There's hidden carbon emissions* in everything we do. Yes, everything.
These emissions are "embodied" or "embedded" in the materials things are made of, how they're made and the type of energy that's used, to how they've been transported to reach us, to how they are used. It's not too dramatic to say that they're hidden in plain sight in our daily life in the modern world.
We didn't choose for them to be there, but they definitely are!
This Black Friday we're giving you some rules of thumb for the greenhouse gases baked into your tech, travel, flights, food and clothes. We break it all down for you so you have the information to make the choices that are right for you.
Our everyday choices matter. They add up.
Tech, food, travel and clothes account for about 50% of the emissions we need to reduce and remove.
At this time of year it feels particularly important to us to highlight two things:
1) There's a carbon dioxide or another greenhouse gases* in everything...
2) We know how to fix a lot of it - by reducing and removing that carbon...
Tech and electronics
We heart our tech even though there's hidden emissions baked into every product we buy and use. Most of it is already there before we buy it. For example, with a smartphone, something like 85% of emissions is in the initial production and shipping of the device before we even use it.
And both our devices and using the internet create planet heating emissions.
They're about 3% of the global total. That might not sound like much but that's 1.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases being released every year. It's hard to even imagine that amount!
Food and clothes
We all know that there's a bunch of greenhouse gases emissions in the type of food we eat. These include carbon dioxide and also methane + nitrous oxide from growing the food, whether it's plants or animals.
Everything from the food itself, the land it's grown on, how it's transported or how much is wasted.
Food production is about 25% of global emissions and about 30% of all food produced is wasted - either in the supply chain or after it's been purchased.
It's the same for clothes. There's hidden emissions everywhere. Fashion adds up to about 8-10% of global emissions and notoriously only recycles a couple of percent. The rest ends up in landfill every year. It's mind-bogglingly inefficient.
Fashion and clothing release more emissions than all flying! Yes, you read that right.
Flights and driving
We advocate for low carbon travel whenever possible. When it's not possible it's not your fault that there's emissions in everything. It's just been the way things are - burning that prehistoric gloop to get places like there's no tomorrow.
The aviation industry produces about 2% of annual emissions, though due to the altitude they're released studies suggest they may contribute the equivalent of about 7% of the warming.
Similarly, all the driving of gasoline or diesel vehicles contributes about 12% of the total global emissions per year.
Added to all these industry specific chunks of greenhouse gases, shipping products and produce around the world is 2% of global annual emissions.
All told, these industries we all interact with daily add up to about half of the climate changing annual emissions that we need to both reduce and remove. The science shows us that doing this will begin to meaningfully slow (and, in time, reverse) the rising global temperature.
We know the path forward. And we can do it.
How does this break down to human-size?
Glad you asked! It's hard to imagine 50 billion tonnes per year of gases, or even a single tonne for that matter.
We believe having some mental models for the hidden carbon in things goes a long way in helping people and organizations make the best climate-friendly decisions they can everyday. It creates agency and everyday progress. All these decisions add up and are a crucial to decarbonizing the world. Every tonne matters.
So, this Black Friday we've broken down some regular decisions people - like us and you - make and illustrated the likely planet-warming gases baked into them based on the available - Lifecycle Assessment* - data we have.
We've made it human-sized based on the tech and gadgets we use, food we eat, clothes we buy and how we get around.
Curious? Check out our campaign to go deeper.
It includes breakdowns for typical carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in a range of everyday things.
You can also buy one-time chunk to remove the embedded emissions for an item or items using our ready-made Carbon Removal Portfolio.
Everyone is invited. Solving climate change requires as many of us as possible to be involved. You don't need to be an academic or scientist or always doing the 100% most perfect thing. It's a journey, an adventure.
We're all getting better over time, until one day we wake up and we've done it. Just imagine the party we'll have!