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How to estimate your personal carbon footprint

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"If we can't express what we know in the form of numbers, we really don't know much about it." So said Lord Kelvin, the 19th century mathematician. He may have been wide of the mark on X-rays (which he initially said were a hoax) and aviation (which he considered impossible), but he did have a point about measuring things, and his views on that can readily be applied to carbon emissions today. Without estimating the emissions associated with our activities, we don't really understand how important things are, and what difference we can make. That's true at a national level, but also for you and me. So, that's why ACER is urging everyone to measure their carbon footprint and think about how to reduce it.

The tool we are suggesting is the WWF environmental footprint calculator which can be found at https://footprint.wwf.org.uk or just by searching for 'wwf footprint'. The tool has been developed by WWF with the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York and the University of Leeds.

The tool takes the form of an online multiple-choice questionnaire, each question being accompanied by information on why the item is important, or hints on answering correctly. These notes are worth reading as you work through the questions. The questionnaire is split into four categories – food, home, travel and stuff. This means that the footprint created gives a comprehensive view of an individual's total contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, not just an estimate of direct emissions from energy, which was the basis of some early calculators.

At the end of the questionnaire, you will receive:

  • An estimate of your personal annual greenhouse gas emissions
  • A comparison with the trajectory to zero carbon by 2045
  • A breakdown of your footprint by food, home, travel and stuff, by clicking the 'see full results' button

We strongly recommend clicking 'see full results' as that gives you the opportunity to access tips and hints on reducing your impact in each category, by clicking on the sections of the graphic. Use these tips to take action to cut your footprint.

The questionnaire is easy to complete in just a few minutes and does not need actual data from bills etc. There is a 'methodology' button at the foot of pages where you can access details on what is going on behind the scenes. It is not a particularly sophisticated calculator, but our hope is that it will provide enough insight to stimulate useful discussion in households and provide some pointers on where action can be taken. For a more detailed look at your carbon footprint, contact ACER through the website or e-mail and we'll talk through the options.

Good luck with your footprinting and the discussions within your household arising from it. If you have any questions about the footprinting or anything arising from it, just contact the ACER team at acer@audlem.org. We'll be happy to help.

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