Impact aims to give small communities usable data on their carbon emissions that is easy to understand and share.

Online tool measures community carbon footprint

Communities can measure their carbon footprint using a new online tool.

The tool – called Impact – aims to give small communities usable data on their carbon emissions that is easy to understand and share.

This will help communities work out their main "impact areas" – those places where focused action can make the biggest contribution to cutting local emissions.

Impact was developed by the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and the University of Exeter’s Centre for Energy and the Environment, as part of the South West Environment and Climate Action Network (SWeCAN) project.

"We are already getting great feedback from people who are using the tool in their communities," said Dr Daniel Lash, of Exeter's Centre for Energy and the Environment.

"This is exactly what SWeCAN was meant to do – it's helping people understand their environmental impact, allowing them to take meaningful action."

Impact has a simple user interface and dynamic visual representation of data, making it easy to understand.

It uses two different but complementary approaches to carbon footprinting: territorial-based reporting and consumption-based reporting. Both of these look at where our emissions come from, but they calculate this in different ways.

A territorial footprint looks at all emissions from activities within a particular boundary, covering for example road and rail travel, industrial and commercial emissions and agriculture, and household energy use.

The consumption footprint also looks at household energy use, but it differs from the territorial approach in that it considers the behaviours and the purchases of the people living in that area, including goods and services, much of which are imported from outside – like food, clothing, banking and medical services.

Both approaches can provide useful information to help target local action.

“We know that local authorities and central government are working on climate emergency plans, and that carbon footprinting at these larger spatial geographies is commonly commissioned," said CSE’s project lead, Rachel Coxcoon.

"We know also that many concerned individuals are already using the wide range of personal carbon footprint tools available on the internet.

"But we identified a real gap for carbon footprinting at the small community scale which takes into account the lack of specialist knowledge among community groups and the lowest tier of local government.

"Impact fills this gap. And as well as being clear and useable, it will also give you pointers, once you understand your community’s impact, on what to do next."

Councillors and clerks from more than 170 parishes helped to test the Impact tool.

Impact is focused on town and parish council level, but there is a clear demand for data at other levels, such as electoral ward

The team are actively fundraising to be able to meet this demand, and donations can be made here.

The work was part funded through CSE's charitable reserve, the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, via the Midlands Energy Hub, and the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund.

If you have any questions about the tool or suggestions for how it could be improved, you can contact the project team at

Date: 24 March 2021

Read more University News