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Calculating your carbon footprint

A carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions emitted as a result of your organisation’s – or individual - activities. This covers energy and water use, industrial processes, and vehicle use.

Why calculate your carbon footprint?

Calculating your carbon footprint is important as it allows you to understand how your organisation is contributing to climate change. Finding out what your carbon footprint is, therefore, allows you to identify ways to reduce it and have an impact on tackling climate change.

Calculating your carbon footprint on an annual basis allows you to monitor your emissions over time. This allows you to track and identify the how effective any measures you are taken to reduce carbon emissions are. If you set your organisation a net zero target, annual calculations will allow you to identify progress towards meeting this target

Where to start?

The first step to calculating your carbon footprint is to identify which of your activities produce greenhouse gas emissions.

This is done by identifying your organisational boundaries and subsequent emissions scopes.

Your operational boundary must be determined. This should include all emissions sources from, activities which are under your operational control. Activities are then separated into scopes.

The greenhouse gas protocol is a standard use which categorises emissions into 3 scopes:

  • Scope 1: Direct emissions from activities within your organisation’s control.
  • Scope 2: Indirect emissions from any electricity, heat or steam you buy.
  • Scope 3: Other indirect emissions from sources outside your control, such as electricity transmission and distribution losses, water supply and treatment, business travel and contractor travel

Scope 1 and 2 emissions are required when calculating emissions and will include the same activities for every organisation. There is flexibility to choose what activities are included in scope 3, however, it is best practice to include emissions from transmission and distribution losses, water supply, and water treatment.

Data collection and calculation

After establishing the emission sources within you scopes you need to collect the activity (consumption) data from these sources.

  • Electricity and gas data are collected from meter readings and will be recorded in kWh.
  • Water data is collected from meter reading and will be recorded in m3
  • Vehicle data can either be collected based on average mileage per type of vehicle (miles or km) or total amount of petrol and diesel consumed (litres). Where this data is not available you can estimate mileage data.

This activity data is then multiplied by the equivalent national emissions factors, in order to identify the emissions from that source. Emissions are measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

National emission factors are updated each year and are accessed from the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy website

Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk

We calculate and monitor our footprint with an annual carbon audit. You can view our recent audits on our carbon audit page.

Wider resources

There are several useful resources to help you calculate your emissions.

The Local Government Association and Local Partnerships have worked together to develop a greenhouse gas accounting tool.

Standards and guidance: