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The state of carbon footprint calculators: An evaluation of calculator design and user interaction features

Mulrow, John, Machaj, Katherine, Deanes, Joshua, Derrible, Sybil
Sustainable Production and Consumption 2019 v.18 pp. 33-40
carbon, carbon footprint, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, heat, radar, surveys
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.