A Carbon Footprint includes two main parts: your inputs and conversion factors. Your inputs are what the Carbon Footprint tool asks you to enter.
Each of these inputs translates to GHG emissions through a conversion factor. Conversion factors translate your inputs into Carbon Equivalents. Conversion factors are developed by government agencies, such as the EPA, non-government think tanks, or academia.
A conversion factor for flights, for example, translates the input (number of flights per year) to GHG emissions. The total GHG emissions for an average flight may take into account a wide number of factors. For example, burning jet fuel, food and packaging waste generated by passengers, and the energy usage of the airport all produce carbon emissions. Each of these components emits a specific amount of carbon to the atmosphere through various biological or chemical processes. The aggregate of these is the total carbon footprint of the flight and your individual carbon footprint is the part of that total that is attributable to you as a passenger.
Your total footprint is the aggregate of all of these different contributions for each of your inputs.
A Carbon Footprint has two important limitations: 1) it is a snapshot at a given point in time 2) it is built on averages.
- When you calculate your carbon footprint you are doing so based on the information you have available at the time of the calculation. Most of our lives are dynamic, ever changing, and thus our total emissions, or carbon footprint, is likely to change as our lifestyles change. A Carbon Footprint therefore is not meant to be absolute. It is instead meant to help you understand how your lifestyle decisions impact the world around you and trends that might be insightful to help you reduce your footprint over the long term.
- A carbon footprint is built on averages. There is an inherent tradeoff between granularity and complexity. A Carbon Footprint tool like the one RegenAll provides, attempts to strike a meaningful balance for this tradeoff in order to help you understand your key contributors and opportunities without bogging you down with significant data collection or entry.