotiations, we will see many technological solutions proposed but can we really tackle climate change without tackling the less politically palatable issue of reducing consumption – the way we travel, the stuff we buy, the food we eat?

In order to explore this question, at the most recent Climate Action Forum meeting, we focused on Carbon Footprinting. After almost 20 years of helping organisations reduce their environmental impact, the Sustainable Business Partnership’s Shelaine Siepel shared her reasons for returning to Carbon Footprinting as an important early step in anyone’s journey to becoming Carbon neutral or Net Zero.

What is a Carbon Footprint? It is the quantity of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced as a result of activities over a twelve-month period. It can be calculated at the level of the individual, household, organisation, community, country or globally.

It can be calculated simply based on proxies, for example the amount you spend on clothes per month, or it can be done using more in-depth methods. As any organisation trying to get to grips with their Scope 3 emissions to become Net Zero will have learned, this can easily become incredibly complex.

This is why it is vital to prioritise action based on the areas of greatest impact. In the Carbon footprinting event, we looked at the footprint of households in local communities – Kingston, Hamsey, Firle, Seaford, Telscombe and Newhaven using the excellent Community Footprinting Impact Tool developed by Centre for Sustainable Energy in Bristol working with the University of Exeter’s Centre for Energy & the Environment.

The tool was able to show that whilst many people will naturally gravitate towards the technological solutions of solar panels, heat pumps and electric cars, in fact, for an average home in some of these communities, a better place to focus would be reducing meat consumption, flying less and switching to renewable energy.

There are many online tools available to help you calculate your Carbon footprint. Be mindful that many free online calculators are provided by companies whose business plan relies on you then using them to do Carbon offsetting. The calculators are useful but do make sure you look carefully into the pros and cons of Carbon offsetting, which is a discussion for another day.

The thing that makes working out your Carbon footprint really meaningful is when you have a year’s worth of kWh electricity and gas data. Most calculator’s have proxies set up if you don’t have access to your actual energy use data, but it is well worth spending the time doing through the bills if you are able.

If you would like more information on Carbon footprinting, use the ‘contact us’ page to send a message to the Climate Action Forum.  https://climateactionforum.org.uk/contact/

Useful resources

Community:

The Impact tool is free and easy to use https://impact-tool.org.uk/

Household:

WWF https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/#/

Small business / organisation:

Carbon Trust https://www.carbontrust.com/resources/sme-carbon-footprint-calculator

Large business / organisation:

Over a certain size large businesses will already be reporting their emissions under the Streamlined Energy & Carbon Reporting (SECR) regulations https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/academy-trust-financial-management-good-practice-guides/streamlined-energy-and-carbon-reporting