Friends of the Earth: car­bon calculator

Exhibited by
Ruth Ruderham.
June 16, 2010
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Awareness, single gift, social change campaign
Type of Charity
Environmental / animals
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
September, 2007

SOFII’s view

An enterprising and topical involvement idea, interestingly executed. FoE's carbon footprint calculator will be irresistible for many people and is right on message for the charity. This exhibit should encourage other campaigning and social change organisations to search for similar ways of engaging supporters.

Creator / originator

Developed in-house by a project group of fundraisers, climate campaigners and activist staff. The data underlying the calculator has been researched by Centre for Alternative Technology.

Summary / objectives

The Friends of the Earth carbon calculator offers people a way to calculate their own carbon footprint and practical tips on how to reduce it. By illustrating which of our carbon emissions we cannot control individually, the calculator demonstrates the vital importance of political action and invites donors and prospects to financially support Friends of the Earth's campaign agenda.


Friends of the Earth is a campaigning organisation that seeks to change government policy. We have struggled to make our work clear and tangible in the way that other charities have with products such as 'sponsor a child' or 'send a goat'. This product turns one of our greatest challenges into an opportunity for us to make our work tangible. Every year thousands of people come to Friends of the Earth seeking advice on what changes they can make in their lives to help protect our planet. Friends of the Earth's response is that the single greatest difference you can make is to call on the government to change its policies.

The carbon calculator offers people seeking guidance on how to 'green their lives' a way to calculate their own carbon footprint and practical tips on how to reduce it. Not very innovative so far - but it does much more than this. Using data that has been researched over a two-year period the calculator splits your carbon emissions into:

  • Direct (those you can control by changing your lifestyle, eg – the choice to drive rather than cycle)
  • Indirect (those that are controlled by the decisions you make, eg – the emissions involved in manufacturing a car as opposed to a bicycle)
  • Infrastructure (those that you cannot control at all but that are part of living in the UK, eg – the cost of road lighting)

'Infrastructure' emissions for an individual living an average lifestyle will far exceed his or her direct and indirect emissions. Infrastructure emissions can only be changed by government policy.
The calculator therefore takes the individual on a journey. It starts with the behavioural change advice that we know people are seeking, but takes them to a place where they understand that taking political action will have far more impact than changing a light bulb.

The ask is therefore obvious. By supporting Friends of the Earth you can be part of our campaign to call on the government to take strong, decisive action that will reduce the emissions of everyone in the UK, whether they are concerned about environmental issues or not. The calculator links directly to our online PDD form (PDD stands for paperless direct debit.This is a form that allows donors to set up a regular donation online) and to our current online petition about the climate change bill the government is drafting at the moment.

Special characteristics

This takes a standard product – a carbon calculator – and gives it a totally innovative twist that helps people understand why campaigning is the most effective way to address environmental issues and offers them an opportunity to support our current campaign.

Influence / impact

We see this product as a way for Friends of the Earth to involve an audience that is far broader than our traditional support base.


Estimated costs total £23,000.


This product makes environmental campaigning tangible, meets people where they are and takes them on a journey to understand Friends of the Earth and why we need their support. It flies in the face of false solutions to environmental problems, such as off-setting, by offering people a way to make a real difference. It is fully integrated across the organisation, ensuring that those who use the calculator can actually make an immediate difference to our priority campaign as well as establishing long-term financial support for the breadth of our work. It takes a problem and turns it into an opportunity.

Other relevant information

FoE is in negotiations with one of the major search engines about embedding this within their programming. Details to follow…

A screen shot showing the online calculator. Click on the image to be taken to Friends of The Earth's carbon calculator

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