History / Background

What is the carbon footprint?

The CO2 footprint, also known as the CO2 balance, is a measure of the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over the life cycle or a defined stage of a person, a product or an organization. Since it is primarily about the influence on global warming, other greenhouse gases are usually also taken into account. To do this, they are converted into a CO2 equivalent (CO2e).
The term goes back to the “ecological footprint” as it was formulated in 1994 by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees, although this is clearly more broadly defined. The carbon footprint became generally known through an advertising campaign by the British oil and gas company BP, which in 2004 tried to steer the perception of responsibility for global warming away from energy companies and towards individual consumers with a US $ 250 million campaign.

The carbon footprint of a product

Of all the calculation methods for calculating the CO2 footprint, the one for products is the most detailed. This could become an important product label in the future. For comparability, however, it is important to standardize the calculation, as the CO2 that occurs in the value chain is sometimes not accounted for or only partially included and the products are thus “nicely calculated”.
For a fair calculation it is necessary to consider the entire product life cycle. From the manufacture and transport of raw materials and intermediate products, through production, use, reuse and disposal.
The ISO 14067 standard now applies to calculating the CO2 footprint of products.

A person’s carbon footprint

The CO2 footprint of people should help them to assess and reduce the influence of their own way of life on global warming. To do this, you first calculate the current CO2 footprint. Then it is shown how CO2 can be saved. Be it through the purchase of energy-saving devices, the more efficient use of heating energy, the purchase of products with their own low carbon footprint or the change in lifestyles, e.g. when choosing the means of transport. In 2019, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research showed in a study that CO2 emissions when transporting food could be reduced by 90% if only locally produced food were traded.
A CO2 footprint calculator can be found here: https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

A pet’s carbon footprint

The role of pets has not yet been taken into account in climate calculators. A cat causes an average of 2.2 tons of CO2 per year, a dachshund 1.8 tons and a medium-sized dog as much as an off-road vehicle.