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Researchers Develop Rapid Method to Measure Carbon Footprints

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Bangladesh manufacturing district

A manufacturing district outside Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Credit: Kevin Krajick/Earth Institute

Researchers at Columbia University's Earth Institute have developed software that can rapidly calculate the carbon footprints of thousands of products simultaneously.

The project's original aim was to evaluate and help standardize PepsiCo's calculations of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted when a product is made, packaged, distributed, and discarded. The Columbia researchers developed three new techniques that work together, enabling them to calculate thousands of footprints within minutes, with minimal user input. Columbia's Christoph Meinrenken says the key component was a model that generates estimated emission factors for materials, eliminating the manual mapping of a product's ingredients and packaging materials. He says automatically generated factors enable non-experts "to calculate approximate carbon footprints and alleviate resource constraints for companies embarking on large-scale product carbon footprinting."

PepsiCo's Al Halvorsen notes "the newly developed software promises to not only save time and money for companies like PepsiCo, but also to provide fresh insights into how companies measure, manage, and reduce their carbon footprint in the future."

From Columbia University
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA 


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