Ecological (Incl Carbon) Footprint Calculators

There have been a number is recent TV programs with a focus on reducing our individual contributions to Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. Typically the carbon footprint is measured in Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. Other harmful GHG’s, EG methane (CH4) and nitros oxides (NOx) are converted to the equivalent in CO2 based on impact. IE - CO2e is often how this is written.

@gordon recently noted Australia creates more than 17 tonnes CO2e for every one of us.

The ABC recently provided,

There are links to two tools to assist in calculating a personal ‘Carbon Footprint’. I’ve tried both.

They provided very different outcomes. I had difficulty distinguishing between whether the result was for one or two for the first trialed. It seems as if it is for one only. The second I clearly used data for two people hence it is the the total footprint of two combined in the one household.

There are links for each in the ABC article.

5.7t CO2e seems to be heading in the right direction?

The second provided more useful information and a higher estimate.

As this is for two 16.2/2 = 8.1 tonnes CO2e each seems a little more realistic.

Are there better tools out there and what are your experiences using any?

Neither tool properly accounted for our solar PV. We export more than twice what we import, hence better than carbon neutral. I did not expect either to account for our carbon sink from our small project at native forest regeneration.

I was surprised at the size of the footprint from our transport choices, and consumption. Food, clothing, household items etc. More than 60%. As we purchase a large portion of our food local a large improvement needs our retailers and manufacturers to also step up. Perhaps the more we purchase second hand and re purpose the less the carbon cost?


Those footprint calculators always depend on the person using them being pretty close to “average” in so many areas and if you stray away from that in any way they just totally break down.

I’m quite severely disabled and don’t work or travel at all, but also I am forced to use a lot of single-use-plastic medical products and those type of things (both the positive and the negatives) almost never properly taken into account with those type of calculators because they’re too unusual to fit into their models. They’ll have a standard “average” amount of travel they assume any adult does, the models usually don’t accept “zero” as a possible number of car/public transport/plane/etc trips per year, and nothing counts up unusual lmedical waste at all. So I find them super useless. I guess if we were more usual they might be more useful


I also found the first of the two used in the ABC article too generic.

The second did work reasonably well for us. It enabled the user to input zero values, estimates or actual. For transport there is a seperate line for taxi use, as well as each mode of public transport.

There is a reasonable list of options provided for in each category. It is possible to search out details of any items omitted. Eg the carbon value of regrowth vegetation by type, age and land area. The carbon footprint of personal services or renovations etc might take a little more research.

Feedback on other tools welcome.

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I think this is like the request that Choice should give an assessment of environmental impact of goods as part of testing and review. Doing it properly would be time consuming and expensive. Doing it simply and quickly is not accurate. So is doing it simply worth anything at all? We don’t know unless a level of accuracy is published and I have not see any of these systems that does so.

It’s intended as an open question. Accurate vs purpose or need? I see the carbon footprint tools as another way to assist understanding relative impact. IE a more qualitative way of determining priorities.

As Choice has pointed out in it’s look at energy efficient housing and the Star rating system, nothing is perfect.