• Tim Wade

How to calculate your carbon emissions

So apparently if we don’t change our ways, the planet is going to change our ways for us. Disruption, on a global scale, is inevitable unless we create a greater sense of urgency and as individuals — and as businesses, and communities and nations — we take some significant, purposeful action.

Why bother taking climate action as an individual?

I can think of 7 reasons fairly quickly.

  1. Because NASA is no closer to moving a large number of us to another inhabitable planet that hasn’t been screwed up yet.

  2. So you along with 7 billion other people can actually save the planet.

  3. So you can tell others what they should do without being a hypocrite.

  4. So you can increase your awareness of the choices you’ve been automatically making and then choose to make better ones.

  5. So you get annoyed enough with the apathy and complacency to act.

  6. So you get frustrated enough to finally write a letter to your government minister to ask what they are doing and demand nationwide and international action.

  7. Because you feel like it.

So based on any of those, you might want to calculate your contribution to this mess – your carbon footprint – and clean it up.

Calculate your carbon footprint

There are many calculators online.

MyClimate.org – This one allows you to calculate your footprint overall or for single items like a specific flight from A to C via B, in business class, return. Quite amazing actually. Although it told me that my footprint was 8.4t of CO2 while the airline one said it was 3.0t.

I suggest you try a few to get a range of perspectives as to what your footprint might actually be; a “multi-calculator awareness average,” as it were. The reason is that their answers vary a little bit. For example, one calculator said that my decisions and lifestyle causes 12 tonnes of CO2 to end up in the atmosphere. Another said it was 34.5 tonnes for my household (which for 3 people might be close to accurate), although almost over 80% of that was due to flights out of Singapore for work (I speak at conferences around the world).

Here are a couple of others.

What is my carbon footprint – calculator

I rather like this one. It’s customised for your location, and if it isn’t you can design it so it is:


It works out yours alone rather than your household. It defaulted me to Singapore terms because I live there. No numbers needed. Just click lifestyle choices. I assume it’s not as personally accurate, but I think when you look at the numbers and the variations, and how imprecise our estimations of what we use are, I think it’s ok to do it this way. I do like how it represents the impact of your decisions visually as you’re making your selection. There is a subtle yet powerful level of education happening when doing this.

World Wildlife Fund – carbon footprint calculator

If you want to put more actual numbers into the calculations, here’s one from the WWF (UK based though, so it assumes I need to heat my tropical apartment. Just adjust. I use aircons instead of heaters. Same diff.) but I found it so UK-centric that I distrusted the result.

United Nations – carbon footprint calculator

Here’s the calculator and offset page for the United Nations:


However, it said my household emissions totalled 61t per year, including all our flights for work and leisure. You can offset here too.

What they calculate

Essentially most calculations ask for your:

  • amount of air travel

  • level of meat consumption (why meat?)

  • home electricity usage including heating or cooling,

  • car/bus/train usage, and

  • shopping/lifestyle habits, particularly eating out

Next steps

So the truth of how I’m actually impacting the environment is in there somewhere. At least now I have a range. Now what? Well… time to look at all the offsetting options. And they vary from funding a dam built in 1974 to helping communities grow out of poverty now while saving the world. If you’d like to review the options and see what I do, take a look at this article of mine published on the B1G1 blog.

Otherwise, go and make a positive change for the world!

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