The emissions costs of common materials & activities

Sustainability

19. Sep 2022

Aron Vallinder, PhD

Research Writer

Evan Farbstein Headshot

Evan Farbstein

Sustainability Writer

Reducing emissions means choosing lower-carbon alternatives.

Aron Vallinder, PhD

Research Writer

Evan Farbstein Headshot

Evan Farbstein

Sustainability Writer

Reducing carbon emissions requires businesses to choose lower-emitting alternatives. To do so, businesses first need to know the emissions of the potential activities they could perform as well as the products and services they could buy.

The most accurate emissions measurements come from activity data: data specifying how many units of a particular product or material a company has purchased.

Once a business has activity data, it can use emission factors to calculate the resulting emissions. An emission factor is a measure of the amount of emissions associated with a unit of the activity (e.g. kilograms of CO2e emitted per kilogram of aluminum, kilometer of truck transport, or square meter of textile).

These emission factors come from scientific studies. Normative’s carbon accounting engine collects emission factors from a range of sources to provide emission estimates that are as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

In the table below, find the average emissions of some commonly-used materials and activities. 

The emissions costs of common materials and activities

Emissions
(kg CO2e)
UnitSource
HDPE (High density polyethylene)2.00kgIdemat
PET (Polyethylene terephthalate)3.50kgIdemat
PVC (Polyvinylchloride)2.10kgIdemat
Transport by HGV (heavy goods vehicle)0.87kmDefra
Aviation gasoline2.29litersDefra
Average car (petrol)0.17kmDefra
Average car (EV)0.00kmDefra
Average car (hybrid)0.12kmDefra
Average car (diesel)0.17kmDefra
Board and recycled paper0.50kgIdemat
Paper (virgin, 80g/m2)0.10m2Idemat
Wood (class 2)0.31kgDefra
Petrol2.31litersDefra
Virgin glass bottles1.10kgIdemat
Recycled glass bottles0.64kgIdemat

This information is actionable: knowing the emissions of various common materials helps you decide where to switch to lower-carbon options.

For example, say your soda company uses 1,000 kilograms of glass bottles in a year. By switching from virgin glass to recycled glass, you’ll reduce those emissions from 1,100 kg CO2e to 640 kg CO2e – a 42% decrease.

While the above emissions estimates may vary by region and supplier, you can use these averages as a starting point for conversations with suppliers about how to reduce emissions.

Accurate emissions measurements to drive effective action

Normative draws from 30 million data points to calculate your business’s full greenhouse gas emissions.

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