The Carbon Footprint

In my first blog entry I discussed about how I feel about  sustainability in general and how I see my own ability to be sustainable. I have somewhat mixed feelings about the issue – I think I should be doing more than what I am doing at the moment in order to live sustainably, yet I feel that whatever I do it still won’t be enough as I am only one out of the 7 billion. Another problem I faced was the fact that I was unsure how “bad” my current life style is and what aspects does this “bad”-part consist of. Without knowing the current situation how could I know how big of a change would be required for my life to become sustainable enough? After all, if you don’t have the facts to begin with it’s quite difficult to measure the change at all.

I am familiar with the idea of carbon footprint and was aware of that there exist ways to calculate it but I had never thought to try it out until yesterday when the topic was brought up on the lecture. It made me think that I should give it a go and see how bad my current living habits truly are. I also wanted to see what options do I have to change for better – and especially to know whether it would be possible for me to travel (even just a little!) and yet stay within the allowed CO2 limits.

I used the calculator offered by and here are the results I got (unfortunately this test is in Finnish):

carbon footprint

As expected, it does not look too good. Apparently I generate CO2 emissions more than twice the amount that I should (by year 2050) and also more than Finnish people do on average. Not surprisingly, the traffic has the biggest effect on my carbon footprint. The share of flying from traffic is 2984kg out of 3499 kg. To be able to squeeze in one two-way flight within Europe to the little over five ton limit, I’d need to become a vegetarian, live in a smaller house with more people, buy green electricity, buy almost all products and clothes second-hand, and give up on using cars. By doing all this I could decrease my CO2 emissions to 5387 kg.

I think this calculator gave me some guidance of what I could do to improve the sustainability of my life, yet some of the parts such as the consumption was quite vague – one could only choose from three different possibilities, of which I felt none was completely true for me.

Here’s the link to the carbon footprint calculator I used in case someone wants to try it out too:


  1. I think cognitive dissonance, and perhaps anxiety you’re describing in your first paragraph is quite well illustrated by the picture in the other Lotta’s post about guilt. It’s really interesting to see how your experiments in trying to “allow” yourself flying impacted your carbon footprint – in fact I didn’t know you could get it that low with including flights, and I’ve done the same test you link here 🙂 I think these tests help put things into perspective, but as is evident in the other Lotta’s post, these feelings of anxiety sometimes turn into feelings of powerlessness instead of action, and quite often they turn into something else, resulting in not much (if anything at all) being done. As Eeva posted up there, it’s difficult to give up the benefits we’ve grown accustomed to. There’s not much incentive to take the high road in today’s West which largely lacks the higher purpose that was once provided by the church.


  2. Hello Lotta,
    After reading your blog post I had to do the test myself, too. The result was almost the same as what you got. For me it was difficult to give estimations on my travels and the amount of waste I produce. My parents live in Oulu and I visit them but not every month so how to put that in the calculator? I might use the tram sometimes but it is not daily, so how to estimate that. Some weeks I eat more meat than others, and so on. The point of these calculators might not be to get the exact number but to understand the level of emissions – and that it is high!

    Where is the solution then? Downshifting – everyone talks about it as being the answer to our questions but is it the solution to the real problem? In my understanding downshifting means that people start voluntarily live a more simple life, spending more time with family and friends, and going back to nature. When putting downshifting into the Google image search you find pictures of men in suits on the countryside, surrounded by nature or beaches and book covers of downshifting related books. It is pictured as a cool thing, people are happy and the colours are bright.

    My question is, can downshifting and the individual choices be the change that the world needs? If it is the infrastructure in place that creates the majority of the CO2 emissions rather than individual purchases? The legislation in Finland for the requirement that new buildings have to fulfil are becoming stricter on environmental aspects, which can be seen as a first attempt to change the infrastructure towards a more sustainable one. Additionally, the city of Helsinki is promoting biking as a new potential mode of transportation, and is investing in biking lanes in the city centre. These examples are from one city and one country, but it is a sign that some change is happening, and we can affect it not only as consumers through our purchase decisions but also as citizens through the elections.


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