Measure your carbon footprint with the CAfS calculators

Calculating your carbon footprint is a good way of understanding your carbon impact and how your lifestyle or the way you run your business affects it. Knowing that can help you to reduce it, which helps to protect the environment and can also save you money.

We’ve worked with Carbon Footprint Ltd to develop these free carbon calculator tools, one for residents and one for small to medium businesses. They’re freely available for anyone in Cumbria and Lancashire to use. They are funded by South Lakeland District Council and CAfS will be working with various communities to encourage their use, starting with Ambleside, to support their zero-carbon ambitions.

If you’ve never used a carbon footprint calculator before, it can be a bit bewildering! On this page, you’ll find out a bit more about measuring your carbon footprint and the benefits. Then, on the next page, you’ll find step-by-step instructions and guidance on using the CAfS calculators, including some short videos to take you through the process.

Finger pointing to the scale on a boiler

What is a carbon footprint?

‘Carbon’ is the shorthand term for all greenhouse gases, as carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent one. The term ‘footprint’ means the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted from a particular activity. A carbon footprint is measured in kg or tonnes of CO2e (‘e’ means ‘equivalent’).

You can measure the carbon footprint of anything – a portion of chips, a flight, a holiday. It’s up to you what you’re interested in and where you draw the line.

Our calculators measure the carbon footprint of a year in the life of your household or your business. They include the direct emissions that you produce, mainly from the fuel that you consume in your buildings and vehicles, but also the emissions from some of the everyday things you consume.

Why measure your carbon footprint?

Measuring your carbon footprint is useful in several ways:

  • It gives you an understanding of the size of your environmental impact.
  • That will hopefully then give you the motivation to reduce it, and you’ll know where you’re starting from. You may even want to set yourself a carbon reduction target.
  • The calculator also shows you the relative size of emissions from different areas of your life or business. This allows you to focus your efforts on the areas with the biggest potential to reduce emissions.
  • You can measure each year to track your reduction.

How to reduce your carbon footprint

Our Sustainable Living Guide is a great place to start, with lots of advice for reducing your carbon footprint. Much of this is relevant to businesses as well as households. We work closely with other organisations who can provide both advice and funding, and our guide will signpost you to them and also to other useful advice online.

We also regularly organise interactive events where you can ask us questions. Keep an eye on our events page and in our newsletter for what’s coming up.

Pie chart showing average UK person's carbon footprint

Source: How Bad Are Bananas? by Mike Berners-Lee

What about carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is where you invest in a project to reduce or capture carbon outside of your life or business, to compensate for the emissions that you have not yet been able to eliminate.  

It has been a bit of a controversial area. Some people feel that it morally ‘lets people off the hook’ and allows them to carry on polluting. There is also concern about how reliable some of the offsetting programmes are. However, others believe that, given the urgency of the climate crisis, investing in carbon reduction projects elsewhere, alongside your own reduction efforts, is an essential part of the solution to combat climate change. 

CAfSrecognises 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 verifiedCarbon Footprint Ltd, which produced our calculators, runs its own offsetting programme, and there is a link to it via the calculator. 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.

Next – How to use the CAfS calculators >