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Carbon calculators as a tool for a low-carbon everyday life?

Author(s): Kirsten Gram-Hanssen | Toke Haunstrup Christensen

Journal: Sustainability : Science, Practice and Policy
ISSN 1548-7733

Volume: 8;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 19;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: emission reduction | social behavior | social responsibility | Internet | computer applications | communication

The number of Internet-based carbon calculators that estimate personal carbon footprints has been growing in recent years. This article discusses the roles that these calculators can play in changing everyday practices and how users evaluate them. The study builds on results from a questionnaire survey and focus groups with users of a Danish Internet-based carbon calculator developed in 2009, the year of the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, when climate change was prominent on the political agenda. The article concludes that the subject website primarily attracts people already interested in the issue, and that its main contribution is to confirm their engagement. Furthermore, we show, on one hand, that users seem to accept the individualized approach of the carbon calculator while, on the other hand, they question the allocation of responsibility for mitigating climate change. The article suggests designing Internet-based carbon calculators that actively engage users in collective actions instead of primarily presenting individualistic interventions. Finally, we show that users are different with respect to which of their everyday practices they feel able or inclined to change, with air travel being the practice that, by far, they are least willing to alter.
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