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The State of Carbon Footprint Calculators: An Evaluation of Calculator Design and User Interaction Features

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journal contribution
posted on 08.01.2019, 00:00 by John Mulrow, Katherine Machaj, Joshua Deanes, Sybil Derrible
The individual carbon footprint has become a widely used concept for communicating both the causes of climate change and the many opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to standardized greenhouse gas equivalencies and carbon-intensity metrics for everyday activities, many organizations have created online carbon footprint calculators, often with a great deal of input categories and user customization. This particular study critically examines the state of online carbon footprint calculators that target the individual. A calculator Feature Index was developed using guidance from carbon calculator literature and an extensive review of common calculator features and architecture. This index was then applied to 31 online carbon footprint calculators, summarized in heat index tables and scores generated using radar plot methodology. Overall trends are identified and specific lessons are taken from the cluster of six calculators with highest Feature Index scores. Finally, this review of performance features is paired with a survey of individuals concerning their interactions with online carbon footprint calculators. Using this feedback and the performance evaluation indices, recommendations are made for improving carbon footprint calculator design.


This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. 1444315. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Moreover, this research was supported in part by the NSF CAREER award 1551731



Mulrow, J., Machaj, K., Deanes, J., & Derrible, S. (2019). The state of carbon footprint calculators: An evaluation of calculator design and user interaction features. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 18, 33-40. doi:10.1016/j.spc.2018.12.001







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