How much carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced by heating my home? What effect does an economy car have on my CO2 score? How much greenhouse gas can be saved by buying foods grown locally? Everyone can now put themselves in the picture with a new CO2 calculator. The calculator figures one’s annual personal emissions of greenhouse gases and compares the outcome with the German average. Whether it is living, mobility, nutrition, or private and general consumption, the online offer by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) shows just how much climate gas an individual lifestyle produces.
With support from UBA, the Ifeu Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg GmbH and avantTime Consulting GmbH developed an Internet-based research model that can ”translate” lifestyle into emissions. After entering a few data citizens can see their CO2 score just minutes later and find out exactly where they can make improvements for the sake of the climate. The CO2 calculator reflects five areas of our daily lives: living (heating or electricity consumption), mobility (car, bus, train or plane), nutrition, personal conumption—that is clothing, electrical and electronic appliances, or furniture – and so-called general consumption, which is comprised of the state’s activities carried out on behalf of its citizens, e.g. infrastructure and education.
The calculator also takes into account the ecological rucksack of an imported product: the climate gases produced in its manufacture abroad are added in. On the other hand, emissions from the production of export goods are not taken into account. In addition to CO2, other factors in the equation are greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), e.g. from agriculture. These agricultural emissions play a key role in the area of nutrition.
The average person in Germany is responsible for roughly eleven tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, placing Germans well above the global average of about 3.8 tonnes per capita. The long-term tolerable output per capita is 2.5 tonnes.
There are various ways to improve one’s personal climate score: using public transport instead of a private motor vehicle can save 1.6 tonnes CO2 per year at a driving performance of 15,000 kilometres-- and with the same mobility. Personal eating habits also play a great role on the greenhouse gas balance sheet. Hard to swallow perhaps, but very telling: eating vegetarian and buying local produce save 1.33 tonnes CO2 compared to eating meat. Long-distance travel is also a key area. A long-haul flight to Thailand alone produces the equivalent of 5.05 tonnes CO2, which is 50 percent of the total average CO2 emissions per person in Germany.
Energy consumption for heating is particularly high. Multiple-person households, whether as a family or residential community, can save each member 5.7 tonnes CO2 (based on a four-person household occupying 100 square metres of living space and compared to a single individual occupying 50 square metres). Modernisation of energy supply to the home can also drastically reduce CO2 emissions.
The CO2 calculator is updated regularly. In its next phase, detailed recommendations for action will be added, showing how everyone can do his bit to reduce personal emissions. Visitors to the thematic page may use the CO2 calculator free of charge. Institutions wishing to make the calculator available for public use on their hompage may apply for a licence with avantTime Consulting GmbH.
Dessau, 27 August 2007