Monday, June 15, 2009

The Carbon Footprint

Well we've had another report back from the Eco-congregation assessors. The commendations are for both the garden and for the large number of people involved in the process. The recommendation is that we should measure our carbon footprint and aim to reduce it. At Forbury Fever I picked up a personal carbon footprint calculator and then remembered why I'd never set very much store by them - I can easily cut my footprint in half depending on which calculator I'm using! The Church of England's calculator is just about direct power consumption which is obviously less subject to different interpretations so probably where we'll start.

I did e-mail Ecotricity to ask how we should calculate emissions from them and the initial e-mail said there are no emissions. I'd love to calculate it this way, but surely this can't quite be true since the windmills etc require building: I'll be on the phone to them soon. I find myself wondering how many organisations claim to be 'carbon neutral' without taking into account the original inputs?

I'd be very grateful for any suggestions anyone has on effective ways to calculate a church's carbon footprint.


  1. Hi Joanna,

    I just spotted this post, and I am pretty sure I can help you out further.

    With regards the embedded carbon in our windmills from manufacture - this 'carbon debt' is usually repaid between 6-9 months of operation.

    The complexity in calculating your own carbon footprint varies depending on the calculator tool (as you have noticed!).

    Could you provide a direct link to the CoE calculator? I can't find it via a google search...

    Best regards

  2. Hi thanks for this. I've amended the post so that there is a link to the C of E carbon questionnaire. As you'll see, this was initially meant to be used back in 2005 at the launch of the Shrinking the Footprint initiative and we have to send the details to the diocesan environment officer to get our calculations done.

    I'd be really interested to know how the wind turbines' carbon debt pay off compares with that for PV panels or ground source heating (which some local churches are contemplating) - any ideas?

    Best wishes

  3. Hiya Joanna,

    I asked our researcher to look into this, he said:

    "Solar PV panels appear to vary quite a bit e.g. 10 years – 15 years. There’s big variation in the numbers out there, I’m inclined not to believe anything published by a manufacturer having checked a few of their calculations.

    The government, in a microgen study published last year said that there was no data available on embodied energy for microgen technology!

    I’ve asked the carbon trust for some data, but they essentially said that the figures for embedded carbon and the time to pay it back varies wildly. There are no standard figures available."

    So not sure that actually helps you?! It is a sorry situation for sure, considering the 'chatter' about Carbon Reduction Commitment, Feed In Tariffs and Ofgem's Green Tariff Guidelines going on of late. If no-one actually knows - it makes me wonder why and how are decisions being made regarding legislation to reduce carbon etc?

    Perhaps it might be worth asking the diocesan environment officer what methodology they use to calculate the carbon footprints of GSHP, Green Tariffs and Microgen etc..?

    Will let you know if we find out more from this end.

    Best regards