November 23, 2022

How to Calculate the Carbon Footprint for Your School

The earth is heating and burning up really fast! According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) the global average temperatures have risen at a rate of 1.7 degrees Celsius per century since 1970 compared to the decline reported in the past 7000 years. The effects, from extensive draughts to the sinking of coastal lowlands, are catastrophic. Between 2030 and 2050, global warming and climate change are expected to result in 250,000 more deaths per year. Remember that global warming is cross-boundary, and if you are yet to notice the threats, they are about to come knocking. This calls for urgent action to address the problem. In Singapore, schools form one of the largest emitters of greenhouse (GHG) gases, which are the primary causes of global warming. So, if you are a school manager, owner, or leader, it is time to reduce emissions, which has to start with carbon footprint calculation. Keep reading to learn more about carbon footprint in schools, including what it is, and the best way to calculate it. We will also highlight the best strategies to help you cut down emissions and run a more sustainable school.


Understand What Carbon Footprint Is

Before you can embark on a journey to calculate the carbon footprint for your school, it is important to go back to the basics and answer the big question, “what is it?’ 

Carbon footprint is the sum of all greenhouse gases released by an organisation or business. The word total is very important in the definition because it means you have to combine all the emissions from different sources in relation to your school’s operations. The carbon footprint of a school, city, person, or organisation is expressed in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This includes all gases that contain carbon, from carbon dioxide to methane that is released into the atmosphere.

GHG gases can be broken down into three categories, Scope 1 (from direct sources that your school is in control of), Scope 2 (related to electricity, gas, and other energy uses), and Scope 3 (from indirect sources). As we are going to see shortly, your school in Singapore must accurately aggregate all the emissions from the three categories. 

Calculate Carbon Footprint for School 

Here are the main steps that you should follow to accurately determine the carbon footprint of your school in Singapore

  • Step One: Review Your School Operations to Identify GHG Sources 

The process of calculating the carbon footprint for a school requires you to have accurate information on all the sources. This is crucial because it becomes easy to narrow down to areas of target for cutting down emissions. Therefore, it is important to carry out a comprehensive review of the school and list the sources. Some of the main sources of GHG emissions include: 

  1. Boilers that are used in the school. 
  2. School kitchen. 
  3. Electricity, gas, and other energy categories used in the institution. 
  4. Waste released by school. 
  5. Transport-related emissions. 
  • Step Two: Gather GHG Data

This is another crucial step that you must get right when calculating the carbon footprint of your organisation. This means determining with accuracy the actual emissions that are released by the boiler, vehicle, and other sources associated with your school. This data includes the energy consumed in kilowatt-hours and indirect information from third parties like the contracted waste management firms. 

When third parties are involved, such as suppliers, it is a good idea to ask for information related to the products that your school uses. For example, you might want to know whether the company that supplies books and papers uses diesel-fired electricity or solar energy. 

Note that the emission data you gather should follow the pre-identified sources. If you are calculating your carbon footprint for the first time, consider working with an expert. This will make it easy to identify sources and accurately gather the correct information. 

  • Step Three: Identify Operation-specific GHG Emission Factors 

Checking closer at the sources we have listed in the first step; you will realise that they fall into different categories. For example, you need to include energy, gas and exhaust from school cars. Therefore, you will need to use an appropriate emission factor to make calculations accurate. GHG factors, also known as conversion factors, are coefficients that determine the rate that a specific activity emits greenhouse gases. 

Consider working with some of the most respected data providers, such as the EPA, for waste, gas, and electricity. When it comes to emissions from materials, Higg Index might be the better option. For example, the commonly used conversion factor for electricity is 0.85, while that for diesel is 2.653.

  • Step Four: Calculate Your Carbon Footprint for the School 

Armed with the data on all emissions from the school, it is time to get down to the calculations. To calculate the carbon footprint for your school, you should multiply the unit of school operation (example of electricity use in kilowatt hours) with an operation-specific factor. See the presentation of the formula below:

This means that each of the areas, such as electricity use, waste, and transport, has to be calculated separately. Finally, sum up the total for all areas to get the average carbon footprint of the school. To make the process of calculating carbon footprint even simpler and more accurate, consider working with advanced carbon footprint tools and calculators, such as the WWF Footprint Calculator and UN Carbon Footprint Calculator

How to Cut Down Carbon Footprint for Your School

The process we have highlighted for calculating the carbon footprint for your school only forms the starting point or a long process for reducing it. In Singapore, the government has set ambitious targets for schools to reduce their emissions and reach zero rate carbon emissions by 2030. Therefore, what can you do to pull down the carbon footprint in your school? Here are some expert suggestions: 

  • Shift to Renewable Energy 

For most schools, the bulk of their carbon footprint comes from the energy they use. As we indicated already, electricity and gas, among other energy sources, account for Scope 2 emissions. Therefore, you can cut these emissions by a huge margin by shifting to renewable energy sources. The best example is solar energy. You might also want to generate wind energy on-site and use it to power different facilities in the school. 

Apart from reducing your carbon footprint, using renewable energy can also come in handy in slashing it by a big margin. If you are able to fully shift to renewable energy, this could mark the end of receiving regular utility bills. 

  • Adopt the Ministry of Education Initiatives Targeting Zero Carbon Emissions by 2030 

To help reduce the carbon footprint of your school, you should also follow the Ministry of Education's initiatives. These programs are aimed at helping to ensure that schools cut down their GHG emissions and further encourage the community to become more sustainable. Here are some of these initiatives and programs: 

  1. Eco-Stewardship Program. 
  2. The New Science Centre. 
  3. Piloting Sustainability Features.
  • Reduce Electricity Use by Adopting Smart Energy Management Systems 

Another unique method of cutting down carbon footprint is reducing electricity use by installing smart energy management systems. These systems are designed to help cut down wastage of energy and electricity. They work using sensors that note when a class or office does not have occupants and turn off the energy. You can reduce energy use, related bills, and carbon footprint by a significant margin when you install a smart energy management system. 

To make the efforts to cut down carbon footprint using a smart system more effective, consider extending it for water management via faucets and showerheads. This can also help to increase the sustainability rating for your company with a bigger margin. 

  • Install CONTINEWM in Your HVAC System 

In most schools, HVAC can take up to 50% of the total energy costs. Therefore, this is an important area when targeting to cut down energy use and carbon footprint. To achieve this, one of the items that your school should adopt is CONTINEWM. 

CONTINEWM is an innovative device that helps to increase the efficiency of HVAC systems by clearing electrostatic charges that build up from the moving parts. With an air conditioning system, you can cut down the energy use by HVAC by about 50%. Other advantages of using CONTINEWM in your school include: 

  1. The device comes in handy in helping schools improve indoor air quality for both learners and staff. 
  2. It is easy to install. You only need to fix the device on the front part of the heat exchanger of your HVAC system. 
  3. Once installed in your HVAC system, CONTINEWM has minimal maintenance costs and can be used for a lifetime.

This post has demonstrated that although schools in Singapore have pretty high carbon footprints, it is possible to cut them down using the steps we have highlighted. Remember that the process has to start with an accurate calculation of carbon footprint. To operate more sustainably, make sure to work with Climate Fresk, one of the leading organisations for quality climate education. Climate Fresk facilitates playful and educational workshops. It is a science-based activity that provides participants with the fundamental knowledge to understand the global climate system, the impact of climate change and how to act to mitigate the climate crisis. Climate Fresk uses the most respected scientific sources and your school will find it the perfect option for decision-making.

Do not be left behind as others work harder to wrestle down the threat of global warming. It is time to get involved, and Climate Fresk can hold your hands to enhance your sustainability rating.