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Track Your Carbon Footprint by Mobile Phone

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 20 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Carbon Footprint Environmental Impact

Many people want to reduce the environmental impact of their activities by reducing their carbon footprint. But how do we know the exact value of our carbon footprint in the first place? Online calculators can help but deciding the carbon footprint of different modes of travel is particularly tricky. To do this manually involves writing down every journey, how long it took, how many miles it was and also the likely fuel consumption of the vehicle used. Doing this on a daily basis would take up far too much time to be feasible.

A new system that could make it very easy was devised in late 2008. This allows any individual to monitor the carbon emissions that they produce during different modes of travel. The software, which can be loaded into most modern mobile phones, receives signals from global positioning satellites that allows the GPS unit or smartphone to calculate the users' position. Combined with the time, the software can work out where you are and how fast you are moving and relate this information to maps – so they can tell if you are walking, travelling by car, in a train or flying in a plane. Programmed to include average fuel consumptions, the software can provide a much more accurate estimate of your carbon travel footprint.

Calculating Carbon Footprint

Once the data is sent back to the mobile phone, the software then does a calculation to assess the carbon dioxide emissions produced by all the different types of travel that you have used. You don’t have to do anything – except remember to take your mobile phone everywhere you go.

As you continue to monitor your travel carbon footprint, you start to become more aware of the impact that your travel activities have on the environment and you can then start to make changes. It’s a great incentive, for example, to cycle or walk on short journeys, rather than automatically jumping in the car, once you know just how much of a reduction you can make to you own personal carbon dioxide emissions. It can also make you think about travelling to business meetings by plane – think of the huge reduction in carbon footprint that you could make by arranging a teleconference rather than a foreign trip. In these days of economic recession, it makes financial sense too.

The System and its Inventor

The system, which has been tested in Blackberry phones and in Nokia mobiles is called the Carbon Diem system and is the first software of its kind in the world. Its inventor, Andreas Zachariah, is a graduate student at the London Royal College of Art. On the back of his invention and the initial interest shown in it, he has already started his own company to manufacture and develop the Carbon Diem system.

Although the new system was only just in the process of being launched as a commercial venture during the spring of 2009, Carbon Diem won an award in the European Satellite Navigation Competition in 2008, which is organised and run by the European Space Agency.

The Privacy Issue

With many more ways to monitor their movements, some people are quite concerned about the impact that software like Carbon Diem will have on their personal privacy. Companies may think it’s a great idea to install this software into company mobiles so that it can track its overall carbon footprint with greater accuracy. To declare themselves a carbon neutral company, the calculations of its activities and all of the activities of its employees needs to be precise.

However, if the software was developed to the point that it could follow their journey exactly, some employees might be reluctant to use it.

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