How Our Carbon Calculator Works

One of the most common questions we get at Green Places is about how we calculate a business’ carbon footprint. Here's how it works.

The first decision we made at Green Places was to find an institutional partner to make sure our carbon calculations were rooted in comprehensive research-based science. This is where the folks at University of California Berkeley’s CoolClimate Project come in. 

We partnered with CoolClimate because we felt like their research was trusted, open, and comprehensive. They categorize their emissions in three main categories: transportation, facilities (energy, waste, and construction), and procurement. 

This methodology is called “consumption based greenhouse gas accounting.”

This comprehensive method powers our calculator and it allows businesses to estimate their complete carbon footprints, compare their results to similar users, and develop action plans to reduce their contribution to climate change. The CoolClimate calculation research has been adopted by governments, businesses, and non-governmental organizations throughout the United States and internationally.

The project started in 2009, when researcher Christopher Jones began collecting information on the Co2 emissions on the campuses of the 10 public California Universities. The project was meant to show both students and faculty ways in which they could cut back their Co2 emissions. With its success, researchers were able to expand the program, first to businesses in California, then across the country. 

For over a decade, researchers have been gathering data on Co2 emissions. They have collected enough information to make assumptions based on location, industry, facilities, and employees. When a business input details in our calculator, we are utilizing the research and comparative data behind this model to estimate your emissions based on what we know about your business and what CoolClimate has been able to capture over many years. This helps us take in a small amount of information and still deliver a comprehensive emissions calculation.

Below is more detailed information shared directly from the research paper behind the model. 

A carbon footprint of a business may be defined as the greenhouse gas emissions required to produce all economic activity of the enterprise. Emissions occur directly from burning fossil fuels and indirectly through the production of goods and services used by the business.

For the purposes of the carbon calculator we aggregate emissions into three major categories: transportation, facilities (energy, waste and construction) and procurement. A basic formula for the carbon footprint of a business is

 GHG(Green House Gas) Emissions[mT of Co2] = Transportation+Energy+Waste+Procurement 

Transportation: GHG Emissions(mT of Co2)= i=14[(MilesYr)i x (GallonMiles)i  x (Co₂Gallon)i ]

i=1: Company Vehicles (gasoline/diesel)

2: Air Travel 

3: Public Transportation 

4: Employee Commute 

Energy Consumption: GHG Emissions(mT of Co2)= i=1n[(kWh yrx CO₂kWh)i + (thermsyrx Co₂therms)i  + (Gallonyearx CO₂Gallon)i  ] 

n= number of facilities 

Procurement: GHG Emissions(mT of Co2)= mTx Co₂ $x (Estimated Revenue) 

The business calculator uses Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment3 (EIO-LCA) to calculate emissions from supply chains. The basic approach is to match line item expenditures of a business to a sector of the economy in EIO-LCA. 

If you would like to learn more about the individual calculations for each formula read: Christopher M. Jones and Daniel M. Kammen, A Carbon Footprint Benchmarking Tool for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses. Methods and Materials. The paper can be found here.

Click here to calculate your carbon footprint.

Lydia Winkler, RentCheck Co-Founder, Hopes to Inspire Other Entrepreneurs to Go Carbon Neutral

RentCheck is a property management solution that helps property managers save time on inspections with easy self-guided inspections. “Our mission as a company is to make renting fair and transparent. And with that, we also want to be accessible and sustainable,” RentCheck’s co-founder Lydia Winkler explains. Anyone can conduct these property inspections from their smartphones, and using the app for these inspections means less driving for property managers. “We’re saving the planet thousands and thousands of cans of gasoline every month.”

  • By Olivia Bowman
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