Understanding Your Carbon Emissions

In order to manage and reduce your emissions, you need to identify where they’re coming from, and to measure them as accurately as possible.

How can information on your carbon emissions help you?

Besides being central to your reporting, the measurement and collection of carbon emissions data can be useful to you as management information. Robust measuring often reveals unnecessary, runaway or preventable carbon emissions, enabling organisations to reduce their impact by identifying the key areas for improvement.

Gathering information throughout the year and monitoring the different aspects of your footprint will help you make the most of the data you collect. Standardised reporting can also help you compare your emissions and resource consumption with similar organisations, helping you to identify examples of good practice and potential savings areas.

Many organisations will experience the double win of reducing energy bills and related emissions, by identifying energy-saving techniques or better ways to travel.

Where do your emissions come from?

To calculate your total carbon emissions you need to gather data relating to the following key areas of your organisation’s activity:

  • Energy
  • Waste (both landfill and recycling)
  • Travel (business travel, artist travel, touring)
  • Other sources

When you start to look into this, you will spend time defining the scope of your activities to understand the boundaries of your responsibilities. This is important to profile your organisation’s carbon emissions, and will serve as the foundation of your monitoring year on year.


For those organisations which pay utility bills, energy use and water data should be relatively easy to gather, as bills from suppliers and meter systems should provide most of the information.

We recommend recording readings regularly throughout the year. This can be weekly or monthly depending on your access to meters. Try to avoid relying on estimated bills. Maintaining a record in a simple spreadsheet will help you to keep an eye on any unexpected increases in usage.

For organisations that work in a rented space where someone else pays the energy bills, you should focus on your travel and waste. You are not expected to include data on utilities unless your landlord can provide this.

If you are able to, it is a good idea to switch energy supplier to an accredited renewables supplier such as Good Energy. This will have no direct impact on your organisational footprint if you are still connected to the UK grid, but in supporting these suppliers you will help shift the energy ‘mix’ of the UK grid to more sustainable sources.


For waste data, record the amount of landfill and recyclable waste which your office or venue generates. Small amounts can be estimated by counting the number of bin bags going into central collections.

For larger amounts you should use reports provided by your waste contractor. Conduct regular waste audits to make sure that your waste is going in the right streams. Make sure that you complement any recycling targets you set with appropriate signage to encourage responsible disposal.


Travel may also form a significant part of your carbon footprint, but we are aware that travel data is more difficult to gather. Sign up to our web-based tool ClaimExpenses.com to streamline your travel expenses claims and carry out associated carbon calculations.

Make sure you request mileage data from courier or van rental services that you use to transport equipment, set or props while travelling on tour. We would not expect you to include commuter or audience travel in your organisation’s emissions, but if you think you can influence this, it’s worth acting on it!

Other Sources

Every organisation is different, so you might identify other sources of emissions besides the key areas above. Contact fiona.maclennan@creativecarbonscotland.com with any specific enquiries. It’s also worth considering purchasing and environmental policy.


Purchasing can be a bit of a red herring. While it’s good to make low carbon and environmentally friendly choices when buying items, this doesn’t have a large impact on your carbon footprint because the production of goods is included in the carbon emissions of the company who produced it. However, don’t let this stop you from making positive purchasing choices!

Environmental policy

It is good practice to have an Environmental Policy, and should help to keep focus on carbon and other aspects of environmental sustainability. It should be something into which everyone in your organisation has regular input and understands, so keep it simple and practical.

Click here to read our Environmental Policy Guidelines.

How can you calculate your emissions?

Each source of carbon emissions (e.g. electricity, water, gas) has a different conversion factor, calculated and updated each year by UK Government. To calculate your carbon footprint, you’ll need all the data you have available on the main sources of your emissions (see above) and the relevant conversion factors. We have a range of tools and resources that can help you with this.

You can use our Carbon Management Planning Tool to record your raw data, convert it into emissions data, and to develop a Carbon Management Plan to start making reductions.

Our Quick Carbon Conversion Guide and Quick Carbon Management Calculator are good starting points to give you a rough overview of your emissions

For background, current conversion factors are available on the UK Government’s website.

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About Creative Carbon Scotland

We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

0131 529 7909

Supported by

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A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

Edinburgh Festival City logo Federation of Scottish Theatre logo Scottish Contemporary Art Network logo