How to use the calculator

Thanks for your interest in the Travel Carbon Footprint Calculator! Below you find a quick guide on how to use it correctly.

General use

The Travel Carbon Footprint Calculator has five transport modes built in: car, bus, train, taxi and plane. The fields with red-colored text are the ones that require some input from you. For each transport mode you have to select a transport mode profile, e.g. for a car you can select from small – medium – large – average. More details on what these profiles mean, are found below.

After you’ve chosen a profile, you indicate the distance traveled with this particular transport mode. If you didn’t use it, just fill in zero.

Afterwards, you can add some additional information that helps refining the calculation. For example, when using an electric train, it’s important to know the origin of the electricity (coal, gas, renewable…) and therefore you have to select the country in which the train is operating.

That’s it! The calculator will calculate the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per passenger for each transport mode and the total for the whole trip is shown at the bottom. It also tells you which part of your yearly allowed carbon footprint is taken up by the trip.

If you want some nice data visualization and/or want to use the calculator offline, click the third button from the right in the gray bar at the bottom of the calculator. It will download the original excel file, with all data sources included.

Details on transport modes

Car In the first column you can select the car profile in case you don’t have data on the emissions of the car. When you do have information about the carbon dioxide emission per kilometer, use the second line and fill in the emission per kilometer in the first column (expressed in kilograms).

Car profileDiesel usage [liters]Gasoline usage [liters]
Small Car up to 1.7 up to 1.4
Medium Car 1.7-2.0 1.4-2.0
Large Car 2.0+ 2.0+
Average Car average UK car in 2014 average UK car in 2014

Bus In the first column you can select the bus profile. Town bus refers to the buses you see in city public transport. Coach bus refers to long distance buses. In the third column you can indicate how many people were on the bus (on average). When you don’t have a good guess just leave it as it is by default.

Train You can choose between Diesel train and full-electric train. When opting full-electric, don’t forget to choose the country in the third column. The calculator can now incorporate the energy mix data of the country in the calculation. It’s very interesting to play around with; taking the train in France or Germany has a significantly different footprint!

Taxi Currently there is only one taxi size built in. In the number of passengers, don’t include the driver.

Plane First choose the flight profile: domestic – continental – intercontinental. Beside the number of kilometers you can also indicate the class: Economy – Business – Average passenger.

Plane profile Distance range
Domestic <500 km
Continental 500-3700 km
Intercontinental >3700 km

Pay attention, when you did a return trip Brussels-Istanbul  of around 4600 km, you choose continental profile because a single flight is around 2300 km. Flying two times 2300 is not the same as flying 4600 once, since take-off takes up a significant part in the fuel usage.

Interpreting the results

The calculator will give you two main results, shown in the green bar at the bottom of the calculator. The first one is the amount of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) emitted during the whole trip, expressed in kilograms. What are carbon dioxide equivalents, you may ask. CO2 is the most known but certainly not the only greenhouse gas. Others, such as methane (CH4), can be in fact much more harmful. To be able to easily compare emissions of transport modes — which are always a mix of different gases — it’s convenient to express everything to a same reference: CO2. The calculated amount of CO2 equivelents is thus the sum of all CO2 emissions and the amount of CO2 that would be emitted to have the same impact as the other greenhouse gases.

The second result from the calculator puts your footprint in perspective. It tells you what part of your yearly carbon budget is taken up by this trip. The carbon budget is a concept introduced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and indicates how much one person can emit each year to have a decent chance to stay below a 2°C global warming by 2100. As you will see, travelling by plane takes a whole bite from your budget!

When you download the calculator you will also see some nice visualizations to put your footprint in perspective. The first one shows the share of each transport mode in the total footprint. When you used a plane, this will probably responsible for the largest part.

At the right you will see the part of this footprint in your yearly carbon budget over time. Yes, your travel footprint of 800 kg CO2e now may take up a 20% share in your budget. But the IPCC uses a pathway of decreasing carbon budget over the next decades to ensure a warming below 2°C. The same trip will thus take up a larger share from your yearly budget over 5 years.

You will also find a gauge indicating the average carbon dioxide equivalent intensity. This is nothing else than the weighed average of the conversion factors (if you want to know more about that, read the methodology page).

Finally there is a graph that shows you how many people, with different diets ranging from meat lovers to vegans, could have been fed for a day while having the same footprint as you. Be warned, the result is somewhat stunning.

I now know my footprint, what’s next?

You cannot start shrinking your footprint before you know it, but thanks to the calculator that’s not an issue anymore. Travelling is clearly having a huge impact on the environment and it’s important to keep that in mind when planning your next trip. With the right attitude, one can keep exploring the world without putting too much pressure on the planet. Tips for sustainable traveling will follow soon.