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Vadim
Struk
Product Manager at Relevant Software

Carbon Footprint Calculator: Why Do You Need It and How to Develop One

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According to the World Meteorological Organization, 20 of the warmest years in history have been in the last 22 years. It’s a no-brainer that human activity is the number one factor contributing to this rise in global temperatures. 

Fortunately, today, more people acknowledge the effects their actions have on the planet. This may explain why in a study by Accenture, 61% of those interviewed said that they were making more environmentally sustainable, eco-friendly, and ethical purchases. 

According to Accenture COVID-19 Consumer Pulse Research, 61% of consumers are making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases.

Nowadays, the public realizes that they are just as responsible for reversing the damaging effects of CO2 emission as organizations. Thus, there is a growing demand for carbon footprint calculators and relevant software development services.

The carbon footprint calculator helps people be more aware of their contribution to the current environmental problem and what they can do to lessen their impact on the environment.

This article will help you understand the concept of carbon footprint, how it is calculated, how to develop a carbon footprint calculator, and much more.

Carbon footprint: What you should know

It’s a well-known fact that excessive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) cause global warming and water acidity. Both products endanger marine life. And in the long run, these effects are detrimental to human life as well. 

According to a study by BCG, many people now know the effects of human activity on the environment. And as such, many are now choosing to be increasingly cautious of their actions and carbon footprint. 

Let us dive into details.

What is a carbon footprint?

The carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases generated by our actions. It is measured by the number of CO2 tons emitted annually. 

In 2007, the carbon emissions of American was 20 tonnes, which is five times more than the world average of four tons. According to Eurostat, in 2019, the total carbon footprint of EU countries was equal to 6.7 tonnes of CO2 per person. 

That being said, to avoid a 2℃ increase in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint should drop to 2 tons by 2050. This is only possible if we all take the proper steps towards monitoring and reducing our footprints.

One surefire way to do that is to monitor greenhouse gas emissions. This is why we need a carbon footprint calculator. 

Why is it important to calculate carbon footprint?

The importance of calculating carbon footprint cannot be over-emphasized. A CO2 tracker is a tool that allows to calculate a carbon footprint and helps people and organizations understand how their activities affect the environment. 

Let’s look at the reasons why we all need to think about calculating our carbon footprint.

Why should I calculate my carbon footprint?

You may wonder why you personally should care about reducing your carbon footprint. Here are a few things to think of.

  1. It helps you become more aware of how your actions impact the environment. 
  2. You can start making more conscious decisions, such as abstaining from using plastic-packaged goods and switching from driving to cycling whenever possible.
  3. Influences change on a societal or global level. Leaders represent individuals, and when individuals in a society begin taking their carbon footprint seriously, they could influence their leaders to propose legislative changes that support these individual efforts.

And what about businesses?

Companies also need to calculate their carbon footprint. Here is why:

  1. It helps organizations adopt sustainable manufacturing methods that are better for the environment. In 2018, the global CO2 footprint for the clothing industry exceeded that of Germany, France and UK combined. Such statistics should induce the industry leaders to make the necessary changes to reduce the carbon footprint. 
  2. Now more and more consumers want to purchase environmentally friendly goods and services. As such, this new generation of consumers will only support businesses that share in their values.
  3. It will help them stay in line with the regulations while working towards achieving climatic change goals, which is the 13th Sustainable Development Goal.

How is carbon footprint calculated?

As stated earlier, the carbon footprint is calculated by the tons of carbon dioxide individuals and companies produce annually.

Calculating carbon footprint revolves around evaluating everyday activities against their effects on the environment. For instance, if you cycled or walked to work, you leave a lesser carbon footprint as compared to a person who drove.

Also, as a farmer, you leave a significant carbon footprint. The reason being, farming is notorious for producing methane, a greenhouse gas that is harmful to the environment.

Manually calculating carbon footprint is difficult and tiresome. For this reason, you need a carbon footprint calculator.

A carbon footprint calculator offers a more accurate and convenient way to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide in our environment, helping us make better decisions when trying to offset the existing carbon footprint.

Below is a breakdown of the average carbon footprint from daily activities.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

What does a carbon footprint solution do?

A carbon footprint solution allows individuals and organizations to monitor the amount of carbon dioxide emitted as a result of their everyday activities. 

And when you realized how your actions contribute to global warming or water acidity, you may want to reduce your carbon footprint. 

This is how changes occur – in what you eat, what you purchase, how you travel, and so on.

In order to create the best solution, hire remote developers with the relevant expertise who will help you develop a carbon footprint calculator fast and easily. This advanced tool helps in estimating the carbon footprint based on various factors, using the average US estimate values.

What brands do offer carbon footprint trackers to their clients?

In line with the increased drive for sustainability, some brands are helping their customers be aware of their carbon emissions by incorporating a carbon emission calculator into their standard app. Here are two examples;

  1. Klarna – This Swedish payment app added a carbon footprint calculator to their shopping app. The tracker will show the estimated amount of CO2 emitted by their products throughout the supply chain. This information can then later be used to give the carbon footprint at the end of the year. According to Yahoo! Finance, they have plans to make the emissions visible before purchase.
  2. According to Forbes, Icelandic bank is now offering its clients a carbon tracking tool on their mobile app. Banks are well-placed to offer such solutions as they already have access to their client’s bank records, such as utility bills and shopping expenditures.

What are the essential features of carbon footprint trackers?

Before you hire a mobile app developer, you need to decide what functionality you need.

To make the best carbon footprint calculator, here are some of the features to consider:

  1. An expense analysis feature. By multiplying your transaction cost with the industry’s emission factor, you may be able to estimate how much carbon emission the transaction generated. As was mentioned earlier, banks are exceptionally positioned to serve this function. 
  2. Allows adjustments based on household size. A good app allows you to log in with your family or household so that it calculates your total footprint. This enables you to make the necessary changes to lower your carbon emissions from your household.
  3. Social comparison. This feature allows you to with the footprint of other people. This can prompt conversations on how to minimize carbon footprint.
  4. Goal setting. This one allows you to set goals for how much carbon footprint you want to leave per week, month, year, etc. Such features help you become more cautious of your day-to-day decisions and how they impact the environment.
  5. It can give you valuable tips and insights on how you can reduce your carbon footprint. These tips can either be general or specific to environments that produce high emissions. 
  6. Show carbon footprint before purchase. Making consumers aware of the carbon footprint of the product or service before purchasing can help them make better decisions.
  7. Can show you how much carbon emission you save when you adopt specific actions or purchase certain products.
  8. It can allow country adjustment to give users a more accurate representation of their carbon footprint.
  9. Your track carbon footprint app can use past data to predict the individual’s carbon footprint for the future.
  10. Your app can take advantage of certain phone features like the GPS tracker and location settings to detect your mode of transport and, using the duration of the travel, estimate the carbon impact of the trip automatically.

How does a carbon footprint solution work?

A carbon emission calculator works based on its features, what you capture in the app, and the estimated values of each activity.

For example, if you want to know the carbon impact of your movements, input your travel logs, the mode of transport, and the app will show the possible CO2 polluters for your trip.

If you want to track the carbon emissions of your clothing, it will calculate the cost of the clothes, the source of the clothes (thrift clothes have lower emissions than new clothes), and the emission factor of the industry.

After you input your activities and purchases into the app, an estimate of your total carbon footprint is displayed. 

The user interface of a carbon footprint app

One significant aspect of a carbon footprint calculator development (or any other app or web development) is the user interface. With the help of the custom web development services provider, you can customize your interface, so it fits your business needs better. To kickstart your carbon footprint app development, here are five features you need to incorporate.

  1. A profile. This feature will help the user add their privacy settings, bank info, location, etc.
  2. Emissions. You will find your emissions’ history at different times.
  3. Groups. This one allows the user to see their carbon footprint as compared to that of their friends.
  4. The goal. This allows users to set goals for their expected carbon footprint for the future.
  5. The overview. This is a summary of information of the emissions, groups, and goals sections.
How a carbon-footprint calculator works scheme
Source: ScienceDirect

Top 5 apps and sites for tracking your carbon footprint

If you are considering Ukraine‌ ‌outsourcing‌ for your carbon footprint tracker development, this is a great place to start. Below are examples of the top carbon footprint tracking apps and sites to inspire you.

  1.  Map My Emissions – This is a helpful website that will help you calculate how much CO2 you are emitting to the environment. By inputting factors like the mode of transport, vehicle engine size, and the route, you can get estimates of your emissions and how they affect society.
  2. WWF Footprint Calculator – This is another handy carbon footprint calculator website. You fill in a questionnaire about your activities, and the calculator gives you an estimate of your carbon emissions based on your answers.
  3. UN Carbon Footprint Calculator – This is one of the best web calculators, and for two reasons. First, it auto-adjusts depending on your location (Country), and the second is that it allows you to adjust the size of your household for higher accuracy.
  4. Evocco – This is a Dublin-based startup that makes calculating the carbon emission from your food shopping very easy. By taking a photo of your grocery receipt, you will get your carbon footprint value based on estimations in relation to the foods on your list.
  5. Yayzy – This carbon footprint calculator comes as a mobile app. It allows users to compare the carbon emissions from their activities with other similar activities, which is instrumental for people looking to offset their emissions.
top 5 apps for tracking carbon footprint

Relevant Case Study: Building a CO2 emissions tracker

Our client, the UK company, was aimed at improving the community by helping people make sustainable choices when they travel or commute. They addressed Relevant to help them built an app focusing on the user’s daily mode of transport choices, automatically calculating and tracking CO2 emissions

In order to implement the project fast and smoothly, Relevant set up a team of three dedicated specialists. The team included a project manager and two senior iOS developers.

The client provided us with the specifications, which the team used to build the app from scratch. The main idea of the project was to help the users track and monitor their carbon footprint and advise them on making more sustainable transport choices. 

How does it work?

The data collected is presented in chart form for more convenient reading of the modes of transport used and emissions. In addition to that, there is an in-app leaderboard that allows users to see how they rank on minimizing their C02 output compared to friends, colleagues, family, a community, or users nationwide. 

Let’s take a closer look at how the solution works:

  1. The app calculates the daily, monthly, and yearly amount of carbon emissions created by the user’s travel choices. 
  2. Daily, the app automatically detects journey nodes and the user’s preferred mode of transport and allows them to adjust the mode if necessary.
  3. Users are presented with suggestions for alternative, more sustainable modes of transport to help them make conscious low-carbon travel choices.
  4. Users compete in minimizing their carbon footprint through leaderboards. This encourages sustainable transport decisions, resulting in reduced CO2 emissions.

Outcomes

The app is now in the beta testing phase. It is already changing the world for the better by providing real-time tracking and instant feedback on the carbon footprints of user journeys. This solution helps people become more aware of their carbon footprint and make more sustainable travel decisions.

What are the costs and time involved in developing a custom CO2 emissions tracker?

It may be hard to give a price estimate of the project as many factors come into play. For example, the number of developers, the amount of features, whether the tracker is a custom independent solution or an integration into an existing solution. 

All the above can affect the final price of the product. As for the duration, it may take you between 3 and 6 months to create a functional MVP.

Summary

Human activity has had a significant impact on the environment. One of the most negative effects is the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. 

The development of carbon footprint calculators creates awareness about individuals and institutions’ carbon emissions to help mitigate and offset these harmful effects. 

If your organization cares about the planet, particularly about the impact of carbon emissions, and wants to become a changemaker, developing a carbon footprint solution can be a good point to start. Remember, you can develop a custom carbon footprint solution or add such a feature to your existing product. Contact Relevant to help you make this goal a reality.

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Written by
Vadim Struk
Product Manager at Relevant Software
For more than 6 years, I've been working as Business Analyst and Product Manager at Relevant. I'm responsible for requirements engineering and management and solution implementation control.

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