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2 minutes to read Posted on Monday May 9, 2022

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Shadi Ardalan

Shadi Ardalan

Head of Member State Relations and Governance , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Patrick Ehlert

Patrick Ehlert

Senior Software Developer , Europeana Foundation

Researching our carbon footprint - findings and tips from Europeana Foundation

Developing solutions to the climate emergency and environmental challenges is not an easy journey, but it starts with understanding our impact and our footprint. The Europeana Foundation's Green Team shares the results of their 2020 carbon footprint investigation and learnings to inspire and help other organisations. 

Artists depiction of a summer day on a rocky forest clearing
Summer Day on Rocky Forest Clearing
Palugyay, Zolo
Slovak national gallery

How we conducted our research 

To gain an overview of the Europeana Foundation’s carbon use in 2020, we investigated our footprint from our entire value chain. This included our digital services and our corporate operations: working from home and at the office, and our business travel. In cases where that data wasn’t available, we relied on secondary sources, including industry averages. Some exclusions due to lack of data included staff’s daily commutes, manufacturing or disposal of computer devices, and overnight stays during business trips.

Our footprint

From our work, we estimated that the Europeana Foundation’s carbon footprint in 2020 was 87,300 kg CO2e. In everyday terms, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency calculator,  our total 2020 carbon footprint is equivalent to the energy use of 11 homes for one year, the consumption of 202 barrels of oil, or charging 10,619,403 smartphones.

We were encouraged to see that through use of renewable energy sources, we avoided around 65,000 kg CO2e of emissions and we compensated around 1,460 kg worth of CO2e through carbon offsetting. Thanks to the renewable electricity used at our offices in The Hague and by one of our hosting providers, our total footprint in 2020 is 69% lower compared to the baseline year 2018, but higher than the rough estimate for 2019. 

We found that the largest contributors to our 2020 carbon footprint were computer servers hosted by our other hosting providers and the workspace heating. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the footprint of business travel was low in 2020. 

Europeana Foundation Carbon Footprint 2020, kgCO2e. Pie chart showing working from home or office, 34,000; digital services, 38,900; business travel, 14,000
Europeana Foundation Carbon Footprint 2020
Europeana Foundation Carbon Footprint 2020, kgCO2e. Pie chart showing working from home or office, 34,000; digital services, 38,900; business travel, 14,000

We also discovered that on average, working from home leads to net increases in emissions because less renewable electricity is used at home. This varies per employee. Generally less commuting reduces the footprint, but most of Europeana Foundation’s employees use public transport. We also found that expanding our digital services leads to a higher footprint. As a result, we should encourage all our providers to switch to clean, renewable energy.

Learnings for us - and you

Reducing or stopping a carbon producing activity is the best approach to reducing a carbon footprint. However, this is not always feasible due to some of these activities being essential in the core of our work/operation - for example, digital services and travelling in a network organisation. Our next best option is then to explore alternative ways to reduce carbon emissions and energy use. We do this through:

  • Switching to clean and renewable energy. This makes a big difference to our carbon footprint. We encourage all our partners and providers to do so too.

  • Travelling less and only when necessary. There’s no way around it: travel has a big environmental impact. With the shift to digital conferences, webinars and online meetings, travelling is less indispensable. When travelling is necessary, we note that travelling by train has substantially lower footprint than flying, so we fly only if essential. We check carbon emissions when booking travel and we offset our journeys. We also promote other environmentally friendly travel practices such as using public transport, eating local and staying at eco friendly hotels.

  • Limiting the footprint of digital assets and services by sensible choices made during conceptualisation and development of a digital system, and by maintaining them efficiently. 

  • Organising in-person, hybrid and online events and conferences with the environmental impact in mind. In a physical event, we aim to do this through a strategic choice of venue and the catering - local, seasonal, vegan and vegetarian - or other services. We go paperless and use digital media, and strive to ensure we have strong eco-friendly messaging surrounding our event so it’s clear how important it is to us and to our network.

  • Raising awareness, sharing what we learn along the way, and promoting sustainable, environment and climate friendly practices in our networks. For example, several Europeana colleagues have adopted travel by train practice after becoming aware of the air travel footprint. 

When energy reduction or switching to renewable energy is not possible, we consider carbon offsetting. Europeana has been offsetting part of its business travel in the past. In 2022 and onwards Europeana will offset all business trips. 

Next steps

We will continually refine our carbon footprint investigation model to offer a more accurate and transparent assessment of our footprint. Exploring measures to reduce our impact is an ongoing process. As we learn more, we will revise our roadmap to incorporate new information, new findings, new approaches and new actions. And we continue to ask ourselves how we can reduce our impact on climate and environment, and make our work an even greater force for good. 

If you are interested in exchanging knowledge, approaches and good practice related to climate action and the digital cultural heritage sector, you can join the Europeana Climate Action Community. You can also download and read the full report into our 2020 carbon footprint below.