A carbon footprint, in general, encompasses all the information needed to calculate your emissions, whether you are looking at it from an individual, business, or institutional perspective. Your footprint is also regarded as your baseline: it is your starting point from which more carbon-related numbers can be drawn, such as measurements of reduction or increase. When you know what your baseline is, then you know how much effort you need to put in order to achieve certain carbon goals.
So how can you determine what your carbon footprint is? You first need to realize that emissions don’t just come from the cars that you drive or the smoke that comes out of industrial machines. You also emit a lot of carbon when you use up electricity, which is largely sourced from coal. You also emit a lot of carbon when you use up a lot of paper, which takes a lot of resources to produce. These factors all go into accounting for your emissions, among many other aspects of running a business or even simply living everyday life.
Some of your emissions aren’t just about letting out carbon dioxide. In fact, you can let loose other greenhouse gases that are even more dangerous than carbon dioxide. This includes greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide, which can come from various sources such as fertilizers and agriculture.
So what exactly goes into calculating your carbon footprint? It pays to have a ballpark estimate of how much you are currently emitting by knowing the three different scopes that are examined.
Scope 1 Emissions are perhaps the easiest to calculate: they are those that are directly created by you or your company. These are often described as Direct Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Driving cars for your company, or taking tractors around your warehouse are all examples of vehicle emissions. Producing energy or steam on your work site also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Any cooling system might also produce greenhouse gases if the cooling chemicals start leaking.
Scope 2 Emissions come from the utilities that you purchase, which include steam, electricity, and gas. You can find these on the utility invoices, where you can calculate how much you consume – and these numbers, in turn, can help you convert your consumption into carbon dioxide emissions.
Finally, Scope 3 Emissions cover your indirect emissions which come from your activities, whether as an individual or as a business. For instance, air travel for your employees also results in carbon emissions because of the use of jet fuel. The amount of waste that you produce as a business also results in carbon emissions. All kinds of transportation not directly carried out on-site or by your business, such as public transportation to and from places, will add to your carbon footprint.