Forest CarbonPlus Calculator

Website

http://www.itreetools.org/forestcarboncalculator/

Purpose

To calculate carbon emissions that are directly related to day-to-day operations of Forest Service facilities and activities of Forest Service employees. The calculator translates data on quantity and type of energy used into emissions data.

Output

Emissions inventory in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (CO2e Mg/yr) and the hypothetical associated value of these tons of CO2e (e.g. on a voluntary trading platform).

Developed by

Collaboration by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, the Davey Institute, and the Urban Natural Resources Institute. Adapted from the structure of the Household Carbon Footprint Calculator (formerly the EPA Personal Emissions Calculator).

Format

Online calculator, pre-programmed with emissions factors for fuel and energy use. Currently in testing phase.

Geography

United States

Scale (range)

USDA Forest Service facilities at either the National Forest-level or Region/Station/Area-level

Potential Applications

Estimating emissions related to day-to-day activities and operations; benchmarking and measuring progress toward energy-use reduction goals as outlined in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and Executive Orders (EO) 13423 & 13514.

Caveats, Restrictions

The user must collect and provide substantial amounts of data about quantity and type of energy/fuel used (and miles travelled) before successfully employing the CarbonPlus Calculator. The calculator includes default parameters and emissions factors initially calibrated for New England. Currently, emissions factors are identical for all locations, but can be manually modified. Emissions “value” is not entirely useful or accurate.

Overview & Applicability

The Forest CarbonPlus calculator streamlines annual emissions calculations for Forest Service operations and activities at the level of National Forest or Region/Station/Area. The calculator can be helpful in determining a benchmark and measuring progress toward emissions reductions goals. Measuring and reducing the Agency's carbon and environmental footprint is especially important in light of the Forest Service National Roadmap for Responding to Climate Change and the Performance Scorecard for Implementing the Forest Service Climate Change Strategy, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and Executive Orders (EO) 13423 & 13514.

The calculator's website contains some general information about additional tools, carbon sequestration and the environmental benefits of trees, though the calculator does not quantify sequestration.

Use the Forest CarbonPlus Calculator to determine the carbon footprint of a Forest Service facility.

History

The Forest CarbonPlus Calculator was developed through collaboration by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, the Davey Institute, and the Urban Natural Resources Institute. It is based in part on earlier versions of the same calculator, designed for the general public. More information on the developers and the tool background can be accessed from the main tool page by selecting "Acknowledgements" at the bottom of the page.

Inputs and outputs

The user provides information on quantity and type of energy or other resources used, and the calculator converts this to carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions. However, since the calculator requires the user to aggregate, compile and manually input a substantial quantity of data on energy and resource use (and this can be a challenging task in itself) its utility depends in part on underlying data collection systems for resource use. The accuracy of all emissions calculations is entirely dependent on both the accuracy of the input data and the regional accuracy of the embedded (or manually inputted) emissions factors. The current value of the calculator stems primarily from its comprehensive coverage of all greenhouse gases (GHGs) and potential sources of emissions related to offices, vehicles, air travel, and equipment; its user-friendly input format; and its pre-programmed emissions factors, which may or may not be entirely accurate for a particular region of interest.

Restrictions and limitations

In addition to having to collect a substantial amount of input data prior to use, the calculator includes default parameters and emissions factors initially calibrated for New England. Currently, emissions factors are identical for all locations but can be manually modified. This makes the National Forest/Region/Station/Area drop-down menu more formality than functional.

For the most part, the calculator compiles emissions. The calculator does give "credit" for employees who use mass transit, but does not give credit for telecommuting, biking, etc. In reality, however, none of these should be given credit, because they do not actually counterbalance or offset other facility and activity-related emissions; though these measures are important, they only minimize or eliminate additions to the total emissions output. Instead, alternative energy projects that feed back into a grid, rain collection systems that displace freshwater use (which can be energy intensive) with gray water, and other technologies and activities that not only neutralize, but offset emissions elsewhere should count toward emissions reductions and be given credit in the overall calculation.

The calculated emissions value is based upon the hypothetical ability to transact certified emissions reductions on a market platform - in reality, these emissions reductions would not qualify under most commonly used voluntary protocols, the default CO2e price per ton used is much higher than current market prices, and the value calculation does not incorporate transaction costs.

Accessing the tool and additional information

The tool can be accessed directly from: http://www.itreetools.org/forestcarboncalculator/

 More resources and information about carbon sequestration and the environmental benefits of trees can be found on the Forest CarbonPlus Calculator website. 

Was this page helpful?

Please help us improve the CCRC by giving us feedback.