Carbon Footprints Of Everyday Products & Things

We’ve already put together a guide on the carbon footprints of different foods.

But, in the guide below, we’ve outlined the carbon footprints of different products and everyday things, such as cars, electricity, household appliances, and more

We’ve also organized them into categories.

 

Summary – Carbon Footprints Of Everyday Products & Things

There’s a number of ways to measure carbon footprints depending on the product or thing being measured

As just two examples, electricity might be measured per kilowatt hour, whilst food might be measured by unit of weight, per serving size, or per nutritional unit produced

CO2e allows different greenhouse gases emitted from any one thing to be combined into one measurement of emissions

Read more about carbon footprints, how they are measured, examples of carbon footprints, and other related information in this guide.

 

Onto each of the categories of products and things …

 

– Energy Sources & Electricity Production

Read more about the carbon footprint of energy sources and electricity in this guide.

 

– Heating

Space heating might have the lowest emission footprint for heating homes, and electric heaters the most.

Heat waste from electricity generation might be a lower carbon way to provide heating.

Overall, some sources indicate that heating and cooling homes and building combined are responsible for the most CO2 emissions in the US (presumably from the amount of energy and electricity it uses)

 

– Transport

Read more about emissions from different types of transport in this guide

 

– Food

Read this guide about the carbon footprints of different foods

 

– Whole Households

Some estimates go as low as 10 tonnes of CO2, and some go as high as 49 metric tons.

Realistically, the carbon footprint of a household can be affected by factors such as the climate the house is situated in, the size of the family, their lifestyle, and so on.

The energy source for electricity used is also obviously a key factor – fossil fuels vs renewables for example

 

– Household Appliances & Devices

Low energy lightbulbs, microwave ovens, and gas ovens might be some of the lowest emission appliances/devices to use.

Fridge/freezers, electric dryers and electric hobs might be some of the highest emissions appliances/devices.

Gas seems to be lower carbon as an energy source than electricity.

 

– TV’s

Putting a TV on standby can result in significant savings of carbon emissions.

Plasma TV’s might emit the most, and rear projection the least.

 

– Pets

Dogs and cats overall contribute to emissions primarily from the food they eat.

Meat based foods have a higher carbon footprint than plant based foods.

One dog might have a similar carbon footprint to a large car.

Overall, pets in the US are estimated to have 64 million tons of CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide from their product consumption (about the equivalent of a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars)

There’s also the bodily gases and excretions to consider with pets

 

– Plastic Bags

Lightweight plastic bags have a smaller carbon footprint than standard supermarket bags and heavyweight reusable plastic bags

 

– GDP

With each 1% increase in GDP there is an estimated corresponding 0.5 to 0.7% rise in carbon emissions

 

– The Internet

Using the internet and the systems that support it are responsible for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions according to some estimates

It takes about 5000 search engine searches before a person reaches 1kg of emissions for their web searches. The efficiency of a laptop or computer can matter though

Additionally, data storage adds to the carbon footprint of web searches

 

– Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency

One Bitcoin transaction is the equivalent of 100’s of thousands of VISA transactions, or watching 10’s of thousands of YouTube

Bitcoin’s total energy consumption results in emissions that match the total emissions of small to medium size countries, and some sources indicate Bitcoin’s entire carbon footprint is on track to match the city of London’s

But, the assumptions made are important in these calculations/estimates and the figures that are produced

 

– Smartphone

Most of the carbon footprint of a smartphone might come from it’s manufacture – up to 80% according to some estimates.

 

– Textiles

Cotton might have the highest carbon footprint per kilo of textile, with nylon, PET and wool all being around the same, but behind cotton.

Interestingly, accounting for durability and maintenance and cleaning, synthetic fibres might have lower carbon footprints than natural fibres.

But, there’s many variables and factors that go into the final carbon footprint that makes up a specific textile material.

Polyester and other synthetic fibres can have higher carbon footprints according to some sets of data

 

– Building Materials

There’s a difference between:

– The carbon footprint of a building material as a % of a country’s total emissions

– The carbon footprint of a building material per unit of weight of that material produced (which doesn’t take into account total amount of the material used, and ultimately, the total amount of emissions)

– And, the energy used by the material in production

Some sources indicate that concrete has a low embodied energy

 

– Concrete and Cement

Cement is a key ingredient in concrete

Estimates indicate cement makes up about 4 to 8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

In countries like the US, some estimates put that figure as low as 1.5% of the US’ total emissions (compared to other activities like heating and cooling, and transport)

In other countries, that % can be higher

Cement makes up almost 90% of concrete’s emissions footprint according to some sources, so, the carbon footprint of concrete depends on the cement content it contains

CO2 emissions from cement manufacture come from both the combustion of fuel, and the chemical process (such as the manufacture of clinker)

So, the energy used in combustion (such as coal), matters when it comes to the carbon footprint

 

– Steel

Steel might be responsible for about 6.7% of total global CO2 emissions

 

– Divorced Families Living In Separate Households

Divorced household living in separate homes usually have a higher carbon footprint due mainly to the extra electricity they use

 

– Giving Birth To One Extra Child

There are extra carbon emissions related to each extra child parents have

 

– Carbon Footprint Of One Person Over Their Lifetime

Heavily influenced by the lifestyle an individual lives, and the country they live in

Some people living in some countries can have a 5 times or greater carbon footprint than other people

 

– Large Events & Professional Sports

Large events like a World Cup and professional sport produce a lot of emissions – for the in person activities at stadiums, but also for those watching on the internet and on TV’s

 

– Celebrities & People With Lavish/High & Fast Consumption Lifestyles

People with high consumption and lavish lifestyles might have a much higher carbon footprint than the average person

 

– Other

Running on a treadmill compared to a walk outside might use more carbon

Staying in a hotel compared to camping might use more carbon

You can see the carbon footprints of other common everyday things in the guide below

 

– About Carbon Footprints

Read more about carbon footprints in this guide

We discuss points such as what CO2e is, limitations with how carbon footprints can be used, and how they are not an absolute or certain measurement.

 

– Carbon Footprints For The Same Product Or Thing Can Vary

It’s worth noting that carbon footprints for the exact same product or thing can vary.

Common reasons might include something being produced under different conditions in another geographic location, something is produced with different processes or different variables (such as production systems, or inputs) in the production process, or even that the report includes or excludes different data, different assumptions are made, or a range of other variables in how the carbon footprint is calculated.

We talk in further depth about the varying nature of carbon footprints in this guide.

So, it’s important when looking at carbon footprints, to not only look at how the measurement was calculated, but look at exactly how and where the individual product was produced.

Consumption and disposal also play a part in the entire carbon footprint life cycle/lifetime of something.

 

Carbon Footprint Of Heating

Electric heaters might be the most carbon intensive form of heating in homes, whilst space heating might be the least.

Waste heat from power generation might be another low emission way to provide heating.

Overall, some sources indicate that heating and cooling homes and building combined are responsible for the most CO2 emissions in the US (presumably from the amount of energy and electricity it uses)

 

[Research on the] CO2 footprint for heat … shows that using waste heat from power generation in combined heat and power district heating, chp/dh has the lowest carbon footprint, much lower than micro-power or heat pumps

– wikipedia.org

 

Space heating with wood emits the least CO2e (31.4 tons per million BTU) followed by 64.2 for natural gas, with the highest being 210.5 for electric heaters.

– css.umich.edu

 

The four largest generators of CO2 in the U.S. are: Heating and cooling homes (21%), Heating and cooling buildings (18%), Driving cars and trucks (33%), and Industrial operations (28%).

– nrmca.org

 

Carbon Footprint Of Different Household Appliances & Devices

Low energy lightbulbs, microwave ovens, and gas ovens might be some of the lowest emission appliances/devices to use.

Fridge/freezers, electric dryers and electric hobs might be some of the highest emissions appliances/devices.

Gas seems to be lower carbon as an energy source than electricity.

 

The following appliances might emit the following amounts of CO2 per year (measured in kg of CO2 per year):

Low Energy Light Bulb – 11 (kg CO2 per year)

Microwave Oven – 39 

Gas Oven – 38

Washing Machine – 51

Dishwasher at 55°C – 51

Standard Light Bulb – 63

Gas Hob – 71

Kettle – 73

Dishwasher at 65°C – 84

Fridge-Freezer A ++ spec – 89

Electric Oven – 91

Fridge-Freezer A+ spec – 116

Electric Hob – 129

Electric Tumble Dryer – 159

Fridge-Freezer A spec – 175

– carbonfootprint.com

 

Refrigerators are one of the largest users of household appliance energy …

– css.umich.edu

 

Drying one load of laundry a week puts 0.1 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere

The average bedroom lights produce about 0.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually when they are on for two hours a week

– livescience.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of TV’s

Putting a TV on standby can result in significant savings of carbon emissions.

Plasma TV’s might emit the most, and rear projection the least.

 

In terms of TV’s and amounts of CO2 per year (measured in kg of CO2 per year):

Primary TV – LCD 34-37 inch, On standby 17.5 hours a day – 5

Primary TV – Rear projection 34-37 inch, On standby 17.5 hours a day – 5

Primary TV – Plasma 34-37 inch, On standby 17.5 hours a day – 10

Primary TV – CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) 34-37 inch, On standby 17.5 hours a day – 12

Primary TV – Rear projection 34-37 inch, On power 6.5 hours a day – 196

Primary TV – CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) 34-37 inch, On power 6.5 hours a day – 203

Primary TV – LCD 34-37 inch, On power 6.5 hours a day – 215

Primary TV – Plasma 34-37 inch, On power 6.5 hours a day – 269

– carbonfootprint.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of Households

Some estimates go as low as 10 tonnes of CO2, and some go as high as 49 metric tons.

Realistically, the carbon footprint of a household can be affected by factors such as the climate the house is situated in, the size of the family, their lifestyle, and so on.

 

The average U.S. household pumps 49 metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year

– livescience.com

 

In the US, each household produces 48 tons of greenhouse gases.

– greeneatz.com

 

The average family of 4 creates 10 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year

– carbonfootprint.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of Pets Like A Dog Or Cat

Dogs and cats overall contribute to emissions primarily from the food they eat.

Meat based foods have a higher carbon footprint than plant based foods.

One dog might have a similar carbon footprint to a large car.

Overall, pets in the US are estimated to have 64 million tons of CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide from their product consumption (about the equivalent of a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars)

 

A medium-size dog could have a similar footprint to a large SUV

[Food is a large contributing factor, and meat based pet foods produce more carbon than plant based foods]

– dailymail.co.uk

 

There are 163 million dogs and cats in the US regularly consuming animal products.

US pet cats and dogs account for 64 million tons of CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide from their product consumption

The amount of meat likely to be consumed by America’s pet cats and dogs and found that their overall caloric consumption was roughly 19 per cent of what humans consume

– journals.plos.org

 

Meat-eating by dogs and cats creates the equivalent of about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, which has about the same climate impact as a year’s worth of driving from 13.6 million cars

Cats and dogs are responsible for 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the United States

– newsroom.ucla.edu

 

Carbon Footprint Of Plastic

The carbon footprint of plastic (LDPE or PET, poyethylene) is about 6 kg CO2 per kg of plastic

– timeforchange.org

 

Carbon Footprint Of A Plastic Bag

Lightweight plastic bags have a smaller carbon footprint than standard supermarket bags and heavyweight reusable plastic bags

 

3 g CO2 emissions for very lightweight plastic bags

10 g CO2 emissions for standard disposable supermarket plastic bag

50 g CO2 heavyweight reusable plastic bag

– greenlivingonline.com

 

Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year

– oceancrusaders.org

 

Carbon Footprint Of A Plastic Water Bottle

… one 500-milliliter (0.53 quarts) plastic bottle of water has a total carbon footprint equal to 82.8 grams (about 3 ounces) of carbon dioxide

– sciencing.com

 

… we consume 563 billion single use plastic water bottles every year

– 1millionwomen.com.au

 

Carbon Footprint Of Toilet Paper

Using toilet paper made from non recycled toilet paper for 1 year – 75kg C02e

– ourworld.unu.edu

 

Carbon Footprint Of A Country’s GDP

… with each 1% increase in GDP there is a corresponding 0.5 to 0.7% rise in carbon emissions

– theconversation.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of Using A Computer

Using a computer every workday from 9 to 6, and at home during weekdays and on weekends for 2 hours (includes electricity, servers, networks) – 1.41 tonnes CO2e per year

– ourworld.unu.edu

 

Carbon Footprint Of The Internet

The carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them account for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions

– bbc.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of A Google Search Or Web Search

The efficiency of the computer being used as well as data storage matter in the carbon footprint of a web search.

 

At 0.2 grams a search – it would take about 5000 searches before a person reaches 1kg of emissions.

 

0.2 g CO2 emissions: Google’s estimate for the energy used at their end

0.7 g CO2 emissions from an efficient laptop

4.5 g CO2 from a power-hungry machine

– greenlivingonline.com

 

On aggregate, the annual global emissions from texting, e-mailing (roughly 90 trillion e-mails in 2009) and ‘googling’ could be as high as 360 million tonnes.

Add to that the 130 million tonnes of CO2e it takes to store the world’s data per year (web pages, databases, applications and downloads)

– ourworld.unu.edu

 

Carbon Footprint Of Email

A typical year of receiving emails – 135kg CO2e

– ourworld.unu.edu

 

Carbon Footprint Of Cryptocurrency & Bitcoin

During the time of March 2021, various sources online indicate that:

– one Bitcoin transaction is the equivalent of 100’s of thousands of VISA transactions, or watching 10’s of thousands of YouTube

– Bitcoin’s total energy consumption results in emissions that match the total emissions of small to medium size countries, and some sources indicate Bitcoin’s entire carbon footprint is on track to match the city of London’s

 

A lot of this comes down to assumptions made about the exact number of Terrawatts of electricity it uses.

Estimates in 2021 range anywhere from 70TWh up to almost 200TWh.

 

Carbon Footprint Of A Mobile Phone, Or Smartphone

Most of the carbon footprint of a smartphone might come from it’s manufacture – up to 80% according to some estimates.

 

An iPhone X has a 79 kg CO2e total greenhouse gas emissions.

80% comes from production, 17% from customer use, 2% from transport and 1% from recycling

– images.apple.com

 

… a mobile phone, just two minutes’ daily use produces 47 kg of CO2 per year and an hour a day could produce the figure of 1,250 kg per year

– activesustainability.com

 

Using a mobile phone for 1 hour per day (includes manufacture, and usage emissions) – 1250kg per year

– ourworld.unu.edu

 

Carbon Footprint Of Different Textile Materials

Cotton might have the highest carbon footprint, with nylon, PET and wool all being around the same, but behind cotton.

Interestingly, accounting for durability and maintenance and cleaning, synthetic fibres might have lower carbon footprints than natural fibres.

But, there’s many variables and factors that go into the final carbon footprint that makes up a specific textile material.

 

According to Wikipedia.org:

In Europe, carbon dioxide equivalent emissions footprints per kilo of textile at the point of purchase by a consumer were:

Cotton: 8

Nylon: 5.43

PET (e.g. synthetic fleece): 5.55

Wool: 5.48

Accounting for durability and energy required to wash and dry textile products, synthetic fabrics generally have a substantially lower carbon footprint than natural ones.

[But – there are a wide range of factors that can impact the carbon footprint of individual textiles]

 

Carbon Footprint Of Common Building Materials

There’s a difference between:

– The carbon footprint of a building material as a % of a country’s total emissions

– The carbon footprint of a building material per unit of weight of that material produced (which doesn’t take into account total amount of the material used, and ultimately, the total amount of emissions)

– And, the energy used by the material in production

 

The carbon emission footprint of different materials like Bricks, Cement, Concrete, Glass, Timber, Plastics, Metals, Minerals and stone, and more – can be found at the  circularecology.com, greet.es.anl.gov and Wikipedia.org listed in the resources list.

 

Some sets of data show that aluminum and stainless steel by far use the most energy during production, whilst aggregates, concrete, bricks, timber and portland cement use the least.

 

The energy used in production for some common building materials is (in Gigajoules per tonne):

Aluminum – 270 GJ/t

Stainless Steel – 90

Steel – 30

Glass – 20

Portland Cement – 5

Timber – 2

Bricks – 2

Concrete – 1.4

Aggregates – 0.25

– nrmca.org

 

The energy use in concrete:

One area of the concrete life cycle worth noting is the fact that concrete has a very low embodied energy relative to the quantity that is used.

This is primarily the result of the fact that the materials used in concrete construction, such as aggregates, pozzolans, and water, are relatively plentiful and can often be drawn from local sources. 

This means that transportation only accounts for 7% of the embodied energy of concrete, while the cement production accounts for 70%.

With a total embodied energy of 1.69 GJ/tonne concrete is lower than any other building material besides wood.

– wikipedia.org

 

The energy use in concrete:

Concrete compares favorably to other building materials such as steel, wood and asphalt when analyzing energy consumption and CO2 emissions

… cement production accounts for 0.33% of energy consumption in the U.S.

The current level is low compared with other industries, such as petroleum refining at 6.5%, steel production at 1.8% and wood production at 0.5%

– nrmca.org

 

The energy use in steel:

Efficiency with steel production is on the rise though – In the last 50 years, the steel industry has reduced its energy consumption per tonne of steel produced by 60%

– worldsteel.org

 

Carbon Footprint Of Concrete & Cement

Cement is a key ingredient in concrete

Estimates indicate cement makes up about 4 to 8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. In countries like the US, some estimates put that figure as low as 1.5% of the US’ total emissions (compared to other activities like heating and cooling, and transport)

Cement makes up almost 90% of of concrete’s emissions footprint according to some sources, so, the carbon footprint of concrete depends on the cement content it contains

CO2 emissions from cement manufacture come from both the combustion of fuel, and the chemical process (such as the manufacture of clinker)

 

Concrete is the most widely consumed resource on the planet behind water

[Cement is a key ingredient in concrete, and] Cement is the source of about 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions

It contributes more CO2 than aviation fuel (2.5%) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12%).

– bbc.com

 

Taking in all stages of production, concrete is said to be responsible for 4-8% of the world’s CO2.

Among materials, only coal, oil and gas are a greater source of greenhouse gases.

Half of concrete’s CO2 emissions are created during the manufacture of clinker, the most-energy intensive part of the cement-making process

– theguardian.com

 

Concrete has a carbon footprint of about – CO2e: 150kg per tonne

The manufacture of cement produces about 0.9 pounds of CO2 for every pound of cement.

Since cement is only a fraction of the constituents in concrete, manufacturing a cubic yard of concrete (about 3900 lbs) is responsible for emitting about 400 lbs of CO2

Carbon dioxide emissions from a cement plant are divided into two source categories: combustion and calcination.

Combustion accounts for approximately 40% and calcination 60% of the total CO2 emissions from a cement manufacturing facility

– greenrationbook.org.uk

 

The concrete industry is one of two largest producers of carbon dioxide (CO2), creating up to 5% of worldwide man-made emissions of this gas, of which 50% is from the chemical process and 40% from burning fuel. 

The CO2 emission from the concrete production is directly proportional to the cement content used in the concrete mix …

– wikipedia.org

 

[emissions depend] on the fuel type, raw ingredients used and the energy efficiency of the cement plant

The U.S. cement industry accounts for approximately 1.5% of U.S. CO2 emissions, well below other sources such as heating and cooling our homes (21%), heating and cooling our buildings (19%), driving our cars and trucks (33%) and industrial operations (27%)

– nrmca.org

 

The concrete industry is one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide in the world, producing around 5% of man-made carbon emissions.

Approximately 88% of the emissions associated with concrete production are due to fabrication and use of cement

– giatecscientific.com

 

Potential improvement in the carbon footprint of cement and concrete:

Companies like CarbonCure are developing technologies for concrete manufacturing companies that will recycle carbon dioxide and use it to make stronger and greener concrete.

Not only can this technology reduce the industry’s carbon footprint by up to 15% by 2030, but the improved strength of concrete means that buildings could last longer than the typical 60-80 years reducing the turnover rate

– giatecscientific.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of Steel

Steel might be responsible for about 6.7% of total global CO2 emissions

 

The greenhouse gas of most relevance to the world steel industry is carbon dioxide (CO2).

On average, 1.9 tonnes of CO2 are emitted for every tonne of steel produced.

According to the International Energy Agency, the iron and steel industry accounts for approximately 6.7% of total world CO2 emissions.

– worldsteel.org

 

Carbon Footprint Of Clothes Shopping

Spending $100 of clothes each month will set you back 0.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Throw in a $1,000 furniture purchase once a year and you’re up to almost a ton.

– livescience.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of Divorced Families Living In Separate Households

Divorced household living in separate homes usually have a higher carbon footprint due mainly to the extra electricity they use

 

Divorced households used an extra 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity compared with married households.

The boost in carbon output had to do with the additional homes needed to house the now-separated couples.

There were about 16 million divorced households in 2000, which comes to 4,562.5 extra kilowatt-hours of electricity per household.

Break that down into carbon emissions and you get an extra 2.8 metric tons per year per household

– livescience.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of Having One Extra Child

This is the extra footprint for parents to raise and care for a child.

 

Having a baby will set you back 9,441 metric tons of CO2 over your lifetime

– livescience.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of One Person Over Their Lifetime

It depends on the country they are living in and the lifestyle they live.

nature.org indicates that ‘The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States [per year] is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average is closer to 4 tons’

Based on the assumption someone lives until 70, that equals:

US – 70 x 16 = 1120 tons of CO2 for a lifetime

Global Average – 70 x 4 = 280 tons of CO2 for a lifetime

 

So, one person living in one country could have up to a 5x or larger carbon footprint than another person.

Choices about electricity suppliers, food, transport, households, and so on all matter.

 

Carbon Footprint Of One Soccer World Cup

The 2010 South Africa World Cup produced 2.8 million tonnes C02e for one month [but, this did not include those watching TV]

– ourworld.unu.edu

 

Carbon Footprint Of Running On A Treadmill

Running on a treadmill for 30 minutes three times a week will boost your carbon footprint by 0.07 metric tons per year

– livescience.com

 

Carbon Footprint Of Staying In A Hotel

Two nights in a standard high carbon use hotel – 120kg C02e

– ourworld.unu.edu

 

Carbon Footprint Of Hand Dryer vs Paper Hand Towels

3 g CO2 emissions drying with the Dyson Airblade

10 g CO2 emissions for one paper towel

20 g CO2 emissions for standard electric dryer

– greenlivingonline.com

 

Read More About Climate Change

If you’re interested in reading more about climate change, this guide outlines some of the basic information to consider, and this guide outlines some of the general solutions that have been proposed to address it

 

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39. https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/#:~:text=The%20average%20carbon%20footprint%20for,under%202%20tons%20by%202050.

40. http://www.circularecology.com/embodied-energy-and-carbon-footprint-database.html#.W8hPXhMzbR0

41. https://greet.es.anl.gov/

42. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46455844

43. https://www.carbonbrief.org/qa-why-cement-emissions-matter-for-climate-change

44. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_concrete

45. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/25/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth

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