How new technology can help you measure your carbon footprint

Plane flying across a blue sky

Words by Edward Jack

As part of a new series on the challenges and imperatives of measuring your carbon footprint, Conduit member Edward Jack, founder & CEO of Lytely, writes for us on the role technology can play in empowering individuals to lessen their environmental impact.

How much carbon did you emit today?

You don’t know? Don’t worry: you’re not alone. Although the concept of a carbon footprint is well known, it remains an amorphous subject for most. Indeed, while everything we consume has an associated carbon footprint, few of us can accurately quantify our personal carbon footprint. Unlike health, where the results of a bad diet or lack of proper exercise are clearly evident on an individual level, it is difficult to see the environmental impact from our consumption of goods and services. This disconnect between cause and effect has made it almost impossible to hold individuals to account for their direct environmental impact, and difficult for governments to introduce the necessary policies required to combat climate change without fear of losing the next election. A number of new solutions, powered by technology, are seeking to change this by getting us to engage with the consequences of our behavioural patterns and choices.

A new platform to calculate your carbon footprint

Lytely is a new app-based platform which automatically calculates a user’s individual carbon footprint and allows them to better understand their personal environmental impact (think Fitbit for your carbon footprint). Today, smart phones provide an enormous amount of computing power in the palm of our hands. They can, among many other things, determine whether a user is walking, cycling or travelling in a vehicle. Lytely uses this data – in combination with other filters and criteria – to determine a user’s mode of transport, as well as the start and end points of discrete journeys to estimate distance travelled. Combined with carbon estimates provided by the UK Government*, the platform automatically provides users with an accurate estimate of their carbon footprint from transportation, one of the largest contributors of carbon emissions. Further functionality development is underway to incorporate energy use onto the platform which, when combined with transportation, will provide an accurate measure of over 50% of an individual’s carbon footprint.

*A carbon co-efficient, which estimates the CO2 equivalent emissions per passenger mile travelled for different modes of transport (e.g. petrol and diesel combustion engines, hybrids, EVs and planes)

Reaching net zero

Providing an easy-to-use platform to help inform users of their individual environmental impact is just the first step in driving more sustainable lifestyles choices. To gain traction, solutions need to be provided to encourage behavioural changes and promote lower carbon alternatives; for example, taking the train rather than flying, switching to a renewable energy provider, upgrading to an electric vehicle, or experimenting with meat alternatives. Technology that allows people to become more familiar with their individual environmental impact and empowers them with lower carbon choices can also help pioneering companies and brands highlight their sustainability credentials to their stakeholders and so accelerate the trend towards more sustainable consumption.

Reducing your carbon footprint should obviously form the foundation of a transition to a more sustainable lifestyle, but we will always have some measure of carbon emissions associated with our consumption. Many Governments and businesses have already recognised this and are setting themselves ambitious targets to achieve net zero emissions, based in part on the use of carbon offset credits. There is no reason why individuals can’t also aspire to be net zero, empowered by new technology that can enable them to offset carbon emissions at the push of a button and see the results reflected in their personal footprint.

Stay accountable

Inspired by movements like Greta Thunberg’s #FridaysForFuture, millions of people around the world are demanding immediate action on climate change. By allowing users to share their carbon footprint with friends and family, Lytely hopes to evoke a sense of pride for those already living a sustainable lifestyle or who choose to switch to more sustainable consumption choices, while at the same time nudging others to correct their trajectory towards lower carbon lifestyles. This self-sustaining, peer-to-peer model has previously worked well, encouraging people to stop smoking and use seatbelts, often at the insistence of younger generations.

 Lytely doesn’t pretend to be the solution to the greatest existential crises of our time. It hopes to be an enabler to empower users to make individual changes that, together, will make a global difference, whether that’s accelerating the transition to 100% renewable energy, electric vehicles, sustainable diets, or increasing the electorate’s tolerance for government policies that introduce the legal framework to force the transition to a lower carbon economy. We must embrace technology that can inspire individuals who may feel powerless in the face of the climate crisis to understand, monitor and reduce their carbon footprint, and ultimately achieve a more sustainable lifestyle.

Learn about Lytely

The beta version of Lytely will be freely available on the App Store in the coming weeks, with additional features and functionality added over time. Like many sustainability initiatives, Lytely is a work in progress, continuously evolving, and any and all feedback will be welcome. We are also in discussions with several enterprises about running trial employee and customer engagement programmes. Please get in touch if you’d like to offer feedback or learn more via info@treadlytely.com.


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