An environmental Foot Print is a value, expressing the full cradle-to-grave effects of a product, a service or a certain amount of "consumption" (e.g. one individual or a region). The term was originally introduced in the context of the Ecological Foot Print , which measures those effects in terms of demand for land. The EFP is measured in hectares and thus a real footprint in the sense of an area that is left somewhat mangled by you treading on it. When this demand for land is compared to the total available land on Earth, it is easy to see whether a certain level of consumption could be sustained in the long term. This assessment is made each year in the Living Planet Report . Since then, Carbon and Water Foot Prints have become popular quantities to compare products.
Like ecological foot printing, carbon foot printing is a form of life-cycle assessment that focuses on a single topic of high interest to society: in this case carbon or, more precisely, climate change. Standards such as the GHG protocol or PAS2050 are applied to yield carbon foot prints that may be used for B2B or B2C communication. They typically require a high level of precision in data collection as well as the implementation or construction of product category rules. At corporate level, we can assist in voluntary greenhouse gas reporting at Scope 1, 2 or 3 (GHG protocol). Carbon foot printing is the first step in achieving carbon neutrality, such as described in e.g. Australia's National Carbon Offset Standard. If an assessment is not cradle-to-grave but cradle-to-gate, it is not strictly speaking a foot print but often it is still called a (partial) foot print.
A specific area of carbon foot printing is in the assessment of sustainability of biofuels and bioenergy . One of the issues for compliance with international criteria (e.g. Round Table on Sustainable Biofuels) is that life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions have to be compared to fossil and meet a certain reduction threshold. A screening can provide you with information on emission savings of a product, in preparation for legislation or certification.
Foot print services:
Carbon foot printing
Full environmental foot printing (LCA)
Ecological foot printing
Water foot printing
Energy foot printing (often partial, as a scan of `embodied energy')