A carbon footprint test is used to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide emitted because of the consumption of fossil fuels.
Also known as a carbon footprint calculator, this type of test looks at how much greenhouse gases are generated or produced, both directly (such as burning fossil fuels) and indirectly (through electricity use to power equipment).
Every entity has a carbon footprint, whether you’re an individual, small business, large corporation or even an entire community. This tool offers people a greater understanding of the impact of their personal and corporate behavior.
Particularly for companies, the results of a carbon footprint test highlight areas where they can implement more sustainable practices.
So how does a carbon footprint test work, and with many carbon footprint tests available on the Internet, how do you know which one is right for you? With any test, how can you get the best score?
What Contributes To Carbon Footprint Test Results?
A carbon footprint test can ask many questions that examine different factors. While one may be simple and only consider estimates of energy usage, another may be far more complex. In fact, some require you to submit detailed information like how often and where you travel for work, business vehicle usage and a company’s utility bills.
The factors that will impact your test results likely depend on the information you are seeking. For instance, if you are planning a work event and want to know how you can make your event more sustainable with less waste and electricity usage, your results may be more focused.
If you’re taking a wider look at your company practices, other factors may come into play such as the resources used in manufacturing a product your company makes.
So what are some of the different factors that can influence your carbon footprint?
Transportation is one of the most significant factors a carbon footprint test will consider. That’s because transportation in general is one of the greatest contributors of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for 28% of all U.S. emissions.
Many carbon footprint calculators will take a closer look at these seven transportation factors:
- If you have a company fleet of cars or trucks
- The type of fuel/power that fleet uses (gasoline, diesel or electric)
- Average MPG for each vehicle
- Miles driven per year
- Whether anyone in your company traveled by air this past year and how far
- Whether anyone in your company traveled by train this past year and how far
- Whether anyone in your company traveled by boat this past year and how far
Detailed carbon footprint tests will also look at indirect transportation emissions. For example, if your employees drive their own vehicles to work, because their actions are work-related, that’s an indirect source of emissions tied to your company.
Another example is the waste disposal your company utilizes. If you work with a company to remove hazardous waste from your property, that waste must be transferred to another facility … likely by a truck. The transportation of that waste and the emissions it produces is also tied indirectly to your company.
Electricity usage is another major contributor to a company’s carbon footprint. According to the EPA, electricity accounts for 27% of greenhouse emissions produced in the United States. This sector involves the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. When fossil fuels are combusted to produce electricity, gas emissions are emitted.
While most of these greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are also emitted in some cases.
Other factors that can impact your company’s carbon footprint include your waste streams and what happens to that waste once it is disposed of, how many meetings you hold each year in which people travel to meet with you, the type of product you produce, your supply chain and what your work environment looks like (do employees come into the office or work remotely?).
Which Carbon Footprint Test Is Right For Me?
Now that you are aware of some of the factors that will help determine how you score on a carbon footprint test, it’s time to decide which carbon footprint test is right for you.
For companies that must have their hazardous waste transported off site, Temarry Recycling offers a carbon footprint calculator on our site. It’s easy to use and allows you to enter your location and a destination for the disposal of your solvent waste. The calculator will then automatically calculate your carbon footprint based on the average number of miles per gallon of a typical disposal truck. However, the calculator allows you to also manually change the miles and MPG fields if you have that information.
Several organizations have also created a carbon footprint calculator or test that allows you to estimate your carbon footprint. You can then compare your own footprint with national averages.
Here are a few available online to make calculating your CO2 emissions easy:
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: This calculator is ideal for small businesses since it focuses more on low emitter organizations.
- Carbonfund.org: This calculator is very detailed, so have information like annual office electricity usage and how many shipments you have each year ready for the most accurate results.
- Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF): This organization offers a handy checklist before you begin the calculator to make sure you have the right information.
These calculators will ask for information that is then plugged into a formula to determine your carbon footprint. Details include where you work, your company vehicles and how much you pay in electricity. Some calculators even offer the opportunity to submit specific details of the energy you use. The more detailed the components, the more accurate the results.
How Can I Score Better On A Carbon Footprint Test?
If you don’t like your results, you’re not alone. Many companies today are looking for ways to improve their carbon footprint by taking a number of steps to improve their sustainability.
Here are a few tips to help you score better on a carbon footprint test:
Reduce The Impact Of Transportation
- Consider adding electric or hybrid vehicles into a company fleet
- Keep current vehicles maintained through regular tune-ups to ensure they are optimally performing and saving fuel
- Reduce business travel through conference calls or video conferencing
- Encourage employees to carpool or telecommute when possible
Reduce The Impact Of Electricity Usage
- Use Energy Star certified appliances and IT equipment
- Switch out light bulbs to energy-saving light bulbs
- Invest in renewable energy, such as electricity that is made from wind and solar sources
- Have employees put computers and office machines to sleep when not in use
- Consolidate printers, which can save money on energy usage, ink and paper
- Use smart power strips, which programmable timers can control
- Reconfigure plants so that machinery is run on clean burning natural gas, which can reduce the consumption of electricity
Take Advantage Of Resources Available To You
Reducing the amount of waste that is transported to landfills can help minimize the impact on your carbon footprint as well. For companies that produce solvent waste, taking into account where you’re shipping that waste can also have a significant impact.
Currently, some manufacturers located along the West Coast ship their solvent-based liquids, solids and sludge across the country to cement kilns in Kansas or Arkansas where that waste is then fuel blended.
By shipping waste to a waste treatment facility, such as Temarry Recycling’s TSDF in Tecate, Mexico, companies can improve their carbon footprint. Because this facility is located just across the U.S.-Mexico border, West Coast companies can enjoy a shorter transportation distance for their waste, savings in fuel costs, fewer CO2 emissions and the ultimate goal of a smaller carbon footprint.
Companies can also reduce the impact their operations have on the environment by taking advantage of closed loop recycling at the Temarry facility. This process keeps materials in constant use and at their highest utility and value.
This closed loop system at Temarry takes place during three stages:
- Waste to energy, which converts high BTU organic solids to steam that is used as energy on site.
- Solvent distillation, which utilizes the steam from the waste to energy process as energy to power the recovery stills.
- Water treatment, which extracts usable water from industrial hazardous wastes including acids, bases, coolants, oily water and latex paint.
Through this circular process, spent solvents are re-manufactured and sold back into industry for their original solvent properties. This process keeps materials in use indefinitely, easing the burden on natural resources while offering companies the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint and make a more positive impact on the environment.