The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Carbon Footprint Trackers

Environmentally and Socially Responsible Cruising Working Group

April 30th, 2024

Carbon footprint trackers are great tools to help us understand our impact on the environment, identify areas where we can make changes in our behaviour, and evaluate how much effect our behavioural changes may have. Since there are many trackers available, the following provides both general information about trackers, along with two specific trackers that we recommend as a starting point. We’ve also commented on how to apply them to a marine setting.

As we engage in BCA’s Environmentally and Socially Responsible Cruising (ESRC) Program, we may find ourselves on the steep part of the learning curve regarding all the factors that are contributing to the climate and ecological crises. We need to learn the language of climate, carbon, ecological footprints, etc. We also need to begin to understand our carbon and ecological footprints and the footprints of our boats and voyages. A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that is generated by our actions. Since we are most familiar with our basic household activities, a good place to start to understand all the factors that contribute to our carbon footprints and the climate crisis, is to evaluate our household carbon footprints. This allows us to learn about the contributing factors, discuss these factors with our fellow cruisers, and extend this understanding to our boats and voyages.

General Tracker Information

There are a number of carbon footprint trackers available. Some are more detailed and complete than others. There are also trackers available that allow us to see how our carbon footprints would change if we alter some of the input data.

Finding a reliable and accurate carbon footprint tracker depends on several factors, including your location and the specific aspects of your lifestyle you want to track. Once you have become familiar with one carbon footprint tracker, and know the data inputs required, it is relatively easy to use other trackers. This will allow you to gain greater insight into carbon footprints in general and evaluate the carbon footprint of your boat and voyages. Most trackers have the option to do a simple or detailed analysis. A detailed analysis will provide more insight into how specific factors contribute to your carbon footprint and is more useful for the kind of assessment we want to do for our boats and cruising. We recommend trying a few trackers and comparing the results.

Note: some carbon footprint trackers offer carbon offsets. There is a great deal of debate about the effectiveness of these ‘marketing’ programs and the longer-term usefulness and legitimacy of them. In light of this, we suggest focusing on calculating and reducing your carbon footprint, rather than engaging in offsets.

There are two ways of evaluating the carbon footprint of your boat and voyages:

  1. Conduct an analysis using a tracker of only your boat and all expenses, travel, etc. associated with your boat and voyages. You will likely have to convert the amount of diesel you burn per year into the mileage equivalent of a diesel truck. This approach would be a good alternative for live-aboards.
  2. If you want an overall assessment of all the factors in your life that contribute to your carbon footprint, then include your boat as another car in the tracker, and include all boat expenses and activities in the appropriate sections of the tracker.

Since the goal is to learn about our carbon footprints, you can experiment with the trackers to see how various choices affect your carbon footprint.

Specific Carbon Footprint Trackers

Below are two carbon footprint trackers and a brief summary of their characteristics. More detail about each tracker is available on the organizations’ websites. If you use other carbon footprint trackers that you find useful and reliable, please let us know.

CoolClimate Calculator: Developed by the University of California, Berkeley, this is among the most comprehensive personal ecological footprint calculators available, especially for users in the United States. It offers a detailed analysis of household carbon emissions, but might not be fully accurate for users outside the U.S. due to its reliance on U.S. regional data​. Calculator: This calculator is notable for its global applicability, offering better regional calculation capabilities than many others. It’s designed to be a good option for calculating emissions anywhere in the world, with the ability to offset emissions directly through the website.

We recommend you try both of these calculators. Please share your experience working with them and discuss the results with fellow sailors, as we all learn more about our personal carbon footprints and start to apply this knowledge to our boats and voyages.

And, share your experience with us, too!

Marine Specific Tracker Needed

If you’re aware of, or are interested in helping us to develop a carbon footprint tracker specifically for recreational boats and sailing/cruising activities, please let us know.

Feature Image: footprint with CO2 by Geralt via Pixabay; map of world by Prawny via Pixabay.


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