Lots of individuals and businesses have now had a go with our carbon footprint calculators and some have fed back to tell us about their experience. Which is incredibly helpful!
Happily, the vast majority feel that it was definitely a worthwhile experience, which has helped improve their understanding of their environmental impact and focus their efforts to reduce it. Here are some of the comments received.
“I was impressed with the tool, having looked at a number of other, much more gimmicky tools which claim to do the same thing, didn’t in my view ask all the right questions… The CAfS tool was no-frills, not trying to sell anything, and I found it easy to use.”
Richard, near Lancaster
“I had tried several before and I have the impression that if this one is used carefully it is more accurate than others. I was already motivated so I don’t think I needed more motivation but it is nevertheless good to have a measurement to compare with future results.”
“It helped to refocus on my whole life and family impact. It was comforting in some areas, and of continuing concern in others. Actions – eat less meat, other than that, continue to curtail consumption and waste and ask ‘do I need to do this’.”
“I needed to have a line in the sand for applying for a grant. It then led me on to look at other options that fed on from the exercise, so looking at what the green power options actually offer in terms of carbon reduction… My action plan going forward: reduce the volume of my possessions, don’t buy any new clothes, grow my own, brew my own, keep chickens, stop eating beef regularly, installing solar thermal pv and an air source heatpump with or without the grant.”
Susan, The Wild Wool Barn and Workshop, Ennerdale
It was worthwhile, it has shown that for my wife and I the biggest problem is the gas heating boiler… I am looking at things like Octopus Energy’s smart metering and vehicle to grid technology, but at the moment they are not available here in Cumbria. What Octopus can provide is the ability to charge the car at times when there is excess renewable energy available and demand is low, such that the price you pay is also very low and you may even get paid for using it! My car has a 40Kw battery, which is more than capable of supplying all my electricity needs for the house for about a week. So I could run an electric combi boiler [when the technology is available] for a very low price on fully renewable energy.
“Yes [it was a worthwhile exercise], because I could see most aspects of my life collated in one place. [I am] saving for an electric car, although surprisingly that didn’t seem to be the main driver of my (too big) footprint. Also it just increases awareness of the contributors to our footprint.”
“It was a worthwhile exercise to show what matters and what doesn’t in the context of reducing my footprint. As a family we have our eye on the ball all the time but we have a huge mote in that eye! I have two daughters, one lives nearby… but the other lives in California. All my calculations were ‘acceptable’, but once I get on the plane to the USA it all falls over!”
“Calculating one’s impact on the environment is always worthwhile. The motivation has always been there [to take action] but the calculator has given us a better indication of areas where we can make more impact. Future plans include buying an electric car, investing in a renewable source of heating and ongoing reductions in our use of plastic.”
Some aspects of the calculator were queried.
The first was the goods and services tab, which some people found difficult to assess and queried the degree of accuracy and the basis of the calculations. It’s correct that this area of the calculator is not as accurate as the other sections. The greenhouse gas emission factors used for each category are averages across a huge range of products within that category. Drilling down into more detail would be unmanageable within the calculator.
The approach of using ‘money spent’ to measure the goods and services area has also been questioned, particularly as the environmentally friendly option is often not the cheapest option. Again, unfortunately the calculator is not nuanced enough to unpick these subtleties. But the benefit of using ‘money spent’ is that everyone can measure their consumption in this way, even if it is an estimate, and in general terms, higher consumption is linked to higher spending.
As around a third to a half of an average UK resident’s carbon footprint is associated with the goods and services we consume, we felt it was important to include this in the overall picture, despite the limitations of how these elements are calculated.
The second query was around the offsetting option. There’s information about offsetting on our website. In summary, CAfS recognises the role of offsetting as part of a range of measures needed to ensure Cumbria can achieve net-zero carbon by 2037. However, reducing emissions is the priority and offsetting should only be used to offset your carbon emissions that are currently unavoidable.
If you are considering offsetting, it is important to make sure that you choose a scheme that is high quality and independently verified. Carbon Footprint Ltd, which produced our calculators, runs its own offsetting programme, and the link from the calculator is to this programme. This is completely optional and we would encourage you to first review the information about the programme on its website to help you decide whether it is something you wish to invest in.