Understanding your carbon footprint is a great place to start when it comes to tackling climate change. Your carbon footprint is made up of everyday activities like how you get around, what you eat, and how much energy you use. The fewer emissions, the smaller your footprint.

Once you know where your emissions are coming from, you can find opportunities to cut down.

Discover your impact on the planet

To make it easy for you to calculate your carbon footprint and stay motivated to take action, we’ve partnered with FutureFit. The simple online tool gives you a snapshot of your emissions, and what you can do to reduce them.

The average New Zealand carbon footprint

Your carbon footprint can be simplified into four major categories:

  • Food
  • Transport
  • Housing and household energy use
  • Shopping

If we average out New Zealand’s overall household consumption emissions, then per household, over a third of emissions are from transport, about a quarter are from food, a quarter are from shopping and recreation (such as household contents, clothing and other goods and services), and around one eighth are attributed to housing and household energy use. 

Overall household consumption emissions in 2019 were 42.89 million tonnes of CO2-e (carbon dioxide equivalent emissions). Per capita this is about 8.5t of CO2-e.

Breakdown of household consumption emissions

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Source: Stats NZ consumption emissions 2021 (most recent data available, 2019).

It’s important to remember that the proportions above are based on averages. When you calculate your own carbon footprint you get a personalised view of your emissions – if you take a lot of international flights, for example, or eat a vegetarian diet, your carbon footprint could look quite different.

How it fits in to overall emissions

A carbon footprint is based on ‘consumption’ emissions, or the emissions caused by New Zealanders’ way of life – including the choices we make every day. But if we take New Zealand’s overall (‘gross’) emissions into account we see a bigger picture. Gross emissions (also called ‘production emissions’) are the emissions released into the atmosphere from New Zealand territory, and can be viewed as the carbon footprint of our economy.

When overall emissions are taken into account, New Zealand has the 6th highest emissions per capita in the OECD. In 2020 our gross emissions were 78.8 million tonnes CO2-e. That’s about 16t per capita – nearly double the number we get when we look at household consumption emissions alone. Most of the difference is accounted for by export goods that are consumed offshore (predominantly meat and dairy).

While as individuals we’re not responsible for these export emissions, we do benefit from the higher standard of living that comes with them, as exports impact our GDP.

How to take action

You can improve your personal carbon footprint by making climate-friendly choices in your everyday life.

You can influence New Zealand’s overall carbon footprint indirectly too – through how you vote, how you invest and spend your money, and by joining and supporting relevant community groups.

Some actions you can take for free

Emissions calculator for business

If you're looking for ways to decarbonise your business, the Climate Action Toolbox is a great place to start. You can use the free tool to measure and track your business emissions. It can also help you create an action plan for reducing emissions across your business.

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