Carbon Footprint 101

So what is a carbon footprint? Well, footprint might make it sound like it just applies to people, but actually every activity, product or purchase has a carbon footprint, from sending an email to boiling the kettle for a cup of tea. Carbon in this context is actually shorthand for a whole range of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide being the main one, but it also includes gases such as methane dioxide and nitrous oxide as well as F-gases which come from refrigeration units.

So if you’re a beef farmer, your carbon footprint may comprise mainly methane which would be converted to a carbon equivalent to give your footprint. Really a carbon footprint is just a simple way to describe the amount of emissions of harmful greenhouse gases that result from our human activities. It can be hard to know where to start in terms of tackling yours. You may have seen carbon footprint calculators for individuals where the tool asks you about your energy bills, your transport use, diet, how many flights you take per year and so on. These tools calculate the resulting emissions from all your activities and give you a result in tonnes of carbon. When it comes to calculating your business’s carbon footprint you will be asked similar questions but it is a bit more complicated because your activities are done on behalf of others. For example if you own a fireplace showroom, are you responsible for the emissions that result from the use of the fireplaces you sell to your customers? Let’s find out! 

So which emissions are you responsible for? There are 3 categories of emissions that we will look at to calculate your carbon footprint. We’ll talk about which ones apply to you as an SME vs a larger business or corporation.

Scope 1 emissions are those that result from your direct business activities. These might be from fuels you use or *****. In the fireplace showroom these scope 1 emissions might come from the natural wood fires you have on display. Other examples include *******. 

Scope 2 includes your indirect emissions. These comprise your utility bills for electricity, oil, gas etc. Scope 2 emissions are described as indirect because the emissions are created by the utility provider on your behalf, they do not occur at your place of business but you are responsible as they keep your business lit, warm and in power.

Scope 3 emissions are more tricky to calculate and they may not apply to you as an SME but we’ll cover them briefly. Scope 3 covers the indirect emissions that result from the products or services that you provide. This covers the lifetime use and end of life disposal of your business product as well as any business travel emissions incurred. .In the EU ****** SMEs are not required to calculate or account for scope 3 emissions. 

The manufacturer that makes the fireplaces you sell is probably a larger company who, if they have more than 500 employees, will be responsible for their scope 3 emissions. That means that their carbon footprint will cover the lifetime use and disposal of the fireplaces that you sell. Phew!

Now that we understand what scopes 1, 2 & 3 emissions are, we can calculate your business’ carbon footprint. Don’t panic though, we’re here to help!

Once we have calculated your carbon footprint we can put together a step-by-step guide to reducing your emissions.