The individual carbon footprint and how to count it – a guide for 2022

What do your neighbours, school friends, your cousin's uncle's dog, your cousin's brother-in-law's dog and even Keanu Reeves and his neighbours have in common? Every living being, regardless of where they live or their lifestyle, leaves an imprint on the environment. In this article, you can learn about the individual carbon footprint and an easy-to-use and highly accurate tool to help you track and reduce it. A carbon footprint calculator is here to help. Both you and the planet will benefit!

3 min read


Ksenia Pisera

Journalist, popularizer of knowledge about environmental and climate protection

What is the individual carbon footprint? It is the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHG, greenhouse gas emissions) emitted directly or indirectly by an individual.

What is the individual carbon footprint?

To keep yourself healthy, you should consider what and how much you consume. Food provides energy. It’s your fuel. At least once, you must have counted calories and tried to reduce or increase your energy balance. After all, who has never been on a diet of any kind?

We can calculate our impact on the climate on a comparable basis. What is the individual carbon footprint? It is the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHG, greenhouse gas emissions) emitted directly or indirectly by an individual. It is the sum of all the choices we make in our lives – from what we eat for breakfast, how we commute to work or school, where we buy our trousers, whether we turn off the water while brushing our teeth, or how much time we spend binging on TV series.

These can all be converted into carbon dioxide equivalent, CO2e, a carbon footprint measurement. Naturally, different greenhouse gases contribute to global warming unequally, but the carbon dioxide equivalent has been adopted to compare different gases on a standard scale. For example, a tonne of methane – the second most climate-affecting gas – is equivalent to 25 tonnes CO2e.

Both globally and in the EU, carbon dioxide emissions are the largest among greenhouse gases. Therefore, calculations are commonly given for CO2 emissions alone.

For example, Poland’s average milk consumption per capita is around 233 litres per year, with 1.9 kg of CO2 emissions per litre. Drinking oat milk instead would reduce these emissions to approximately 0.31 kg CO2 per litre of plant-based milk. Driving a car emits roughly 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre, while searching for two keywords using a search engine is about 7 grams of CO2. One e-mail sent without an attachment is about 4 grams of carbon dioxide, and with an attachment, about 50. You can go on and on until all the emissions add up to an individual’s carbon footprint.

Data from the European Commission shows that the average daily CO2 emission of a person living in Poland is 24 kg of carbon dioxide per day. The figures are, of course, different for each part of the world. For comparison, a resident of Kuwait emits 84 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere per day, Norway 23 kg, and France 15 kg.

How can you check your carbon footprint?

The figures are estimates. After all, you and Keanu Reeves (presumably) make at least slightly different daily choices that affect your GHG emissions. And while it may seem challenging to keep track of every activity and convert it into GHG emissions, a carbon footprint calculator comes to the rescue.

It is a user-friendly and highly accurate tool that calculates individual CO2 emissions. A carbon footprint calculator is a software into which you can enter data on various areas of your life – from your transport choices, electricity consumption, heating method, cooking, or entertainment habits.

These tools are available online, for example, on the tergo.io website – in a lite and advanced version. The former takes about three minutes to complete, while the latter takes about 12. The calculations are performed automatically, and the more accurate the data you enter, the more precise the result.

Carbon footprint calculators usually deal with an entire lifestyle, but some tools allow you to track a selected aspect. One such is the carbon footprint calculator for aeroplane flights. Enter a few necessary details – including the number of passengers, departure and arrival airports, and add any transfer points to obtain a detailed calculation of the CO2 emissions of such a journey.

Why should you calculate your carbon footprint?

Keeping track of your carbon footprint is the first step to protecting the planet. It is something that every one of us should get involved in. Indeed, scientists agree that reducing CO2 emissions is key to mitigating the effects of climate change. The IPCC report states that keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5°C requires halving CO2 emissions by 2030. By 2050, on the other hand, we should reduce them to zero.

Once we know our emissions levels, we can plan to reduce them. How? The easiest way is to start with the areas of life that contribute most to the carbon footprint! By acting step by step, you will make lasting changes!

For example, opt for public transport or carsharing instead of driving your own car to work. Incorporating meat alternatives into your diet and buying seasonal, local produce are also good practices.

And that’s just the beginning! Follow the TerGo blog and find lots of ways and practical tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint.