February 11th, 2019 by Carolyn Fortuna
What happens when 27 high schools across Norway participate in a climate emissions challenge? Over 6000 participants together saved 273,471 kg CO2e in just 3 weeks. And that’s equivalent to flying 27 times around the earth. In fact, if all Norwegians copied the top 20 classes in the challenge, the country would save 40% of its total annual carbon emissions. Imagine what a comparable effect would be if the world accepted a carbon footprint challenge …
The students logged their everyday activities using the fun Ducky web-app from a local startup. The algorithm calculates the effect of authentic user behavior in real time. That means each action the students took was based on simple things they could do to reduce their carbon footprint, like walking instead of driving or eating less meat. In total, they logged a staggering 312,175 actions, which showed how, by tracking their individual climate footprints over time, they could visualize and reduce their carbon footprints. That meant that each student reached important climate goals.
The competition was sponsored by local city councils, and, following the positive feedback, several more county municipalities have expressed interest in running their own championships in 2019. Mads Simonsen, one of the co-founders of the Ducky app, is also ready to expand the challenge to new regions, as each challenge can be custom tailored to the organizations or schools that play it.
“We were blown away by how successful this challenge was,” he explains. “Our app really inspired the kids to be more aware. We’re now hoping to roll out the Climate Challenge on a national and international basis this year.”
Brand name companies such as IKEA, Ruter, and KLP Banken have already used the Ducky app to engage employees and customers in climate awareness activities. IKEA was one of the early users of the app and ran a climate challenge across six warehouses.
“The level of participation and engagement in our internal challenge was way above our expectations,” confirms IKEA Sustainability Manager Anders Lennartsson. “I really believe the Ducky platform is exactly what we need to demonstrate the positive effect of us all working together.”
From Climate Science to Play
Carbon footprints are reduced over time both when we improve our habits and when industry changes in a way that our consumption has a lower impact. When we save CO2-equivalents, we also reduce our impact on land use, ecosystems, water usage, and other parameters. An example is in attire: we can learn to buy less clothing, and clothing manufacturers can ensure that future global clothing production has a lower climate impact.
The Ducky Climate Challenge Game is based on established climate and environmental research data. The calculator simplifies data so it becomes understandable for everyone. It has the potential to show how all global emissions can be allocated to individual consumption of products and services, and how we, as individuals, have the power to ensure that we reach critical climate goals.
The calculator works in such way that, after entering the most basic household data, all other data are estimated, based on available statistical analysis for Norwegian households. Different calculation methods are used depending on the emission category, but all results are given in CO2-equivalents — that unit of measure which is commonly embraced to achieve climate change impacts over a 100-year time period, as used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
If you’d like to play, click here.
Actionable Categories within the Ducky Calculator
With the climate calculator on Ducky, we can see the positive savings of our environmental habits. The footprint is calculated from Norwegian conditions and has been prepared together with world-leading researchers in climate data. Let’s go through some categories in abbreviation and learn a bit more about how each contributes to our carbon footprint.
The amount of food is measured in calories, and a Norwegian average of 2700 kcal is set as the daily average calorie intake. This varies, based on gender and personal food consumption, but the calories amount is set to be constant with all the different diets (vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian, etc.).
Meat: Meat consumption has the highest impact per calorie of all the food groups. On average, meat production emits 3 times as much CO2 emissions per calorie as the production of the average vegetable.
Dairy Products: Since dairy products are associated with animal husbandry, they are also associated with high environmental impacts. Specifically, milk, yogurt, and cheese have high emissions per calorie content, comparable to the average meat emissions.
Food Waste: Food waste represents an efficiency loss, and, thus, is associated with an environmental impact. If we reduce food waste at the consumption stage, this food will not have to be produced, and we get an emission reduction. Studies show that consumers waste 10-13% of purchased food. Since it is unlikely that we will be able to completely reduce our food waste, the calculator estimates that food waste can be reduced by a maximum of 70%.
The calculator uses average emissions from Nordic electricity production when calculating emissions from energy use in households. A factor of 128 g CO2 eq/kWh was the average value for the Nordic electricity delivered to households for 2011 – 2015. The average national district heating mix is a mix of oil, gas, electricity, bioenergy, heat from waste incineration, and free heat from the surroundings (heat pumps etc.).
Heating of household: Statistically, energy use will vary based on number of people in the household as well as the house type and the year the house was built/renovated. The calculator gives energy use per area for different house types and number of persons in the household. This is used to adjust the total energy use for the household with the number of people living in the household.
Water heating: Average water use is given as 9.5 liters per minute, and it takes 0.041 kWh of energy to heat one liter of water from 10-38 ℃. With a water use length of 8.5 minutes per day for 2.2 persons, this gives an average energy consumption of 2659 kWh per year, which coincides with the statistical yearly use. The calculator takes into account the energy carrier (electricity, heat pump, etc.) used to heat the water.
Lighting and electronics: Among the household energy consumption that is specific to electricity is energy use for lighting and electronic appliances. The average energy use for lighting in Norwegian homes is 1000 kWh per year. This consumption can be decreased by conserving energy and installing LED-lights. Energy consumption for electronics will vary but an average value of 2850 kWh per year is given. As dishwashers and tumble-driers are the 2 most energy consuming appliances, these are evaluated separately, and their consumption is affected by how often they are used. The initial data in these categories are calibrated based on the number of people in the household and divided on household members.
Household Goods and Services
The household goods and services category uses economic input-output tables so that emissions for different consumption categories. Examples are that average spending has an emission of 44g CO2e per NOK, while spending money on clothing has an average emission of 51g CO2e per NOK. Culture arrangements are normally below 20g CO2e per NOK. In calculations, it is assumed that all income is spent in some way. If you spend a lot of money on paying down loan or put them into the savings account, it is probable that the money is still used then to build housing, etc. And the assumption is, therefore, probably quite right.
Quality and repair consumer: The main assumption is that an increase in the lifetime of a product completely replaces the need to buy a similar product in the relevant time frame. As an example, if you use an object 20% longer than its expected lifetime, you save climate change emissions equal to 20% of production emissions of that object.
Ethical consumer: For this habit, the calculator estimates both that the user spends more money on energy, transport, and food, and these amounts are removed from consumption amounts. In addition, it is assumed that emission per NOK spent in consumption items are less, as it usually costs more to take ethical considerations in all purchases.
Service consumer: As money spent on services such as movies, news, music, theater, etc. has a lower impact than money spent on products, a percentage of total consumption as described in the calculator is moved from all product items and divided on all service categories.
Donations: Reduced money usage is one of the best climate actions. Money donated to others is removed from the consumption category of the users, and the emissions from this money are allocated to the ones receiving the money.
Recycling: Emission savings from recycling are based on the average waste and recycling rate of Norwegian households for paper, glass, plastic, and metal waste. Emission reductions for paper and plastic are compared to waste incineration, by comparing current recycling rates with an optimal recycling rate which is deemed realistic. Plastic, paper, and metal especially have potential for increased recycling rates. It is worth noting that, in carbon accounting, the person recycling does not get the CO2 reduction benefit from recycling; rather, the person using the recycled material get the benefit. The calculator does encourage recycling as an environmentally positive action in many ways (climate, resource scarcity, etc.), and, so, highlights the climate effect of recycling.
All transport emissions are calculated in the way that the user can input travel length and way of transportation for work, leisure, and holiday travels. Distances are multiplied by emission factors for different forms of transportation to define the total emission. Default travel lengths were determined from the 2013 Norwegian travel survey. These distances/parameters can be changed by the users. The following values are set as default travel lengths:
- Length to work is set to 10 km each way
- Leisure travel distance is set to 140 km each week
- Long trip travels are set to 1 flight (one way) to Scandinavia, 2 flights to Europe, 2 Regional trips with public transport, and 4 regional trips with car.
Means of transportation: The Norwegian travel survey, upon which much of this transportation data is based, provided default values for leisure and work habits based on vehicles in the household. The calculator adapts these only slightly. For example, if the household has more vehicles than adults, it is assumed that personal vehicles are used every day, while, if there are less vehicles in the household, the amount of public transport increases up to 7 days a week in 4 steps.
Train emission factors:
- Train: 55 g CO2 /pkm with indirect emissions of 7 grams CO2-eq per person-km
- Metro: 26 g CO2 /pkm with indirect emissions of 15 grams CO2-eq per person-km
- 158 g CO2 per person-km for domestic flights
- 13.4 g CO2 per person-km for short international flights (European)
- 105.6 g CO2 per person-km for long international flights (intercontinental)
Indirect emissions must be added to these numbers:
- 56 g CO2 per person-km for domestic flights
- 52 g CO2 per person-km for short international flights (European)
- 48 g CO2 per person-km for long international flights (intercontinental)
What is Your Carbon Footprint?
I was fascinated by the idea of calculating my carbon footprint! I started by doing the basic carbon footprint game, then I extended outward and created an account so that I could deconstruct different categories. I compost, recycle, eat only vegetarian, have a pellet stove, work from home — why, I must be exceptional, right?
Well, sorta yes, but also sorta no. Here’s my carbon footprint breakout for February, 2019.
My sum total was definitely influenced by the numerous times per year that I travel to my vacation home on the Atlantic coast of Florida. I am reminded of the resolution for the Green New Deal, which indicates that future travel will deemphasize air travel in favor of electric rail. I also know from research we’ve done here at CleanTechnica that short hops from electric-powered planes may become much more common in the next several years.
It’s important for me — and us all, really — to understand how our choices result in our carbon footprint and directly affect the climate. This carbon footprint game was fun but also illustrative of the arduous work we each need to do everyday to limit carbon emissions.
Want to learn more about the Ducky calculator? Click here.