The use of data to assess personal lifestyle choices in the context of the climate crises is what inspired our project. Another source of inspiration is our perceived lack of tangible options for individuals to offset their carbon footprint beyond what is possible through individual actions.
What it does
We created a solution that facilitates individuals to assess their carbon footprint as well as providing the opportunity to offset their emissions in a quantifiable way.
How we built it
First, we had to familiarize ourselves with the available data sets, and find any missing data from reputable sources to fill the gaps, so we could figure out our methodology in calculating the carbon footprint. Once we had found the data we created emission factors to use in the carbon calculator. The factors included averages per person and more complex factors based on user input, such as emissions per portion of red meat. We also had to familiarize ourselves with the available carbon offset solutions to see which options we wanted to offer and which options are already available to the public. We used a production ready, modern tech stack that we are familiar with, which we could use to develop the project further, in favor of simpler short term solutions which would perhaps have allowed us to deploy a prototype with less effort. The front-end is implemented in React and the back-end is implemented in GraphQL and postgres. The application is deployed on AWS.
Challenges we ran into
We ran into several challenges. The most notable involved the data sets, including figuring out a way to source the data available, format it, and merge different data sets in a meaningful way. Another facet of the data challenge was creating the emission factors and ensuring that the calculations correctly used the data.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud of the design and user experience of the website and the usefulness of the calculator. Another point of pride is the incorporation of data sets both provided by the Datathon and sourced elsewhere. We managed to merge it into a useful format for the emissions calculator. We cannot forget to mention how important it was to choose what we consider valid offsetting options. It is something that we feel has been missing from the offsetting market currently available to the public.
What we learned
We now have a deeper understanding of the most significant contributors to an individual's carbon footprint in Iceland and what areas are ripe for improvement. Adding the option to calculate the factor of owning horses on one's footprint is not present for its element of humor alone; part of the intention behind that choice is to highlight the disproportionate impact of human's use of animals on total emissions. Equally important is the realization that individual lifestyle choices alone are not sufficient to lower emissions. In our solution, we highlight offsetting. However, it is hugely apparent that large scale restructuring on the government and intergovernmental level are necessary to lower emissions on a scale beyond the abilities of individual choices.
What's next for NetZero
The next step is to establish a working relationship with Carbfix, access the ETS market to offer credits for sale on NetZero, and implement a functional purchasing site. We would like to expand the calculator to use reliable data to include more complex calculations for import and export, refrigerants and waste disposal. Moving forward, we envision that NetZero could also functions as a personal monitoring system for its users, in which it is possible to assess and ddress lifestyle choices to lower emissions.