Embodied Carbon Definition

Embodied Emissions or Embodied Carbon is the carbon dioxide or other Greenhouse Gases baked-in to things we buy, use or do. They could come from the raw materials, the production process, transportation use and disposal of items or activities.

It refers to the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced throughout the lifecycle of a product, building, or infrastructure. This includes not only the emissions generated when using the item but also those created during its manufacturing, transportation, and eventual disposal. In simpler terms, embodied carbon accounts for all the CO2 released from the moment something is created to when it's no longer in use. It helps us understand the full environmental impact of something beyond just its everyday use.

In today's world pretty much everything humans do contains some amount of embodied carbon.

For example:

- Construction Materials: When a building is constructed, the materials used, such as concrete, steel, and wood, have associated carbon emissions from their production, transportation to the construction site, and assembly. For instance, producing cement, a key ingredient in concrete, releases a significant amount of CO2 due to the chemical reactions involved.

- Vehicles: The embodied carbon of a vehicle includes the emissions produced during the manufacturing of its parts, assembly, and transportation to the dealership. This is in addition to the carbon emitted while driving the vehicle over its lifetime. An EV typically has 12 to 15 tonnes of embodied carbon, whereas a gasoline car about 8 to 10 tonnes (an EV is more due to the mining of the lithium for the battery). See more detailed examples.

- Electronics: Electron ic devices like smartphones and laptops have embodied carbon that comes from the manufacturing process of components, like chips and screens, as well as the energy used during assembly and transporting them from the factory. Even though they don't emit carbon during use, the production process generates carbon emissions. See more detailed examples.

- Clothing: The embodied carbon of clothing includes emissions from raw material production (such as growing cotton or manufacturing synthetic fibers), manufacturing processes, transportation to stores, and even disposal after the garment's useful life. See more detailed examples.

- Food: The embodied carbon of food items accounts for the emissions produced during farming, processing, packaging, transportation, and even potential waste. For instance, producing meat generally has a higher embodied carbon compared to plant-based foods due to the resource-intensive nature of livestock farming. See more detailed examples.

- Infrastructure: Large-scale projects like roads, bridges, and airports have significant embodied carbon. This includes emissions from the extraction of materials like asphalt and steel, manufacturing of components, and construction activities.

- Renovations: When renovating a building, the embodied carbon takes into account the emissions from demolishing old materials, manufacturing and transporting new materials, and installing them.

The concept of embodied carbon highlights the importance of considering the entire lifecycle of products and structures to understand their environmental impact accurately. Efforts to reduce embodied carbon often involve choosing more sustainable materials, optimizing manufacturing processes, and improving transportation efficiency.

Reducing embodied carbon emissions is important for mitigating climate change. By reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during the construction of buildings, infrastructure and all the products we buy and use we can help to reduce the overall amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Demystify more climate-related terminology with our Climate Buzzword Dictionary (yes, it's more of a glossary, but hey, this is what it's called now!).

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