Ultimately the only way to reduce your carbon is to consume less, travel less and do everything less – other than have sex and take other forms of exercise.
But you are not going to do that are you?
So Carbon calculators do have a useful role to play in working out what impact you are having on the planet, and incidentally, on your own bank balance if individual carbon allowances ever come into force. Here is a guide to the best ones.
All carbon calculators make assumptions. For example, most calculators use the official government-approved conversion factor of 0.43 when working out the number of kilograms of CO2 produced per kilowatt of electricity.
However, the actual figure will be based on the mix of fuel used by your specific form of transport.
For the results of a survey into the most accurate carbon calculators by the Climate Outreach and Information Network, see www.coinet.org.uk.
Meanwhile, transportdirect.info allows you to compare the emissions made by a small car, large car, train, coach and plane for a set distance. It is, however, likely to be some time before we can accurately compare travel to a wide range of destinations by train, plane, ferry, car and coach.
With aviation being the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, many offsetting companies have set up dedicated flight emissions calculators. These estimate the footprint of your recent holiday flights, then show you how you how to offset them by contributing to carbon-reducing projects, such as schemes supplying fuel-efficient stoves in Uganda or installing wind turbines in China. Climate Care and the CarbonNeutral Company both offer this service.
Be warned, though, that there is great variation in the figures provided by flight emissions calculators. One of the better ones is ChooseClimate’s emissions calculator, which enables you to specify the type of ticket, model of plane and occupancy rate. It displays its findings as kilograms of fuel used, kilograms of CO2 generated, and the total warming effect. The latter takes into account other emissions from aviation, such as nitrogen oxides and water vapour, and the fact that CO2 emitted at high altitude has an enhanced warming effect.
Calculators for other types of travel are beginning to become available. CO2balance.com enables you to calculate emissions from some rail and car journeys.
Having calculated an estimate for your carbon footprint, you’ll need to think about how to reduce it.
This may seem like an impossible task. But if enough people begin cutting their carbon footprint now, the CO2 saving will soon stack up, whichever you calculate it.
Quit travelling and start shagging, baby! Yeah!