Typical User Profiles

This section of the site is to help you understand how different lifestyles are reflected in an individual's Carbon Account graphs and emissions figures.

Hopefully you've read the help text explaining how to use the Carbon Account.

Here's a recap:

If you've only just registered with the Carbon Account then your graph will still be displaying estimates rather than real data. This is because you haven't yet entered any meter readings. Until you enter two meter readings for each item (for example, gas, electricity and cars) your graph won't change, and your recorded footprint will stay at zero. All the examples below assume that data has been regularly entered at least once a month for a year.

Because the Carbon Account is for individuals rather than households, all emissions are divided by the number of people you live with (children count as half an adult). If you share a car with your partner you will need to decide between you which of you is going to take responsibility for its carbon emissions (sort of like deciding who's going to earn the money, and who's going to stay at home and look after the kids).

Susan and Bob

In this first example, we're going to look at Bob and Susan, a couple who live in sunny Devon. They are retired in a nice house by the seaside, and their kids have long fled the nest.

This is Bob's graph:

Bob's estimated footprint is 2.11 tonnes/year. His recorded footprint is slightly higher at 2.23 tonnes.

Bob and Susan use gas to heat their home, and they are on a dual tariff meaning that their electricity is also supplied by British Gas.

Notice that the amount of gas and electricity Bob and Susan use goes up during the winter months. This is because it is colder (they need more gas for heat) and darker (they need more electricity for lighting). Because they live in Devon, Bob and Susan don't have as high an output as a couple living in Scotland where it's colder (and slightly darker).

British Gas electricity is generated by a mixture of coal (18%), natural gas (56%), nuclear (20%), renewables (4%) and other generation sources (2%). This is called the 'fuel mix', and for each different fuel mix we get a different conversion factor between kWh (the unit on your electricity meter) and kg CO2 (the unit we use to measure greenhouse gases). The higher the proportion of 'dirty' fuels like coal in the fuel mix, the more CO2 is produced. British Gas electricity has a kWh to CO2 conversion factor of 0.382, and this is what you see on Bob's graph.

This is Susan's graph:

Susan's estimated emissions are 3.86 tonnes/year, but her recorded emissions are slightly lower at 3.5 (this is because she isn't driving as much as she estimated when she first registered).

Notice that Susan has an additional line plotted on her graph – vehicle emissions. This is because even though Bob and Susan share the car (most journeys are taken together), Susan has taken responsibility for entering the mileage into the Carbon Account (she wears the trousers in the relationship). Bob and Susan drive a Landrover, and from the car registration Susan entered when she first joined the Carbon Account, we can tell that their Model of Landrover emits 244 grams of CO2 per km. It's then a straightforward matter of converting the number miles Susan enters into kg of CO2.

Finally, notice that neither Bob nor Susan have any flights. This is because they live in Devon and feel like they are on holiday all the time. The one journey abroad they did take was a short romantic break to Paris, by train. Isn't that sweet?

Frank, Daphne and the pesky teenagers

Frank and Daphne live in West London with their two children, Francesca and Leo, who are 13 and 15 respectively. Frank works in the city for an investment bank, whilst Daphne has gone back to teaching part-time after a prolonged break looking after the kids.

This is Frank's graph:

Frank's estimated footprint is 8.29 tonnes/year, but his recorded footprint is much higher, at 11.03. This is because the estimate doesn't included any flights.

Frank has entered all of his work flights as well as family holidays. You could argue that because they are business flights they shouldn't be included in Frank's personal Carbon Account, but the truth is that the international flights are a perk of the job and Frank quite enjoys getting a way from Daphne (who is quite a nag) and the kids (who are constantly asking for more pocket money). Because Frank flies in Business Class, the Carbon Account attributes more CO2 to each journey than if he had flown in Economy Class (Business Class seats take up more room and so it's a less efficient way to travel).

Frank owns a car that significantly increases the size of his manhood, and he likes to show off drive by driving it to work every day, in spite of having to pay the congestion charge for the privilege.

Next, let's have a look at Daphne's graph:

The first thing to notice is that their domestic energy graphs are exactly the same because they live in the same house, but the scales have changed because Frank's flights and car aren't there. The house carbon footprint is divided by three – one per adult plus half for each of the teenagers.

We can see that quite a lot of electricity is being used, and this mainly because the kids play a lot of computer games, watch a lot of (poor-quality) reality TV, and are pretty bad at turning the lights off. The gas usage is also pretty high because the kids often open a window if they are hot (instead of turning down the radiators) or turn up the heating if they are too cold (instead of putting on a jumper).

Simon the saint?

It is possible to have a Carbon Account where your recorded footprint can be zero despite regularly entering relevant data. If you don't drive, don't fly, use electricity for your heating, and Good Energy for your electricity supplier, your graph will look something like this:

Simon's estimated foorptint is zero, and his recorded footprint is zero. This is quite misleading because heating a house with electricity rather than gas is actually less efficient in terms of the conversion of fuel into heat, given the transmission losses of electricity drawn from the National Grid. Although wind is used to generate the power, Simon is not being particularly efficient with his actual usage. The definition of 'carbon netural' is complex and often misleading.

This is a complex area and the Carbon Account cannot be 100% accurate at determining an individual's contribution to climate change, but we've included this last example to provoke further thought.