The Key to Best Calculating Carbon Footprints: Payment Transaction Data
Bank statements can say a lot about a person - how much they travel, their favorite restaurants, their subscriptions, what they splurge on, etc. They reflect where they’ve been, where they are and where they’re going.
Within that wealth of economic information has existed a big gap – one’s environmental impact. That is until now. Bank statements are the key to calculating the carbon footprint of an individual.
Normal bank statements do not disclose an individual transaction’s carbon emissions. As a consequence, consumers remain in the dark as to how much they personally impact climate change through their purchasing decisions.
Only a few, concerned citizens have downloaded carbon footprint calculator apps in order to determine their contributions to global warming. This, however, is not the large scale mobilization of climate action needed to solve the problem. Individualized carbon footprint information needs to be readily available and easily accessible.
And that’s where we come in.
ecolytiq has identified this specific lack of both transparency and visibility in everyday peoples’ lives. We have adapted the Organisation for Sustainable Consumption’s methodology to obtain accurate carbon footprint calculations based on payment transaction data. But getting to that point requires a bit of math. We get it – math. But stick with us. It’s well worth it. We would like to share with you how we break down the abstract value of CO2 into a tangible and comprehensible value for consumers.
How did we get to the carbon footprint?
We base our carbon calculations on publicly available, statistical data about personal spending. In Germany, for example, such information can be obtained from the Statistisches Bundesamt (Federal Department for Statistics). Total national carbon emissions can then be divided by personal spending:
Total Carbon Emissions per capita /
Personal Spending per capita = CO2/€
This value gives us a dedicated CO2 value per Euro spent. However, it does not take into account the different carbon values for different categories of spending, which need to be done in another step.
Different spending categories have different carbon values. A euro spent on fuel for your car has a different impact on the environment than a euro spent for a bus ticket. Using research data from both independent and public institutions in the field of carbon emissions, one can obtain values for these different spending categories. For Germany, the most relevant organization is the BMU (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety).
The combination of second level personal spending data per category and carbon values per category allow us to hone in on specific values for the given categories.
Carbon emissions per category per capita p.a. /
Personal spending per category per capita p.a. = CO2/€ per Category
At this stage we can already glean good insights into the different values in different categories. It does not, however, reflect individual consumer behavior such as diet, lifestyle, etc., but can form the basis for such carbon calculations.
You are more than a category: Personalizing individual carbon footprint data
The goal of individualizing carbon footprints on the basis of personal spending habits requires diving deeper into the different categories. Within each category exists great variation. Take food for example: Someone’s idea of what constitutes dinner could range from a meat lover’s meal to a vegan dish, thereby influencing personal carbon impact.
These intricacies go beyond just food. Therefore, each base value CO2 unit needs to be adjusted by these personal factors:
Base value CO2/Unit * Factor 1 * Factor 2 * Factor X = CO2€/Transaction
All this dry math sounds overwhelming at first, but these considerations are the core of the software that we have developed. We do the hard work, so consumers don’t have to. Our carbon calculations put the knowledge and know-how into the hands of the consumer, giving them the tools to conceptualize their influence on the environment.
This knowledge alone, however, won’t be the driving force for change. It is how we transfer knowledge to action that will determine our future.
From knowledge to action: Evaluate, educate & compensate
Humans are, by nature, creatures of habit. Change is uncomfortable. We at ecolytiq realize this challenge and have taken an innovative approach to inspiring action among our customers through “insights”. We all love our habits and change doesn’t come easy.
For this reason our software provides bank account owners with valuable insights in helping them improve their CO2 balance every day. By giving advice on how a person can live more sustainably, we provide positive incentives that help consumers in their everyday lives: picking white meat instead of beef has a lower environmental impact and is just one of many little steps towards a reduced carbon footprint.
Compensating our carbon footprint is the last important step in this process. When shopping or eating out, we usually don’t think about the climate. Offsetting our lifestyle choices, by donating money equivalent to our CO2 output to charitable causes and communities in need, gives users an emotional and social connection to the world.
In short, our software puts individual carbon footprint calculations in context with payment transaction data, which is based on thoroughly researched calculations. They form the basis of our software. If technology is to play a role in fighting climate change, it must have purpose.
In the long term, the better informed bank account owners are about the environmental impact of their transactions, the better their decisions on both everyday purchases and sustainable investments will be.
If you want to know how leveraging payment transaction data can help you improve your sustainable banking strategy, take your first steps by downloading our Whitepaper here.
Authored by Max Honzik, PR & Content Manager at ecolytiq