Carbon footprint: Simply explained

Carbon footprint

Do you want to contribute to climate protection and minimise your carbon footprint? The carbon footprint is not just a buzzword; it provides insights into how much our actions impact the environment. But how is it calculated and what can you do to reduce your carbon footprint? All these questions are answered below.

Key points in a nutshell:

  • The carbon footprint measures the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated by an individual, organisation or product.
  • It's crucial for assessing our impact on climate change and promoting sustainable practices.
  • When considering the carbon footprint of the Swiss population – emissions generated domestically, through imported goods and financial activities – it ranks among the highest in the world.
  • With radicant's carbon tracker, you can trace the carbon footprint of each of your payments and keep track of your overall carbon balance.

1. What is the carbon footprint?

The carbon footprint represents the total amount of all greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide, produced directly or indirectly by an individual, organisation or product. It indicates how much our actions influence the climate. The impact of other greenhouse gases can be compared to CO2 and is expressed in CO2 equivalent (CO2eq).

2. Why should we measure our carbon footprint?

Measuring the carbon footprint serves three important functions:

  • It enhances responsibility by clarifying who contributes to climate change, be it individuals, organisations or governments.
  • It promotes sustainability by providing data that help us reduce our emissions. This way we can make better daily decisions and prioritise the most effective actions.
  • It supports policymakers by providing accurate carbon footprint data, enabling more effective laws and incentives for the transition to a low-carbon economy.

3. How do I calculate my personal carbon footprint?

Your personal carbon footprint reflects your everyday activities and the resulting consumption of resources.

Consider your commute, for example: Do you use a car, and if so, what's its fuel consumption? Or do you take public transport? What about travel – how often and how far do you fly? Lastly, how much electricity and how much energy to heat your home do you use?

Each of these activities incurs energy consumption, which depending on the energy sources – oil, gas, solar or wind power – generates varying amounts of carbon emissions. These energy sources each have distinct emission factors, by which the energy consumption is multiplied to determine the resulting carbon emissions.

Does it sound complicated? Don’t worry! Nowadays, you can swiftly calculate your personal carbon footprint with an online calculator. Such tools can also assess the carbon emissions resulting from specific activities, such as air travel.

A flight from Zurich to Mallorca, for example, generates 413 kg of CO2 per person, according to the myclimate calculator. This corresponds up to 4.9 percent of the average annual emissions of a person living in Switzerland. And just for comparison: A flight from Zurich to New York results in 2,655 kg of CO2 per person, which is equivalent up to 31.5 percent of an average Swiss person's annual emissions.

Apart from traditional online calculators, there are real-time options for displaying your carbon footprint. With radicant's carbon footprint tracker, you can trace the carbon emissions of each of your payments. Whether it's online shopping, hotel stays, supermarket purchases or rent payments, the carbon tracker estimates your associated footprint, offering insight into the climate impact of your lifestyle.

This feature is a crucial part of sustainable banking at radicant.

4. What's the average carbon footprint per capita in Switzerland?

Compared to many other countries, Switzerland's average individual carbon footprint initially appears low. In 2021, this value was 4.02 tonnes when only domestically generated emissions are considered.

However, when including import emissions (goods manufactured abroad, imported by Switzerland, and attributed to it), this figure rises to 8.39 tonnes of CO2 per person.

Moreover, financed emissions also need to be added. These refer to emissions attributed to the financing and investment activities of Swiss pension funds. Such funding and investments can involve stocks or bonds in companies, whose emissions are proportionally attributed to the pension funds of contributing employees. According to the Climate Alliance, these emissions are about 20 times higher than domestic emissions.

Furthermore, the results show that 2% of the global carbon emissions are attributable to the Swiss financial centre (paywall). It’s mainly, lending, for example to companies in the coal industry, and asset management that contribute to this.

Thus, Switzerland ranks among the countries with the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world.

5. How large can my carbon footprint be?

Almost all countries worldwide, including Switzerland, have committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement – to keep global warming compared to pre-industrial levels below 2°C, and ideally limiting it to 1.5°C.

To achieve the 1.5°C climate target by the end of the century, carbon emissions need to be halved by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. This target is ratified under the Paris Climate Agreement and enshrined in Swiss law.

Researchers at the University of Geneva have conducted comprehensive calculations of carbon emissions for every country in the world. They estimated the number of people living in Switzerland by the year 2100 and allocated them a carbon dioxide budget meeting the set climate goals.

This resulted in a per capita emission of 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Achieving this goal will be immensely challenging. Even a moderate and sustainable lifestyle can easily exceed this value, as many of the modern products and services that we consume on a daily basis produce significant carbon emissions. A comprehensive transformation of our economy will be required to ensure that our lifestyles don't contribute to global warming.

6. Conclusion: How you can reduce your carbon footprint with radicant

Understanding our carbon footprint is crucial to tackling the global climate crisis. By measuring and reducing our individual footprint, we contribute to a more sustainable future.

When we look at the carbon footprint of the Swiss population more comprehensively, there's a significant potential for emissions reduction. This can be achieved by promoting climate protection initiatives, targeted regulations, the adoption of sustainable practices, and by making more conscious decisions. To provide you with a deeper understanding of your own contribution, radicant calculates the carbon emissions of each of your transactions, making the climate impact of your lifestyle visible.

Moreover, as the first digital sustainable bank in Switzerland, radicant offers genuinely sustainable banking and investing, allowing you to make a valuable contribution to reducing your carbon footprint.

Here are three good reasons why you should start investing with us today:

radicant exclusively invests in companies making a positive contribution to a sustainable future, using the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as an independent criterion.

Additionally, you'll know which companies are part of your portfolio and why thanks to radicant's rating system, which provides maximum transparency.

Our highly qualified portfolio managers ensure that your money is invested sustainably and successfully, starting from as little as CHF 1,000.

Ready to kickstart truly sustainable investing and banking? Open your radicant account in less than 5 minutes – digitally, easily and without paperwork.

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