Calculating your carbon footprint

Find out how much CO2 your cottage activities generate

By Craig SaundersCraig Saunders

Carbon footprint

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Every product and activity has a carbon footprint, the amount of CO2 produced to make it, transport it, and consume it. While it’s hard to control the energy it takes to make a product, here’s how much CO2 is generated by some typical cottage activities.

The Commute

200 highway km to the cottage and back in a 2008 2.0 L/4-cylinder sedan: 31.2 kg

In a 1998 2.0 L/4-cylinder sedan: 34.6 kg

Source: Natural Resources Canada Fuel Consumption Ratings

A typical 1998 mid-sized sedan uses 7.2 L/100 km on the highway.

A typical 2008 mid-sized sedan uses 6.5 L/100 km on the highway.


For every litre of gasoline used, about 2.4 kg of CO2 are produced.

2008 Malibu: 6.5 L x 2 [for 200 km distance] x 2.4 kg/L = 31.2 kg

1998 Malibu: 7.2 L x 2 x 2.4 kg/L = 34.56

The Feast

One hour of barbecuing with propane: 2.5 kg

With briquettes: 5 kg

Source: Study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy: “A liquefied petroleum [propane] gas grill operated for an hour would emit 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide while a charcoal grill would emit about 11 pounds.”

5.6 lbs. = 2.54 kg

11 lbs. = 4.99 kg

The Thrills

Two hours of fun on a sailboard: 0 kg

On a 2008 four-stroke PWC: 49.3 kg


The PWC tested uses 2.8 gallons (US) per hour. The EPA estimates each gallon of gas produces 8.8 kg of CO2, so 2.8 gallons x 8.8 kg/gallon x 2 hours = 49.28 kg.

The Relaxation

An hour in a powerboat with a four-stroke 9.9-hp outboard: 9.6 kg

In a powerboat with a new direct-injection two-stroke 50-hp outboard: 45.6 kg

Source: Nissan Marine

The 9.9-hp outboard uses 4 L/hr., so 4 L/hr. x 2.4 kg/L = 9.6.

The 50-hp outboard uses 19 L/hr., so 19 L/hr. x 2.4 kg/L = 45.6.

The Heat

Cottage heated with sustainably harvested wood in a high-efficiency woodstove (carbon in equals carbon out): 0 kg

Annual heating with electric baseboards: 5,806 kg

Source: The Home Heating System Cost Calculator from Natural Resources Canada

Woodstove: If the wood is harvested sustainably (i.e., selective cutting and/or a replacement tree planted in its stead, as opposed to clear-cutting), then the carbon released in its burning will be the same amount as the carbon absorbed by the tree in its lifetime. Burning wood, however, is not 100 per cent carbon neutral when you consider other factors not included in our calculations, such as the carbon released in the harvesting and transportation of the wood, other greenhouse gases (such as methane) emitted in the burning process, and the particulate matter that contributes to air pollution.

Electric baseboards: Source: National Inventory Report: Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada 1990-2005 from Environment Canada;

Current annual heating load for a detached pre-1990 home using Toronto as the nearest location is 95 gigajoules. The Ontario electricity grid emits 0.22 kg of CO2 per kwH.

95 gigajoules = 26,389 kilowatt hours

26,389 kwH x 0.22 kg/kwH = 5,805.6 kg

The Ice-Cold Beer

Annual footprint of a newer Energy Star-rated refrigerator: 90.4 kg

Of a typical 1980s fridge: 320.5 kg

The Natural Resources Canada appliance EnerGuide ratings shows a 2004 refrigerator consumes 411 kwH/year, while a 1984 fridge consumes 1,457 kwH/year.

Energy Star-rated fridge: 411 kwH/year x 0.22 kg/kwH = 90.4 kg

1980s fridge: 1,457 kwH/year x 0.22 kg/kwH = 320.5 kg

This article was originally published on May 13, 2008

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Craig Saunders