How do we calculate the carbon footprint?

Calculating the carbon footprint of products seems to be a trend these days - and according to some, a must. However, we are thinking about how we could do it better than others now and in the future. For this, together with Green Carbon, we developed a carbon footprint calculator, which allows us to determine the climate impact of all our products over the entire life cycle of the product (cradle-to-grave).

This in itself is nothing earth-shattering technically, but the real reason for developing the calculator is a completely new way of thinking in the consumer product market. With the help of the calculator, we want to define the possible climate impact of new products that are still being designed, and with the help of the obtained results, we can make choices in order to create the smallest possible carbon footprint for the final product. Of course, the generated emissions are offset, but in our opinion, the compensation is only patching up the damage that has occurred, and that is why we primarily want to learn how to find solutions to reduce the emissions caused by our products.

Comparison of carbon footprints

To help you understand from what the carbon footprint has accumulated, we’ve shown the emissions on the product pages using diagrams. When comparing the carbon footprints from different brands and companies, it is also good to know that different limits can be used in the calculation of emissions, which then affect the result of the calculation.

The most common restrictions are:
1. Cradle-to-factory gate - all emissions from the manufacturing of the product
2. Cradle-to-customer - all emissions associated with the manufacturing and transportation of the product till the customer has it
3. Cradle-to-grave - all emissions associated with the manufacture, transport, use and eventually disposal of the product

Due to these different limitations, the carbon footprints reported by different brands may differ and it may be difficult to compare them without going into more depth on each company's carbon footprint calculation methods. We show the products full life cycle emissions on our product pages (Cradle-to-grave).

Calculating the carbon footprint of our products in practice

The carbon footprint of our products has been determined using the emission factors from the Ecoinvent 3.4 database, which have been selected by an expert. The emission factor tells us how much greenhouse gas is produced, for example, from producing one kilowatt hour of electricity or from processing 1 kg of wood used.

For example, the country in which the electricity used is produced also affects the specified emission factor. Greenhouse gases refer not only to carbon dioxide (CO2) but also to other gases such as methane (CH4), which affect to the greenhouse effect. The scientifically determined emission factors therefore take all of these into account and the specified factors are expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e), i.e. all greenhouse gases are presented in relation to carbon dioxide, in order to make the total emissions easier to understand. 1 kg of carbon dioxide is thus the same as 1 kg CO2e and for comparison 1 kg of methane is 25 kg CO2e.

In our carbon footprint calculator, those emission factors are used so that the mass (kg) of each material and its waste factor have been determined from the products. From these values it is calculated the total material consumption. That is multiplied by the emission factor that results in the carbon footprint of each components material. Emissions from the use of energy in manufacturing have been calculated by dividing the manufacturer's annual energy consumption by the total amount of products produced, resulting in an average of the energy used to manufacture each product. This energy consumed is multiplied by the emission factor for that form of energy, resulting in a carbon footprint of the production of the product. Emissions from the transport of raw materials, storage of products and transport of finished products will be added to the carbon footprints of materials and energy, resulting in a complete product-specific carbon footprint.

Although carbon footprints and the climate impact of products have been discussed for some time, it is important to remember that not all emission factors and other data that affect the calculation are yet complete and will be updated with new, more accurate and better information. This is another reason why we wanted to have this carbon footprint calculator in our use. We don’t just want to “get it out of the way,” we want to update our own information as science gives us more accurate and better information. It is still not necessary to do so, but we think it is the right thing to do.