Carbon calculators can help individuals reduce their carbon footprint by 10% according to a recently published research paper. However, this effect appears during the first month of use and then decreases over time. 

The Svalna app functions as an advanced climate calculator, where users link it to their bank accounts to immediately see the climate impact of their purchases, aiming to raise awareness. In addition to user bank account spendings, emissions are calculated from various records and user lifestyle parameters. 

Reduction in the initial weeks
The researchers analysed whether users who downloaded the app reduced their carbon footprint. They found that, on average, users reduce their emissions by 10% in the first five weeks. After 12 weeks, however, the effect diminishes. The reduction occurs occurs across all consumption categories. 

David Andersson, a researcher at Chalmers University of Technology and one of the authors of the study, suggests that the strong initial reduction is probably due to the app creating an heightened awareness of the link between consumption and climate impact. This link diminishes over time, leading users to gradually return to their previous consumption patterns.

“A battle for our attention”
– Perhaps it can be seen as a battle for our attention, where individual climate initiatives struggle to compete with the expectations and norms we encounter in our everyday lives, says David Andersson.

The researchers also point out that the users in the study already hold pro-environmental attitudes and voluntarily downloaded the app themselves. Whether apps can influence people who are less interested in the climate, and how they could be integrated into larger systems, for example that banks offer their customers a climate calculator as a digital service, are subjects for further studies.

Thelma Åberg

Read the full article in Environmental and Resource Economics here.

David Andersson, postdoc, Chalmers, Göteborg
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