Carbon calculators – Top down or bottom up?

Right now, personal ‘carbon calculators’ seem to be all the rage. Encouraged as a primary method of getting individuals to start to address their personal carbon footprint, and make lifestyle changes to lower personal CO2 emissions, most of the calculators have up until now come from large corporate companies. A couple of weeks ago, however, and responding to a general feeling of confusion amongst the public, the UK Govenment launched its own definitive carbon calculator website – billed as the most comprehensive, accurate tool of its kind. True? Well certainly the amount of time it takes to work things out at the end of each section gives the impression it’s doing some major number crunching. But as with all of its ilk, it has flaws. For instance, why are only my personal flights (a measly three in the last year) included, yet the ones I’ve taken on business (a more eco-conscience bothering 17) not? That skews my score entirely. Now a new site in the US – ‘Make me sustainable’ – promises to monitor carbon emissions on a daily basis – the thinking here is that carbon monitoring becomes an everyday part of your routine – like cleaning your teeth or updating your facebook status, so you start to think about the impact of your actions more. Sadly, you need to be in the US to use it, as it calculates various factors depending on where you live. Anyone in the US who’s trying it out, we’d love to know what you think of it.

The fundamental issue with all of these systems is that they rely on some level of estimation and guess-work, it’s inevitable. So perhaps, if we’re really serious about monitoring our emissions, we need real-life personal monitoring systems, that are discrete and ‘fit’ with our lives. That’s where Andreas Zachariah – a graduating MA student in Industrial Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art comes in. His “Carbon Hero” calculates a user’s carbon footprint from transportation by identifying the different froms of transport being used as they moves through space. The idea is that you carry the key-fob sized unit with you, and then download the data to your PC later. Then the data is collected by the computer’s software, which tells you the exact amount of carbon dioxide emitted from your movements, and how many credits are needed to offset it. Could this be the future? Well, the product has alread won a British Sustainability Index award, so watch this space.