5 Examples of Carbon Footprint Explained

Examples of carbon footprint are; automobile lifetime emissions, building yearly emissions, power plant gaseous effluents, incinerator greenhouse output, and consumer carbon footprint per sector.

This article discusses the examples of carbon footprint, as follows;



1). Automobile Lifetime Emissions (as one of the Examples of Carbon Footprint)

As the term implies, ‘automobile lifetime emissions’ refers to the total emissions incurred over the entire operational life of a given automobile vehicle.

It is both a volumetric, spatial, and temporal quantity, meaning that it can be used to express emissions of the vehicle based on volume, location/areal range, and time.

This example of carbon footprint is very important due to the notable role played by the transport sector in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Road transport with automobiles, accounts for a large fraction of total carbon emissions in all parts of the world [2].

Measurements of carbon footprint over the lifetime of a given automobile vehicle, can provide an important metric for assessing the environmental impact of the transport sector in any given area.

It can be used specifically to evaluate an individual automobile, or as a point of reference for a larger spectrum or group of vehicles.

Automobile lifetime emission values, help in gauging the role played by these vehicles as manmade carbon sources.

It also provides data to back moves for sustainability in the transport sector, such as the development of alternative sustainable technologies like electric cars.

Examples of Carbon Footprint: Automobile Lifetime Emissions (Credit: European Environment Agency 2016 .CC BY-SA 2.5.)
Examples of Carbon Footprint: Automobile Lifetime Emissions (Credit: European Environment Agency 2016 .CC BY-SA 2.5.)


2). Building Yearly Carbon Emissions

Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year [5].

This value indicates the importance of buildings in the context of carbon emission and footprint.

The yearly carbon emissions of a building is a carbon footprint metric that can serve a broad purpose including providing information on environmental impact, energy consumption rate, energy usage conditions, and construction approach.

Data collected on yearly building can emissions can help provide guidance on energy efficiency and conservation requirements.

Such data can also serve as a yardstick for optimizing architectural design, and developing effective green building concepts.

Carbon emissions from buildings can be attributed to internal activities, interior and exterior design, and construction materials which make up the buildings.


3). Power Plant Gaseous Effluents (as one of the Examples of Carbon Footprint)

The contribution of power plant to global carbon emissions has become very prominent, as a result of the rapid rate of urban development and industrialization, in all human-occupied parts of the world.

Assessment of carbon footprint is applicable to all types of power plants associated with greenhouse gas emissions, including fossil fuel-based plants, and renewable energy facilities like biofuel-fired power plants.

Gaseous effluents here include all byproducts of the process of generating electricity, that exist in the gaseous phase.

This is exemplified by the byproducts of fuel combustion, as well as by waste energy that is lost as water vapor from steam turbine systems.

Gaseous effluent can also be released along with, or while treating, wastewater from power plants.

Usually, values derived from analyzing the carbon footprint of power plants, can be used to gauge the degree of decarbonization (of the power sector and electricity-handling process) that has been achieved by a given piece of technological innovation or modification.

This can be done through comparative assessment of the given alternative and the analyzed power plant.

Gaseous effluent and carbon footprint are also useful for evaluating the ecologic performance of power plants over their entire lifecycle [1].


4). Incinerator Greenhouse Output

The carbon footprint of incineration is one of the highest in the entire waste management sector, averaging at around 0.2 tons of CO2 equivalent per ton of municipal solid waste [3].

In addition to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, incinerators are notorious as a source of airborne toxins that contribute to air pollution and pose a threat to human health [4].

The carbon footprint of an incinerator can help with full evaluation of these impacts in specific scenarios, based on which decisions can be taken on how to proceed with waste management by either modifying or substituting methods.

Some studies allege that incineration is worse than landfill disposal in terms of environmental impact (although the reverse has been proven in most cases), while others argue that the practice and process of incineration can be environmentally friendly provided measures like facility modification, waste recycling, material substitution and source reduction, are implemented.

The greenhouse gas output of incinerators are produced mainly through combustion of waste, and could be measured with significant precision using volumetric and qualitative sensors.

Examples of Carbon Footprint: Incinerator Greenhouse Output (Credit: takomabibelot 2007 .CC BY 2.0.)
Examples of Carbon Footprint: Incinerator Greenhouse Output (Credit: takomabibelot 2007 .CC BY 2.0.)


5). Consumer Carbon Footprint Per Sector (as one of the Examples of Carbon Footprint)

Consumerism contributes to carbon emissions by increasing the rate of raw material extraction, product creation, and waste production; all of which involve the generation and release of carbon dioxide.

The biggest contributor to a person’s carbon footprint is the energy that is directly or indirectly consumed by the individual.

This energy could occur in the form of food, electric power, hot water, conditioned air, health care, or general goods and services.

Calculation of consumer carbon footprint per sector, is a means of evaluating the emissions caused by individuals in a precise and collective manner.

It can be estimated based on goods and services purchased; volume of purchases, nature of purchases (in terms of direct environmental impact), and the fate of these goods and services in terms of waste output.

Consumer carbon footprint is an important metric because it directly portrays the environmental impact of customer service in commerce and industry, and can be used to gauge the contribution of any given product, service or sector, to climate change and global warming.

Also, an estimate of consumer carbon footprint can be used for demographic assessment, and may form the basis of important government measures to protect the environment and optimize the economy.




Examples of carbon footprint are;

1. Automobile Lifetime Emissions

2. Building Yearly Carbon Emissions

3. Power Plant Gaseous Effluents

4. Incinerator Greenhouse Output

5. Consumer Carbon Footprint Per Sector




1). Adiansyah, J.; Biswas, W.; Haque, N. (2021). “Life Cycle Based Carbon Footprint Assessment of Indonesia’s Geothermal Energy Exploration Project.” Chemical Engineering Transactions 83:61-66. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3303/CET2183011. (Accessed 1 December 2022).

2). Albuquerque, F. D. B.; Maraqa, M.; Chowdhury, R. K.; Mauga, T.; Alzard, M. H. H. (2020). “Greenhouse gas emissions associated with road transport projects: current status, benchmarking, and assessment tools Greenhouse gas emissions associated with road transport projects: current status, benchmarking, and assessment tools.” Transportation Research Procedia 48. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trpro.2020.08.261. (Accessed 1 December 2022).

3). Jeswani, H.; Smith, R. W.; Azapagic, A. (2012). “Energy from waste: Carbon footprint of incineration and landfill biogas in the UK.” The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 18(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-012-0441-8. (Accessed 1 December 2022).

4). Sharma, R.; Sharma, M.; Sharma, R.; Sharma, V. (2013). “The impact of incinerators on human health and environment.” Reviews on Environmental Health 28(1):67-72. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh-2012-0035. (Accessed 1 December 2022).

5). Zarco-Periñan, P. J.; Zarco-Soto, I. M.; Martinez-Ramos, J. L.; Sánchez-Durán, R. R. (2022). “CO2 Emissions in Buildings: A Synopsis of Current Studies.” Energies 15(18):6635. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/en15186635. (Accessed 1 December 2022).

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