Action on Carbon and Energy in Schools (ACES)

How to… calculate your school’s carbon footprint

Part of our energy in schools ‘How to…’ series

Measuring your school’s carbon footprint is a valuable first step to starting your journey to reduce your carbon emissions. You can’t track your progress without knowing your starting point.  

Your school’s carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gases it produces. This is important because greenhouse gas emissions (particularly carbon, or CO2) are one of the biggest contributors to climate change. We need to cut the amount of carbon we emit in order to tackle climate change.  

In this video below, our energy expert Michael Esvelt talks us through the best ways of calculating a school’s carbon footprint.

What are the benefits of calculating your school’s carbon footprint?

  • This can provide a starting point to measure your progress in cutting emissions 
  • It can be a good educational resource to show how energy efficiency measures impact climate change 
  • Learnings can also be applied to improve energy efficiency in homes, creating a wider environmental impact 

What emission sources do we measure?

There are three scopes of sources of carbon emissions that a school needs to be aware of: 

  1. Direct emissions resulting from activities that your school controls (like natural gas used for heating),  
  2. Indirect emissions that your school does not directly control, such as electricity used that’s generated elsewhere, 
  3. Other indirect emissions beyond your school’s control (like emissions from staff and pupil travel or from suppliers) 

This resource relates to calculating scope 1 and 2 emissions. If you want to learn more about calculating your school’s Scope 3 emissions, visit the Carbon Trust website.

How to calculate your school’s carbon footprint

Follow the steps below to calculate your school’s carbon footprint for the year. You could use a simple spreadsheet to record your data.

  • Use the information on your school’s energy bills to find the total kWh (kilowatt hours) used. You will most likely have to include fossil fuel use (gas or oil) and electricity use.
  • Find the carbon equivalent coefficients for the United Kingdom for this year. You can find these on the government website within a spreadsheet. You’ll need to look under the ‘Fuels’ and ‘UK electricity’ tabs to find the ‘kg CO2e of CO2 per unit’ figure for each.
  • Then, for each source, multiply your school’s total kWh for the year by the CO2 coefficient figure and divide by 1,000.

Here’s an example:

If your school used 250,000 kWh of gas within a year, you would calculate as follows:

  • 250,000 kWh x 0.18256 (coefficient figure for gas 2023) = 4,5640
  • 4,5640 divided by 1,000 = 45.64
  • So your school’s Scope 1 carbon footprint is 45,64 t CO2e

You would repeat this process for your scope 2 (electricity) usage.

We hope you find this guide useful and good luck calculating your school’s carbon footprint!

About our workshops and webinars

Events from Action on Carbon and Energy in Schools (ACES) are designed to introduce key concepts of energy efficiency, the simple and effective actions that can be taken quickly as well as discussing some of the bigger and more costly solutions that could benefit your school.

They are suitable for Business Managers, Facilities Managers, Head teachers as well other members of the Senior Management Team or any sustainability groups within the school.

Image credit: Ashden

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