Check your community’s carbon footprint

A new online tool lets you check out your town or parish’s carbon footprint – aiming to help communities to see where their climate change activities can make the biggest difference. TTL gave it a test drive.

Impact, a community-scale carbon footprinting tool, has been launched by the Centre for Sustainable Energy.

It aims to give small communities, including parishes and towns, usable data on their carbon emissions (largely using data from standard government sources) that’s easy to understand and share. In turn it’s hoped this can point communities to the most effective place to focus their carbon-cutting efforts.

We found it very easy to use and doesn’t take ages to load. You can choose whether to look at the emissions actually produced in the area, or because of what residents buy and use: i.e. territorial or consumption. For the competitive among us, the tool also enables comparison between different parishes: for example Lewes and Barcombe. Unfamiliar terms are explained and there is excellent full explanation given in “About”.

What the tool shows and doesn’t show
If you’re thinking of using the tool to determine where your climate action activities should focus, it’s worth taking the time to understand how the data is calculated. The territorial footprintcan be affected by there being a busy road or big factory, even though the residents would not be responsible for most of the emissions.

Home energy appears in both modes, and would show, after a time lag, the difference when Barcombe gets off oil heating, for example. However, if, for example, all the residents of Lewes had stopped taking flights on holiday, this would not show up. This calculation is based on household income, and flights are counted on a national basis. However, a community looking together at its consumption emissions could see that flights are a major contributor and campaign to reduce this.

The consumption footprints are obtained from knowing household income and predicting spending and therefore the carbon footprint from that, with a regional component (e.g. South East or South West). There isn’t a parish level component for consumption except for home energy use but some other sources, for example farming, are reported on a local authority basis, and this is used to help calculate territorial emissions. Farming emissions vary between parishes according to the amount of land and what it is used for.

There is more about the tool’s methodology here

VERDICT: Really useful, easy to use and a great conversation-starter for any local group wanting to take action on local emissions.


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