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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Make Your Own Calculator

Interested in creating a carbon calculator for your own university?

Here's how we made our calculator, but of course feel free to contact us if you have any questions! 

Step 1: Brain storm what you want in your calculator. We decided to include all the integral parts of a college student's daily life - so we made sure to include carbon calculations for partying, studying, and what you may do in your free time. Also keep in mind what you want your calculator to look like, what audience you want to present it to, and where you want the calculator to be hosted. We tested multiple online calculators to figure out our opinion of the most successful carbon calculators, and then modeled ours after them. Our favorite was The Nature Conservancy's at

Step 2: Contact staff that know about sustainability on your campus, or are publicly interested in the matter. We were lucky enough to have the Office of Sustainability and the Environmental Studies Institute on campus to help answer all of our important questions.

Step 3: Find out what information your school already has about energy usage in the buildings on campus, the amount of waste your school produces, and the water usage. The Office of Sustainability provided us with the site, which gave us the energy readings for each residence hall on campus. They also helped by providing information about the waste output from the school – which was broken down into landfill and recyclable weights.

Step 4: Contact your food provider. We worked with our campus food provider, Bon Appetit, to use their already existing carbon calculator to find the average carbon emissions from eating food on our campus. We hope your provider will have the same data.

Step 5: Research online, or contact us, for carbon emissions of other factors you may want to include. This could be public transit, cars, iPods, cell phones, books, computers, beer, red cups, clothes, etc. This will be the most labor intensive part of the project, as long as your school has access to the information from steps 2-4.

Step 6: Do the math. Check out our math page(please see the link below) with the calculations we used for our calculator. You can use the same if you plug in the information about your school – or you can find your own conversion equations to use online.

Step 7: Put it online. Find a tech-guy or a tech-gal. We worked with our tech-guy, Antony, to create our calculator online. Luckily for you, he used Open Source (MIT/GPL) code to create our calculator except for the graph (which also free for non-commercial use). So you can use the same code for yours if you'd like! Find a host for the site, and input your data to the open source codes, and before you know it you will have a working carbon footprint calculator for your university, just like Santa Clara!

Step 8: Testing it and releasing it: We went into three classes and sent the calculator to professors interested in the matter and to our friends to receive feedback from users about what we could do to improve our calculator. It's important to make sure it is user friendly and easy to understand, because when it comes down to it - this calculator needs to be fun and accurate so that people will actually use it! After making the corrections based on their feedback, we released the calculator to our fellow Broncos and to the University's president.

Step 9: Advice and questions: For questions please contact David DeCosse of the Santa Clara University Markkula Center of Applied Ethics, at or Lindsey Cromwell of the Santa Clara University Office of Sustainability at

Step 10: Enjoy!

Math and methodologies behind this calculator