Footprint types

Carbon Footprint

A Carbon Footprint is “a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases we produce. It is measured in units of carbon dioxide” (definition from In other words: the carbon footprint is simply the amount of kg “CO2 equivalent” emissions. It is the outcome of normal LCA at product level. Two issues are not always clear: (1) sometimes it is CO2 emissions only (2) sometimes it is only gate-to-gate, rather than the more usual cradle-to-gate (e.g. in advertisements of cars).
The Carbon Footprint is highly commercialized for reporting on product level (LCA). LCA practitioners can use this information in case they need information on the production phase or the use phase of a product or service, since in those phases LCA is normally governed by CO2 emissions.

The Carbon footprint of a product LCA should not be confused with the carbon footprint of a company. In business, the carbon footprint is to provide

environmental information (“company environmental reporting”) by applying the GHG (greenhouse gas) Protocol Corporate Standard developed by the WRI and the WBCSD (a group of big multinationals), see This protocol has been developed to make calculations on the level of a product as well as a company. The GHG protocol on the level at a company deviates therefor from the product LCA. It has three basic levels of carbon footprint (scope 4, the private footprint of employees, is hardly applied in practice):

  • Scope 1. Which are the emissions from the owned and controlled sources (its production processes and its services), gate-to-gate
  • Scope 2. Which is Scope 1 plus emissions from purchased energy
  • Scope 3. Which is Scope 2 plus all deliveries of goods and services (upstream and downstream background systems), including transport of goods, business travel and employee commuting


Environmental Footprint

The Environmental Footprint is an LCA method, developed by the EU Joint Research Centre.
It is not only about the carbon footprint, but it comprises a full list of other midpoint systems, i.e Acidification, Eurtification (terrestrial, freshwater, marine), Ozone depletion, Photochemical ozone formation, Ionising radiation, Respiratory inorganics (particulates), Human toxicity (cancer and non-cancer), Ecotoxicity freshwater, Land use, Water use, Resource use (minerals, metals, fossils). It has a political based weighting system to arrive at a single indicator in points, that is based on the general public opinion in the EU, combined with the opinion of some scientist.