Fundacion Tatiana Catedra etica ambiental UAH Universidad de Alcala


Scientific evidence on the influence of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions on the global increase in temperatures explains the importance of improving the information we have available on the main sources of these emissions, in order to reduce them and to mitigate this serious problem. The commitments of the European Union with the signing of the Paris agreement (2015) should impact many different areas, which not only refer to political or macro-economic guidelines, but also our behavior patterns. Some studies have calculated that more than 60% of emissions are linked to our lifestyle, especially in terms of housing, food, consumption and transport.

In this context, the reduction of GHG emissions is part of a development concept that takes into account the integral wellbeing of the person and of all the different forms of life with whom we share the planet. This “sustainable” development has multiple facets that the UN has compiled into the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Among them, the commonly known as Climate Action is directly related to the reduction of GHGs, but there are others that are closely related to this objective, such as the case of Affordable and Non-Polluting Energy, Sustainable Cities and Communities and Production and Responsible consumption.

Within the framework of the Environmental Ethics Chair, we especially aim to promote the connection between SDG and the reduction of GHG. We intend to link Climate Action and Responsible Consumption by promoting the necessary information so that consumers become more aware of the climate impact of their daily habits and, consequently, adopt decisions that help reduce that impact. The main objective of this observatory is to provide relevant information in sectors of daily activities and consumption. Everything we do, including buying or eating carries with it a certain GHG emission. This is what is called the carbon footprint (CF). Knowing the value of that footprint and the alternatives available to our current consumption seems to us a necessary means for citizens to make better-informed decisions. The transition to a decarbonized society is everyone's mission. Greater environmental motivation is certainly needed, but also better information so that already convinced citizens can make decisions that are based on the best scientific criteria and arguments.


The information provided by this observatory on GHG emissions related to different activities is based on an extensive review of studies published in scientific journals and prestigious institutions. The information that we provide to the consumer is divided into two large sections.

  • Explore Alternatives: Information is provided on the CF of activities linked to the daily habits of citizens: Food, Transport, Clothing, Hygiene, Technology, and Pets. We intend in this section to provide data that help to change some of these habits, being aware of what the different alternatives imply. It can be used to assess what it would mean to make one or another decision about food (one or another type of menu), purchasing (different types of clothing) or transport (different modalities)
  • Your Carbon footprint: Based on the data of your ordinary activities and consumption, we offer you the annual value of your CF. We ambition to help each person to be aware of the GHG emissions generated through his/her activities. We provide, for comparison purposes, the CF values ​​for people with similar circumstances.

In addition to these two options, we have also included an introductory section where the scientific basis of climate change and the calculation of CF are explained, so that users of this site can, respectively, have reliable information about the problem we are facing and understand the meaning / relevance of the information they are accessing. Finally, we have included a section that collects the bibliographic references of the studies consulted.


It is important to clarify to all users of this observatory that the CF is not equivalent to the environmental footprint. What we are measuring here is the impact of the different activities we carry out on GHG emissions, not on other environmental aspects, such as consumption or water, air or soil pollution. This restriction does not mean that we consider these aspects as irrelevant. We simply intend to focus on measuring one of those environmental impacts, which seem to us the most important due to the global relevance of climate change, but which at a local scale may be much less pressing than others.

For example, considering the emissions produced by the different means of transport, we focus on those of CO2 or other GHGs (methane, nitrogen oxides, etc.), and not those elements related to the burning of fossil fuels, such as micro-particles (PM) or carbon monoxide (CO), which do not directly produce the greenhouse effect, but do have very negative impacts on human health and are the main causes of local air pollution.

Along the same lines, it may happen that the CF has a contradictory path with other environmental footprints or, in other words, that minimizing emissions may mean increasing other types of environmental impacts. This could be the case of electric cars, which have lower GHG emissions, but which pose more pollution than combustion cars with current battery production methods. Another example would be some variants of organic farming, which may imply a higher emission per kg of food produced (in case it obtains less yields than intensive agriculture). In these cases, the best decision will be the one that optimizes the environmental dimension that is considered a priority, depending on the established objectives, minimizing collateral negative aspects as much as possible. In our case, mitigating climate change is the priority objective; therefore, reducing GHG emissions is ahead of other environmental dimensions, obviously without implying local impacts that cannot be repaired.

In summary, the environmental footprint of a product or activity should consider, in addition to the GHG emissions that it generates, other types of impacts, such as the water it consumes, the pollutants it releases into the air, water or soil, the land it requires or the biological species it threatens. Making an integrated assessment of all these impacts is an enormous task, that goes beyond the scope of this observatory. However, we understand that our work could easily be integrated with the work of other teams assessing other environmental dimensions, in order to make a more complete inventory of the environmental impact of our activities.