What is a carbon footprint?

The exact definition of a carbon footprint has not been agreed but it is often used as an indication of the greenhouse gasses generated by human activities. It is often measured in terms of tCO2eq (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) and can be used to estimate an individual’s or a community’s contribution to climate change.

The Impact Community Calculator

Recently we have been looking at the online Impact Community Carbon Calculator – a joint project between the Centre for Sustainable Energy and the Centre for Energy and the Environment at the University of Exeter. The tool is available from the website at https://impact-tool.org.uk/ and they recognize three categories or ‘Scopes’ for footprint investigation. Scope 1 are direct emissions from fuel combustion, Scope 2 are indirect emissions implied from the consumption of electricity and network supplied heating and cooling, and Scope 3 are indirect emissions arising as a consequence of consumption of other goods and services.

Footprints for geographical areas (such as Headingley and Hyde Park Ward) are then calculated using two different methods:

·        A Consumption Footprint: includes upstream and downstream emissions from residents’ consumption of manufactured goods, food and their own transport activity, regardless of where the emissions occur, and

·        A Territorial Footprint: includes all emissions that are generated within a defined geographical area, including those from industry, agriculture and transport activities.

A more detailed definition of territorial and consumption-based footprints is given in their methodology paper.

It is well worth looking at the website ( https://impact-tool.org.uk/) to see how the footprint for our Ward compares with those for the city and the country. As an example – to see how the average household footprint for the Ward consists of contributions from housing, food consumption, travel and waste management and compares that with national figures :

From the above figure , it doesn’t look like we do too badly. However, if we look at the equivalent territorial footprint we see something different:

This may be no real surprise though, as the indications are that the biggest problem we have is the footprint generated by road transport – i.e. emissions from fuel used by passing road traffic. These emissions have been calculated from emission data within the local authority area obtained from the National Atmospheric Emission Inventory (NAEI). If we think of the amount of traffic travelling on the A660 and the results of the Otley Road HGV Count carried out by ZCH and HDT two years ago (see: https://hdtleeds.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ZCH-A660-HGV-Count-Jan-2020-v1B.pdf) then this is what we know, what we experience, every day.

Place-based Carbon Calculator

There is a lot more to explore using the online tools available. For example, the Carbon Place Calculator at https://www.carbon.place/, is another tool developed by a CREDS researcher based in Leeds. The average footprint they obtain for people living in the Ward is shown below and compared with the national, Local Authority and similar areas. Once again, the Ward does not look to be doing too badly in this picture but even with these estimates we still have a long way to go to hit the black line – the 2032 target for us to avoid climate catastrophe.

It would be very useful to look into adapting some of these illustrations for display purposes and to attract attention and climate action.

So, if you are interested at all in joining a Headingley Carbon Footprint research/campaign project – please use the Contact page and get in touch!

Zero Carbon Headingley
is an initiative launched byHeadingley Development Trust and supported by Zero Carbon Yorkshire