What is the carbon footprint of (insert product name here)?
This is a question I never liked, because I didn’t know the answer. I still don’t know the answer. That’s because when it comes to carbon footprint, there is no universal definition on WHAT is being measured and HOW it must be measured.
And when I’m asked for the carbon footprint, am I supposed to explain:
1) The carbon footprint for one product life cycle phase (ie. product use)?
2) All carbon or only emissions from energy use of fossil fuels?
3) The total amount of carbon & greenhouse gases emitted over the full life cycle of the product?
With all of the variables that go into the entire life cycle of a product/service it is nearly impossible to provide an accurate number— from the sourcing of raw materials, the manufacturing of those materials, the manufacturing of the product, product use, product end-of-life disposition, and ALL of the transportation and packaging that occurs during every phase. Over time, materials may be sourced from different locations and manufacturing processes change, making the equation even more challenging. For the reasons I just stated, there is no consistent methodology for reporting a carbon footprint.
My recommendation is to not be so concerned about the numbers, but to put efforts in place to reduce your environmental footprint by being more energy efficient, reducing waste, and recycling. That’s where the real magic (and change) happens.
- Lindsay Lamb