There's no time to rest on your laurels if you achieved a low score. The next generation of carbon scales will be much more revealing.

Carbon counts. Carbon really counts, but there is no one way to do the sums. Not yet at least. So the ‘health warning' that comes with this estimator is that your carbon tonnage will probably be wrong. It will give you a good idea where you stand, though, and how much the scales are creaking.

For many it will be the first time they have stepped on ‘carbon scales'. How strange. We each ‘weigh' a massive 10 tonnes or so and yet we've never been curious to know our carbon weight before. Up till now it's been invisible, but not irrelevant.

Ten tonnes per person per year is a lot of carbon dioxide. You can imagine it as 10,000 purple balloons one metre in diameter (or dozens of big black bin liners lined up outside with the refuse each week.) Then we all start to get a ‘handle' on why it's so important - and what are the habits and activities that can create - or avoid - this tonnage.

The number you will get here is indicative of your personal carbon footprint but you can attain the footprint for the household if you get everyone in the house to step on the scales. That's where I get my nine tonnes. It's everything my family does. Nine tonnes for my family. Five tonnes for me and four tonnes for my wife, or, if I include my four children, it works out at 1.5 tonnes each.

This estimator excludes all the CO2 that your habits are responsible for when you are ‘on business'. This is key. It does not mean that office energy, business air travel and company car miles are unimportant. (You are welcome to include them.) It means that for now the boundary been drawn is the box around you and your home life. It is personal.

Alert empoyers to their business CO2 and make sure they count it in the company's annual corporate social responsibility or environmental report. If they don't choose to "claim it" then you can always take responsibility for it too. For many company car miles and business flights will add up to another hefty tonnage.

More more information contact Dave Hampton, the Carbon Coach, on

Carbon Coach
Carbon Coach

The bigger picture: the secondary footprint

There are two types of personal carbon footprint: primary and secondary. The primary footprint is the carbon dioxide ‘tonnage’ resulting directly from the energy used in the home and while travelling. That is what the estimator is looking at. It is not the full picture, but it is a quick introduction to the whole idea.

The secondary footprint is an estimation of the indirect impact of our lifestyle – the carbon emissions resulting from consumption habits. This may include emissions related to the production, manufacture, transportation and disposal of various goods, food or raw materials.

This secondary footprint is just as important as the primary and will usually be as large, if not slightly larger. Secondary footprints are complex and affected by shopping habits, food miles, food choices, consumption and waste and recycling habits.

These are not as simple to monitor as energy associated with the home and travel so are not included here. Smart estimators will be available soon that will help us keep an eye on these indirect carbon impacts. Building and the Carbon Coach will keep you up to date with all the latest developments.

To ascertain a rough tonnage score the estimator has doubled the score for the primary footprint to obtain an indication of your overall lifestyle carbon footprint. This may be affected if you are ultra eco-friendly in some areas and not at all in others. The average in the UK is around 11 tonnes (five tonnes primary and six tonnes secondary).