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Carbon footprint

Concept, methodology and Calculation.

Fabil .T
Varun .Y.S (MT15CTM018)

Carbon footprint


Imagine the environment as a vast forest floor, and our acts of consumption
as a journey on foot across it. As each one of us consumes anything - electricity,
fuel, food, electronics etc., we walk one step across that floor. In doing so, we
impress the full weight of our existence on it; in other words, we leave a
'Footprint'. That Footprint, in effect, tramples upon the life-giving resources and
life forms beneath it. Some of the trampling is, of course, unavoidable, as the very
act of breathing results in a Footprint.
But in effect, the more products and services we consume, the heavier the
weight of our 'Footprint', the greater its size and consequently, greater is the
demand that is imposed on our environment. Enough weight exerted by the
collective might of all earth's inhabitants will lead to a rampant stampede that will
decimate the very 'life' from underneath our feet.
Now, there are various 'Footprints' that one can calculate by examining the
details of one's life - "What is my Water Footprint?", "What is my Wood
Footprint?", "What is my Plastic Footprint?" etc. - questions such as these address
different aspects of one's life - like one's total water consumption during their
lifetime, one's total wood-consumption during their lifetime, etc.
'Carbon Footprint' therefore is just ONE of the many Footprints that can be
calculated. However, it is, by far, the most critical 'Footprint' for the specific
environmental circumstances we live in and have created for ourselves. This is
because it is a direct indicator of a human's impact on Global Warming: the most
daunting environmental issue confronting us.
'Carbon Footprint', thus, is a measure of the total quantity of gaseous
emissions of Greenhouse Gases (gases that cause an undesirable and
disproportionate heating-up of the earth's atmosphere) emitted by an individual in
one year; directly (such as by burning fuel), or indirectly (through consumption of
products and services that have resulted in such emissions in the manufacturing
There are three main gases that are classified as 'Greenhouse Gases': Carbon
Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide, and Methane. By converting Nitrous Oxide and Methane

Carbon footprint

into equivalent quantities of Carbon Dioxide, one can arrive at a total amount of
'Carbon Dioxide Equivalents' produced per year. In a nutshell, then, your 'Carbon
Footprint' value is the number of tonnes (1 tonne is a 1000 kilograms) of Carbon
Dioxide equivalents you have generated in one year.
The carbon footprint concepts were introduced about a decade ago. CF
measures the emission of gases that contribute to heating the planet in carbon
dioxide (CO2)-equivalents per unit of time or product.
Concern about climate change started with the scientific recognition of the
relationship between CO2 emissions and global warming. The increasing
worldwide interest in the causes and consequences of climate change, and in
exploring ways to respond, resulted in the formation of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. The IPCC was the first worldwide effort
to create awareness of global warming and to feed scientific insights on climate
change to governments. The IPCC released its first assessment report in 1990. This
report played an important role in the establishment of the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international
environmental treaty with the goal of stabilizing GHG concentrations in the
atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous anthropogenic interference with the
climate system. Efforts under the UNFCCC led to the Kyoto Protocol (UN, 1998),
an international agreement to cut GHG emissions, with specific reduction targets
by country, signed in December 1997 and entered into force in 2005. The overall
goal was a collective reduction of GHG emissions by 5.2% in 2012 compared to
the emission levels of 1990.

Carbon footprint


Based on National GHG Emissions Inventory Data for 2005 obtained from
the following sources and Population of India in 2005, the average per capita
footprint for an Indian Citizen in 2005 was estimated to be 1.6 tons of CO2e/year.
And the average per capita footprint for the entire world in 2005 was estimated to
be 3.9 tons of CO2e/year.

Global Warming is a burning issue because it threatens the existence of
human civilization as we know it today. The average temperature on Earth is
exhibiting an unprecedented rise due to human-generated emissions of greenhouse
gases. This temperature rise is projected to precipitate many alarming impacts on
the environment, due to which suitability for human existence will be greatly
depleted. Most critically, however, unlike other 'environmental issues' such as
deteriorating air quality, water pollution, destruction of animal habitats etc., the
time period over which the consequences will acquire disastrous proportions is
much more immediate - the next 50 years.
Let's however be clear, it's NOT ABOUT SAVING THE PLANET - the
earth has existed, and will continue to exist, for many millions of years with or
without humans on the planet. We believe this is primarily not an 'Environmental'
or a 'Save the Planet' issue - it is essentially an issue of HUMAN SURVIVAL.
Only those species that are able to adapt to their environment, survive. We
have adapted to minor changes in the environment during our history. But this time
it's different. We as a species will not be able to adapt to the metamorphosis we are
creating - we have to instead adapt our actions so that the imminent alteration does
not occur.
We heard the expression "every drop counts in an ocean". Now just reimagine that ocean as being one that we find ourselves surrounded by, and every
Carbon Footprint of each human adds to that ocean's level. We will visualize that it
is constantly rising towards a state where we are at a risk of drowning in our own
self-created ocean.
It's well known that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, but just what does it
mean, and what are the possible consequences of global warming?

Carbon footprint

Radiation from the Sun heats Earth's atmosphere, oceans and land, making
life on Earth possible. The incoming radiation can easily pass through the outer
atmosphere in order to reach the Earth, but much of it cannot escape as the
atmosphere acts as a one way valve. Exactly how much of the radiation escapes the
atmosphere depends on the concentration of greenhouse gases (including carbon
dioxide, methane etc) present. However, the so-called greenhouse effect is not a
bad thing as such - without it, the temperature of the surface of the Earth would be
-18C, instead of the actual value of about 15C.

The main worry is that, as previously mentioned, the amount of radiation

which escapes depends on the concentration of greenhouses gases in the
atmosphere - carbon emissions add to the concentration, meaning that less
radiation escapes. This means that the surface temperature of the Earth increases by 0.6C 0.2C over the last century. This may not sound like much, but the
warming will increase with time, and could have disastrous consequences. These
might include:

Sea level rise - densely settled coastal plains would become uninhabitable
with just a small rise in sea level, which would result from melting of the ice caps
Impacts on agriculture - Global warming could have major effects on
agricultural productivity
Reduction of the ozone layer - Warming would result in increased high cloud
cover in winter, giving chemical reactions a platform in the atmosphere, which
could result in depletion of the ozone layer
Increased extreme weather - A warmer climate could change the weather
systems of the earth, meaning there would be more droughts and floods, and more
frequent and stronger storms
Spread of diseases - Diseases would be able to spread to areas which were
previously too cold for them to survive in

Carbon footprint

Ecosystem change - As with the diseases, the range of plants and animals
would change, with the net effect of most organisms moving towards the North and
South Poles
As you can see, the effects of carbon dioxide emissions could be extremely
far reaching and cause major problems. Even a small reduction in household
emissions could help to alleviate the problems future generations are likely to face.


The operation of buildings during their service life is the main contributor to
the CO2 balance over its full life cycle. Heating and ventilation and cooling of
buildings are responsible for about 80 % of the total energy consumption including
the embodied energy corresponding with the production of the building. Since the
service life is often 50-70 years or even more the annual energy consumption has
very large impact on the total carbon footprint of a building. For this reason alone
it makes good sense to design the building with minimum energy consumption in
mind.. Furthermore, over half of the operation energy is used for heating of
building space. The authorities regulate the criteria to the building energy
performance mainly through specifications on the maximum heat loss coefficient
for floors, walls, windows, etc. The designers have to meet these specifications in
the design phase before the building is constructed in order to obtain a building
permit. Hence, it is of paramount importance that the designers have the proper
calculation tools and knowledge in order to design the building in an
environmentally friendly and sustainable way.
Thermal mass effect. Concrete and other heavy materials have a series of
positive impacts on the energy consumption of buildings due to its high thermal
mass. The thermal mass of such materials is influencing the daily temperature
fluctuations within the building so that the indoor temperature is better kept within
the thermal comfort zone. During summer conditions concrete stores the heat
during mid day releasing it in the night time. The heat is partly solar radiation
through the windows but also the free heat gains from persons, electrical
equipment and so forth. Thus, high thermal mass reduces the need for cooling. This
is especially a benefit to office buildings where working efficiency is influenced by
the temperature level during the day time. During winter conditions a high thermal
mass may be utilized to store heat from floor heating systems releasing it slowly
and homogeneously over a period of time. The effect is mainly governed by the

Carbon footprint

materials in contact with the indoor air. Therefore, the outside material design of
the building envelope is not the most important aspect to consider. It is a necessity
that the material and the air are in direct contact and therefore lowered ceilings,
furniture along the walls and carpets and flooring on top of concrete slabs have
great impact on the thermal mass effect which again makes it a complex matter to
include in this type of calculations.
Our day to day activities are moreover dependent on electricity which is
mostly coming from coal based power plants, Diesel and Petrol for our vehicles
and LPG for cooking in our kitchen. All of the energy we use is derived from these
fossil fuels which are GHG intensive. Following methodology helps you to
calculate your carbon footprint resulting from the use of Electricity, Petrol, Diesel
and LPG.
Step 1- Data collection;
Electricity: Collect data of annual electricity bills. Find number of power
units (In India, one unit = 1KWh of electricity) consumed from the monthly
electricity bills issues by State Electricity Board/ Distribution/Collection
companies. Take monthly consumed units and then multiply them by 12 (No of
months in a year).
LPG: Generally one LPG cylinder has around 33 kg of liquefied petroleum
gas. Multiply number of cylinders used in a year by 33 and add the resulted value
in the calculation.
Step 2 Calculation Methodology;
Electricity: Input value (in KWh/Yr) X 0.82 (Emission Factor) = Output
value in (Kg of CO2)
LPG: Input Value (In Kg/Yr) X 2.983 (Emission Factor) = Output value in
(Kg of CO2)
Carbon Footprint: Add (1+2) = Output value in (Kg of CO2)
Divide final value (no 3) with 1000 so that you get total carbon footprint in
ton of CO2.Final Carbon footprint should be in tons of CO2 (tCO2.).


Carbon footprint

Clearly defined methodologies are followed in the calculation of carbon footprint.

It is important that For a footprint to be repeatable and accurate there must
be a consistency. In a large industry it is important, as many individuals help
collectively the footprint calculation and the offsetting will become that much easy.
Commonly used methodologies are:
1. GHG Protocol which provides detailed guidance on emissions reporting.
2. International Organization for Standardization, ISO 140645, also provides
guidance on footprint calculation and emissions reporting.
3. Default carbon content in each of the fuel came from the table 1.3, Chapter
1, Volume 2 of IPCC Guidelines for National GHG Inventories 2006.
4. Default oxidation factor in each of the fuel came from the table 1.4, Chapter
1, Volume 2 of IPCC Guidelines for National GHG Inventories 2006.
5. Default net calorific value in each of the fuel came from the table 1.2,
Chapter 1, Volume 2 of IPCC Guidelines for National GHG Inventories
Another Method
CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion are calculated based on the quantity of
fuels combusted and the CO2 emission coefficient of those fuels, as follows;
CO2 emissions
Quantity of fuel
COEF (CO2 emission
from fossil fuel
combusted (mass or
coefficient of fuel in
combustion (tCO2)
volume unit)
tCO2/mass or volume
The CO2 emission coefficient (COEF) can be calculated using one of the following
two Options, depending on the availability of data on the type of fossil fuel as
1. The CO2 emission coefficient COEF is calculated based on the chemical
composition of the fossil fuel using the following approach;
If the quantity of fuel combusted is in mass unit;
COEF = Weighted average mass fraction of
X 44/12
carbon in type of fuel (tC/mass unit of
the fuel)
If the quantity of fuel combusted is in a volume unit;
COEF = Weighted average mass X Weighted average density X
fraction of carbon in type
of type of fuel (Mass
of fuel (tC/mass unit of
unit/volume unit of the


Carbon footprint

the fuel)


2. The CO2 emission coefficient COEF is calculated based on net calorific value
and CO2 emission factor of the type of fuel, as follows;
COEF = Weighted average net calorific
Weighted average
value(NCV) of the fuel (In
CO2 emission factor of the
GJ/mass or volume unit)
type of fuel (In tCO2/GJ)

By using both these calculation methodologies, you can calculate CO2 emissions
from fossil fuel combustion. Use any one relevant to the requirement.
Sources: UNFCCC CDM website, GHG Protocol and IPCC
We calculated the carbon emission from the mega mess building by
considering the post occupied condition use of the building ie; during the
functioning of the building. The operation of buildings during their service life is
the main contributor to the CO2 balance over its full life cycle. Heating, lighting,
ventilation and cooling of buildings are responsible for most of the total energy
consumption and also the mess is used for serving food for 1,500 students. Food is
prepared by using electricity and LPG, they contribute to the emission of CO 2 in
the production in the case of electricity and direct emission in the case of LPG.
Comparing to the amount of LPG and electricity used the emission from the
occupants are smaller. The details are collected from the mess manager
Electricity consumed

= Rs.70,000 - 75,000
= approx. 7355 kwh units/month
= 88,260 kwh/year

LPG gas consumed

= 33 kg cylinder 4-5 nos. daily

19 kg cylinder 5-6 nos. daily
= (33x5x365) + (19x6x365)


Carbon footprint

= 101835 kg
= 156429 liter (1 liter LPG = 0.651 kg)
In the mess they uses 19 kg and 33 kg commercial cylinders

Electricity: 88260 KWh/Yr X 0.82 (Emission Factor) = 72373 (Kg of CO2)1
LPG: 101835 Kg/Yr X 2.983 (Emission Factor) = 303774(Kg ofCO2).2
Carbon Footprint: (1+2) = 376147(Kg of CO2)
= 376147/1000 t CO2
= 376 tons of CO2 (t CO2 )

There are many online carbon footprint calculators also available but most of
them are for the use of other countries , because they are more concerned about
carbon emission than us.

The mega mess building emits 378.8 tons of CO2 every year, and this is from
the electricity and LPG they use for cooking, lighting, cooling etc.


Urban lifestyles have a huge impact on the environment. Our lifestyles have
large carbon footprints which affect the climate adversely. Everything we do
requires energy which usually comes from combustion of fossil fuels-ranging from
taking a flight to just having a cup of coffee. Thus, every action has a carbon
footprint associated with it.
The high thermal mass of concrete should be utilized to improve the energy
performance of buildings. Since the energy consumption for building
operation is much higher than the embodied energy in the building materials


Carbon footprint

the service life period is very important to include when different structural
designs are compared.
Heavy building materials with high thermal mass mean less annual energy
consumption for heating/cooling/ventilation which again means less carbon
emissions. Even a small annual difference will add up to a significant
amount over a service life of say 50 years.
After ended service life concrete should be demolished and crushed down to
small fractions suitable for applications in road construction, back-filling
material, etc. This reduces the need for land filling and the need for natural
aggregates. CO2 emissions coming from demolishing and crushing of
concrete are balanced out by the CO2 uptake from the carbonation process
in the concrete rubble.
Carbon efficiency is a popular term referring to the CF per unit of Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) in an economy, or more specifically to the CF of specific
sectors or activities, always per unit of production. A related term is energy
efficiency. Companies and governments usually translate the need for CF reduction
into a need to increase energy efficiency in industry, transportation and households,
assuming that decreased energy use per unit of good or service produced
automatically translates into reduced GHG emissions.
There is also the recognition that we need to shift from carbon-intensive forms of
energy like coal and oil to less carbon-intensive forms like gas or, even better,
renewable forms of energy like wind, solar, hydro or bioenergy.
It is acknowledged that increasing efficiencies can be only part of the solution
for reducing carbon footprint. Existing production and consumption patterns carry
an inherent dependence on energy that cannot be addressed by increasing
efficiencies alone. Consumption patterns need attention as well. The relatively
large contribution of meat and dairy consumption to humanitys CF it is estimated
that the livestock sector is responsible for 18% of anthropogenic GHG emissions


Carbon footprint

and can be reduced only if people reverse the current trend towards eating more
meat and dairy.
A reconsideration of production and consumption patterns is much more difficult
than implementing measures to increase efficiencies because structural changes
affect all sorts of vested interests, while, at least in the short term, efficiency gains
benefit all parties. This explains why most of the attention of footprint reduction
goes to efficiency and not to total production and consumption volumes. Both
producers and consumers generally want to increase the levels of production and
consumption, and efficiency gains can be instrumental in that.
The idea behind carbon offsetting is that one unit of CO 2-equivalent emitted
into the atmosphere in one place from one activity has exactly the same
contribution to climate change as another unit emitted elsewhere by another
activity. As a result, a certain emission reduction always has the same effect, no
matter how or where it is done. Furthermore, there is the underlying idea that one
can better reduce an emission elsewhere if it is easier or cheaper than reduce
ones own emission.
The practice of carbon offsetting was developed from the flexible mechanism
included in the Kyoto Protocol that allows industrial countries to fulfil their
obligations to reduce GHG emissions by purchasing emission reductions created
by projects elsewhere. This mechanism was created as a result of a market logic,
where demand and supply for reductions are created, priced and exchanged
internationally and developed further with a parallel voluntary market. A typical
example of the voluntary market can be found in the air transport sector:
passengers can offset the emissions related to their flight by purchasing reduction
credits elsewhere. Another example is offsetting emissions of energy use by buying
carbon credits that are generated by renewable energy or forest planting projects.