What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint represents the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that an individual, household, business or entity generates from their activities. For an individual or household, a carbon footprint is based on geography and lifestyle choices that impact the environment including transportation, travel, home heating, diet and consumer behaviors. A company’s carbon footprint includes all activities in the value chain, such as energy consumption from operations to product transport. Additional information on the carbon footprint that comes from various stages in the value chain can be found in our infographic “Visualizing the 3 Scopes of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”

Carbon credits are a form of climate finance that compensate for household or organizational emissions by exchanging an equivalent amount of GHG reduction or removals generated by sustainable projects around the world. The funds generated through the purchase of such carbon credits support, expand and/or enhance project activities, providing a number of environmental benefits. Carbon credits are stated in tonnes of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Carbon dioxide is the most common GHG emitted by human activities, but the CO2e unit accounts for any GHG (e.g., methane, nitrous oxide or fluorinated gases). 

According to the International Energy Agency, the CO2 emissions per capita in 2020 were 13.4 tCO2 in Canada and 12.9 tCO2 in the United States. The CO2 emissions per capita in other countries can be found on its website.

There are free carbon footprint calculators that estimate carbon footprints based on responses to a series of questions. The United Nations has a calculator for individuals that can be found here.