Personal Carbon Footprint

Question 1   This question carries 25% of the marks for this assignment.

This question involves your results from Activity 3.2 – Your carbon footprint, where you used the calculator to measure your existing personal carbon footprint as described in Part 3 Section 3 of the Block 1 book with additional guidance in Section 3 of the OU Carbon calculator user guide. When you are satisfied that you have made the best estimate of your existing carbon footprint, don’t forget to name and save the file (e.g. Existing Footprint1).

A)  in 500 words identify five examples of questions in the calculator where you had to make an assumption, approximation or guess in order to provide an answer (e.g. your home’s insulation; your public transport use; your diet). Refer to the calculator’s screens and pop-ups and, as necessary, to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in the user guide. For each of the five questions you have identified, briefly explain why each example required you to make an assumption, approximation or guess in order to answer it. There is no need to disclose any personal information if you do not wish to.           (15 marks)

1) Shower Duration: This is an approximation. Some days I shower longer. And, my family members shower duration is not known. Everybody’s shower duration also varies depending on their moods. On office days, if I wake up late, I take a jiffy shower, otherwise normal shower on weekends, I take a leisurely shower

2) Approximately how much car travel do you do per year? Here I had to approximate as not everyday do I drive the same distance. My family members also drive the same car, but I don’t monitor their usage.

3)  Loft and Wall insulation: An approximation. I don’t know its thickness and I don’t know if it is applied evenly everywhere; I am the fourth owner of this property. I find my bathrooms being colder than my living area.

4) Food estimates: Most of it here is an approximation.

5) Goods: This is an approximation. I don’t govern the purchasing havits of my family members. This is not precise data.

B) If you have successfully completed Activity 3.2, the results on the ‘Summary’ screen should show two bar charts and a table:

A ‘Your’ bar chart which shows your existing personal carbon footprint and its main components (Home energy, Travel, etc.)

a. A bar chart showing the Average UK footprint and its main components

b. A table showing the numerical values from the ‘Your footprint’ and ‘Average UK footprint’ bar charts (in tonnes CO2e per year).

In 250 words present your results from doing Activity 3.2 as a screenshot of the ‘Summary’ screen, as explained in Section 4.1 of the OU Carbon calculator user guide (e.g. using the ‘Snipping Tool’ on Windows PCs). If you tried and failed to take a screenshot, you could present the information shown in the table on the ‘Summary’ screen. Add a caption to your screenshot [or title to your own table or list].

Then comment on how your existing total and component footprint scores compare with the UK average, noting briefly some possible reasons why they differ or are similar.   (10 marks)

The carbon footprint calculator is a nifty tool to estimate a family’s carbon footprint. Families must do it as a collective fun activity. It helps one to critically examine their life style. I learned that my family and I put out 12.68 tonnes of CO2 per year and yet we were putting out less than an average Brit did. The Infra-CO2 (CO2 emissions from Infrastructure) of 3.22 tpy is comparable with that from Goods at 3.84 tpy.

1) My lifestyle puts out only 87% of the CO2 that an average Brit puts out .

2) In every category I put out less CO2 into the atmosphere compared to my average compatriot, except in food and flying.

3) The CO2 put out by my home energy consumption is merely ¾ that of averages Brit ’s.

4) My food and flying habits are similar to the average Brit.

5) The average Brit has a much more lavish life style than mine.

Question 2   (Total 35 marks)

This question involves your results from Activity 3.5- Reducing your carbon footprint, where you used the calculator to explore how to reduce your personal carbon footprint to a particular target – as described in Part 3 Section 3 of the Block 1 book with additional guidance in Section 3 of the Carbon calculator user guide.

Launch the calculator and open your existing footprint file (e.g. ExistingFootprint1).

You should have set an appropriate reduction target, using either the Personal target or UK Government targets options on the ‘Target’ screen of the calculator. There is guidance on choosing targets in Section 3 of the User guide. When you are satisfied that you have reached – or done your best to reach – your target, save your reduced footprint using a different name (e.g. ReducedGovtFootprint1).

If you are using the alternative calculator for non-UK students, refer to the Carbon foot print calculator: User guide for non-UK residents for how to set a target.

A) In 80 words State your target, whether it’s a Personal or Government target, and explain why you chose it.                                                                      (2 marks)

B) Copy the template table (from the link below) into your TMA document.

a. During Activity 3.5 Reducing your carbon footprint you made changes to your answers in order to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions towards a target. You will now repeat the activity using just five of these changes. Start by selecting five changes that you feel would be fairly realistic for you to make in real life.

b. Next, starting from your existing footprint, make the first of these five changes in order to reduce your footprint. As you make this first change, start to fill out your version of the template table.

c. In the top row (A) describe briefly the first change. Next, fill in rows B to I for that change. Repeat this for the four other changes, adding reductions from each change to those already made, as in Table 1 below.

d. Next, think about how these changes compare with each other in terms of how likely

you are to make them. (This isn’t the same as how much you might want to make the changes or how effective they are in reducing your footprint.). In row J, rank the change you would be most likely to make as 1 and rank your least likely change as 5. Rank the options in between as 2, 3 and 4. If you feel you cannot distinguish between the two options in terms of their likelihood, use = to indicate this and miss out the next lowest preference (e.g. 1, 2=, 2=, 4, 5).

e. Finally, in row K, briefly comment on the reasons for your rankings. This should consider each change in terms of how much it reduces your carbon footprint, its costs or savings, and other issues such as personal preferences and convenience. The word limit for each option in row K is 60 words. State the word count at the end of your answer.

C) If the five changes made in Question 2(b) have enabled you to reduce your carbon footprint to your target, no further changes are needed at this stage. If they have not, you should make additional changes to reach your target and so complete Activity 3.5. Once you have successfully completed Activity 3.5, the results on the ‘Summary’ screen should show two bar charts and a table:

a. A ‘You’ bar chart which shows the components of your reduced personal carbon footprint and how the total compares to your target.

b. A bar chart showing the Average UK footprint and its main components.

c. A table showing the numerical values from the ‘Your footprint’ and ‘Average UK footprint’ bar charts (in tonnes CO2e per year).

Present your results from doing Activity 3.5 as a screenshot (or other representation) of the ‘Summary’ screen, as explained for Question 1(b). Add a caption to your screenshot (or a title to your table or list).

Then state in 300 words whether you managed to reach or exceed the target you chose. Comment on how easy, difficult and feasible it would be in practice to reduce your carbon footprint to your target value and explain why. (10 marks)

Marks for presentation (3 marks)

Three marks are available for the presentation of your answers in Question 2. Check these answers now and make edits, if needed, to improve their clarity. For example, is the written text clearly written and presented? Do all tables and charts have titles? Have you used captions to indicate the content of screenshots?

Table 1 is an example of a possible answer.

Change 1

Change 2

Change 3

Change 4

Change 5


Brief description of change

Use our wood stove regularly for additional room heating

Install solar photovoltaic panels on the roof

Change to a 100% green electricity tariff

Avoid flying on holiday (average 1 return flight to South Europe per year)

Reduce meat and dairy consumption from regular to occasional


Carbon footprint before change (tonnes CO2e/year)







Carbon footprint after change (tonnes CO2e/year)







Reduction in personal carbon footprint (subtract row C from row B) (tonnes CO2e/year)







Will this change cost me a lot of money upfront?

No, as I have a wood stove and use waste wood

A 3kW system typically costs £5000 to £6000

No, but green electricity is a bit more expensive

Probably, since alternative European travel, e.g. train is more expensive

No, should save money


Will this change save me money in the long term?


After about 17 to 20 years



Yes, should save money


How difficult will this change be for me?

A bit: collecting and sawing wood and cleaning ash

Not sure: will have to investigate

Only the effort of switching supplier

Could be very difficult, but willing to try for environmental reasons

Learning to shop, cook and eat different foods


Are there other factors I need to consider before making this change?

Availability and storage of waste wood

Suitability of roof, government subsidies and grants


If my travel companions are also willing to stop flying on holiday

Only acceptable if other family members are willing to eat less meat and dairy products


Uncertainties, approximations and guesses in making the change

Unsure how much gas using more wood fuel would save

Availability of money,; satisfaction of having solar PV

Additional electricity bills. How much carbon green electricity actually saves

Where I could travel by other modes; the cost and their footprint?

Will I and the family like different meals?


How likely am I to make this change? (Use 1 for the most likely option, 5 for the least likely, and 2, 3 and 4 to rank the options in between.)







Reasons for my ranking of this change

Easy, I like wood stove fires and it should save some money. Although the carbon saving is quite small, it’s my first preference as it has several advantages and no significant disadvantages apart from concerns about air pollution. [38 words]

This option is expensive with a long payback time, although, I’d like to try out solar. I was surprised that the carbon savings were not as large as expected. [29words]

This would make a large reduction in my carbon footprint for relatively little effort and probably little extra cost. So it’s a good option. [24words]

Although this would make a large reduction in my carbon footprint, it might mean I miss out on some travel opportunities. But I am willing to try alternative travel modes or holiday more often at home provided they do not cost me a lot extra. [44 words]

It’s certainly worth trying, especially as it’s healthier and should save money, if I can persuade other family members to accept the change. We have plenty of recipes for meat and dairy free meals. [34words]

(20 mark

Answers to Question 2

Question 2

A. I choose personal target. My CO2 emissions are below that of the average UK citizen’s. Government target indiscriminately cuts 35%, which would ask me to not only make severe life style changes with technological changes that cost me significantly, I will also have to pay for non-household emission reduction measures, which is going to push me into poverty. Whereas, by selecting personal target I hope to take a smaller 20% voluntary cut and avoid falling into poverty.

B.  Attached to TMA document.

C.  I managed to reach the target I chose.(10.15 tpyCO2 from 12.68 tpyCO2)  by making significant life style changes, especially in food and goods and services. I learned that by switching from regular meat diet to non-meat diet I was able to reduce significantly reduce the Carbon foot print. Similarly, the choice of goods and service which is mostly behavioural change, makes a big difference in the CO2 emissions. I also decided to walk or cycle for all neighbourhood errands. These decisions were hard to make, especially given my age and precarious financial status. The switch from meat to non-meat, and the neighbourhood walking/cycling will be hard on us. It took all the convincing and negotiating skills to get a buy-in from everybody in the family to this idea of change. Further, I also decided to reduce the temperature at home by 1C down to 19C. This, again, is going to be tough on all of us, but we will get through by wearing an extra layer of clothing for cutting our carbon footprint. In terms of upfront costs, I had to get the loft insulated and switch to Green Electricity tariff, which is taxing my meagre financial resources. The biggest surprise in the bag of changes was how little CO2 emissions gets reduced by turning off the appliances when not in use or insulating the loft or or even installing a solar water heater when compared to switching from meat to a non-meat diet.  Implementing these changes are going to be a challenge. Monetary inducement, a constant buzz in all forms of media on reducing carbon footprint and constant inspiration/egging from a peer/support group will constantly strengthen my determination to fight this war against consumption, and help win over it hands down.

Question 3 (350 word) This question carries 10% of the marks for this assignment.

This question involves your results from Activity 3.6 Decarbonising your footprint, where you used the calculator to explore how to further reduce your personal carbon footprint. This is done via emission reduction measures paid for by you, but undertaken by government or others – as described in Part 3 Section 5 of the Block 1 book with, additional guidance in Section 3 of the OU Carbon calculator user guide.

A) State which decarbonisation options you decided to pay towards, why you chose them and whether this was to reach a footprint reduction target set in Activity 3.5 or a new more challenging one.                                                                                                                           (5 marks)

B) Describe which of the decarbonisation options have the most effect on your footprint. Explain which, if any, you think might be personally or politically acceptable in practice.                                                                                                                          (5 marks)

Answers to Question 3

A. I decided to set myself a more challenging target as I see the reductions achieved by me during the previous exercise may be sufficient, but if I and many more like me can do more, it would planet to return faster to the pre-global warming era.

So, I chose to make payments toward non-household emissions reduction whereby my government will take money from me to pay for a verifiable application of green technology reduce CO2 emissions  I particularly chose the Income Tax route for I noticed for every 1% increase in the income tax I pay the associate CO2 reduction achieved is -1.41 tpy CO2, the highest compared to other options.

B. The increase in Income Tax by 1% leads to a decarbonisation of -1.41 tpy of CO2. Politically, raising taxes to offset CO2 emissions is sure to fail. I particularly, am willing to pay extra to save the planet, because I am aware of the consequences, and so have a heightened concern about the planet. Not everybody in the population will have similar attitudes. Hence, any government of the day may not be willing to raise taxes as it is an unpopular move.

Question 4  This question carries 30% of the marks for this assignment.

A. Summarise, in 300 words, the carbon wedges approach as a response to climate change. You should include the aims and main features and some of the advantages and possible drawbacks of this approach.

Your answer should be in your own words using simple language suitable for a general readership.

You should include a citation and reference to the module materials. (18 marks)

B.  ‘Sustainable transport’ is one element in a list of ten ‘One Planet Living’ (OPL) principles given in Figure 4.25, and one element in the specific goals for the Elmsbrook OPL Action Plan given in Figure 4.28.

In 250words give three specific examples of practical and everyday actions that could be taken by a typical household based on the OPL principle that relates to Sustainable transport. For each of your three transport examples, explain how these actions might improve environmental sustainability. You should also explain how these actions might affect economic and/or social sustainability. (12 marks)

Advice on answering Question 4

The new process word for this question is ‘summarise’ which means to give a clear, short description, presenting the chief factors and omitting minor details and examples.

Advice for 4(a) Carbon wedges approach, is described in Block 1, Part 4 Section 3. You may find it helpful to make notes of the material from the text, and video resources on the module website first. Use of diagrams (which do not count as part of your word total) is acceptable but not essential.

Question 4(a) asks for a citation and reference. For guidance see the ‘Study Note: References and sources in academic writing’ (Block 1, p. 209) and the ‘Referencing examples for U116’ section of theU116 Assessment guide.

Advice for 4(b) terms are explained in Block 1, Part 2 Section 4 and Block 1, Part 4 Section 4. Your answer can be in continuous prose, a table or a bulleted list. However, make sure there is enough explanation to make your meaning clear to someone who has not come across these examples before.

By ‘practical and everyday actions’ we mean something specific that a householder could realistically do, not just the general principles given in Fig 4.25. So, if the example had been the OPL principle of ‘Zero carbon’, (rather than Sustainable transport) a suitable action would be using low energy appliances and lighting, or insulating and draught-proofing the home, or making sure appliances are switched off when not in use.

When considering how the actions might improve sustainability, you should consider at least one environmental and one social or economic aspect for each example. Note: you might decide that an action which improves environmental sustainability actually reduces economic sustainability, for example, because it’s expensive, or it might reduce social sustainability because it’s unfair and reduces the quality of life for some people. For social sustainability, think about the impact of the action on the wider community as well as the household taking the action. Some other actions might be ‘win-win-win’, simultaneously improving environmental, economic and social sustainability.

Answers to Question 4


317 words.

According to Socolow and Pacala (2004) the wedges approach is way to tackle an apparently intractable global CO2 emissions stabilization problem by breaking it up into smaller manageable parts. They suggested “stabilization wedges”– emission reduction policy and technology options –that would use existing technologies to cut CO2 emissions. Each option would produce similar cuts in emissions which would enable comparison and choosing the best.

Under the “business-as-usual” scenario 500 Mt/yr CO2 emissions are emitted, which in 50 years would add 25 Gt of CO2 to the atmosphere and raise mean global temperature by 3.9°C. If each wedge can save a Gt of carbon (i.e., 3.670 Gt CO2) in 50 years it will take 7 wedges to stabilize the CO2 emissions, which would lead to a rise in average global temperature of just 2.7°C keep the planet from rising to “dangerous climate change” levels. Further wedges will be needed to keep the average global temperature between 1.5°C – 2.0°C. In order to stabilize the emissions merely freezing CO2 emissions at current levels is inadequate. Society has to do more in the next fifty years and reduce the emissions to zero so that these rates of emissions are balanced by the rates of natural uptake by the oceans and the biosphere.

Pacala and Socolow (2004) offered 15 stabilization strategies grouped under eight broad categories of (i) Energy Efficiency, (ii) Fuel Switching, (iii) Nuclear power; Renewable Energy (iv) Wind power, (v) Solar electricity (vi) Biomass energy; Carbon Sinks (vii) Artificial – carbon sequestration (viii) Natural – afforestation " conservation tilling.

One of the major criticisms of the wedges approach is its oversimplicity – the cost of implementing the wedges is not considered. Another criticism is presuming that the tools and technologies already exist to stabilize emissions. Experts argue that the technologies exist in a theoretical sense, but it is going to take time to have operation-ready technologies, e.g., Manhattan project and the Appollo programs.


210  words

1.         Travel, if you must. Even then travel as little as possible. In other word, try and organize your life – work, schools, grocery store, super market, shopping mall –  all in close proximity, in walking distance, preferably – around your home. Since, the individual isn’t driving or riding carbon emissions are reduced which promotes sustainability of the planet. But, it is going to have an impact on the individual’s social life as his mobility is reduced and mobility is essential for an individual as friends and family – parents and in-laws - could be living farther away and which minimizes personal interactions thereby starting the process of isolation.

2.         If you must ride at all, shun private and ride public transport. Here again, encourage sustainability by deciding to ride only biofuel powered public transport and avoiding riding on diesel powered buses. Riding public transport may dent one’s prestige, but promotes sustainability.

3.         If you must take private transport, take an eco car – hybrid, LNG or biofuel powered vehicle. If an eco car cannot be afforded, retrofit your existing car with LNG power source. LNG emissions are significantly lesser than petro/diesel emissions, and this promotes sustainability. The eco cars are smaller and may jeopardize ones status, but it is the right thing to do.

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