Calculating our carbon footprint

Calculating our carbon footprint

Khushi Kantha’s social enterprise mission is to create opportunities for mothers in Bangladesh to provide for their children with dignity, by providing women with a sustainable livelihood. 
Providing a sustainable livelihood doesn’t just mean providing regular income for our stitchers – it is also necessary to consider  environmental sustainability
At Khushi Kantha, we want to create the lightest possible environmental footprint across our production process and broader supply chain.  That’s why we decided to calculate the carbon footprint for the production of our first collection of Happy Blankets in the most extensive way possible, right down to the production of the rubber we use in our branded stamp – and the ink that accompanies it! 
Not only will this information help understand how to offset our emissions to achieve carbon neutrality, it will also highlight where we can make further savings, to help us create an action plan to reduce them.  Offsetting the greenhouse gases has made our first collection carbon neutral, but our ultimate aim is to achieve net-zero.*
To get to ‘net-zero’, we need to consider our entire supply chain – so we thought it made sense to do this from the start.

The first step

That was why the first step in our calculation process was to establish exactly what we wanted to include.  All emission calculations need to draw a boundary around what to include and what not to include.  We knew we wanted to be as thorough as possible, so I began by drawing out the process to clearly understand what each step of production was:

Getting started with the calculation

Once I had an idea of each step of production, it was time to open up an Excel workbook and get calculating!
Considering we were going to calculate our emissions right back to the growing of the cotton, you would think this would be the best place to start right?
Well, only partly.  To produce 68.5kg (the total weight of the handloom cotton that we use for the outer layers of our Happy Blankets), you need to grow more than 68.5kg of cotton plants…..but how much more? 
Thankfully, with a bit of research, it became apparent there were ratios I could use to work backwards through each step, from weaving fabric through to the growing of cotton, to find out how much cotton was needed at each step. To calculate the amount of greenhouse gases generated in the production of our first collection, CO2 equivalent (CO2e) values were used, which were found in published scientific journal papers and industry research.  These figures were then applied to the quantities of materials and energy used. 
We made sure to use CO2 equivalent values** rather than just CO2, as we want our calculations to reflect our full atmospheric impact as widely as possible.  That was also why we decided to include our full supply chain in our calculations, starting from the cotton farming, and going right through to the emissions from producing every aspect of our packaging and transporting the blankets to our customers. 

Getting creative!

It wasn’t all reading and maths, I needed some first-hand information too.  This led to asking some unusual questions, being a bit creative and finding out some interesting things!

For example, when trying to calculate the CO2e generated from the production of our Khushi Kantha stamp, I contacted the lovely company who made the stamp for us.  After they answering my slightly exacting questions, I had what I needed to calculate the emissions from production of the stamp itself, but what about the handle?  For my calculations to work, I needed the weight of the handle – enter Laura and her kitchen scales to the rescue. (See what I mean about having to be a bit creative?!)
The part of the calculations requiring the most problem solving was definitely working out emissions from printing the inserts.  Being printed in Bangladesh, to further support the local economy, they were being printed using an old-style printing press.  Not what I expected!

What’s more, the printing company didn’t record how much electricity they used. 

So, what could we do?  Send our Bangladesh-based Head of Operations to gather some local information, so we can workout how much electricity was being used. Based on the printing company’s electrical bill, local electricity rates and the average number of hours of printing done each day, it was possible to work out how much electricity it had taken to print our inserts.  Therefore, I could work out how much CO2e had been produced.  There was definitely a lot of teamwork, some thinking outside the box and a little bit of maths involved in this step of the calculations.

Transport emissions

With production in Dinajpur, Bangladesh, suppliers from various locations (in Bangladesh, India and the UK) and customers based throughout the world, transport emissions were always going to play an important role in calculations. 
In most cases, these were easy enough to calculate: get the info needed by the DHL carbon calculator and off you go!  However, finding out the modes of transport taken by some of our material made things interesting. 
For example, the ‘deadstock’ cotton fabric from the Bangladeshi garments industry that we use for the inside layers of our blankets, which I expected to be transported by van, was in fact delivered on what looked like some sort of bike.  

But the journey I found most interesting was that taken by our pre-loved saris, used to make the re-usable cotton gift bags that our Happy Blankets come packaged in.  The saris needed to be collected, so emissions needed to account for the journey from the village in Dinajpur, where the stitching is done, to the market in Saidpur where we buy our saris, and back again.  We wanted to be as comprehensive as possible, so calculating both ways was important.  This journey involved the use of battery powered vans, buses and rickshaws.  Though using public transport, electric powered vehicles and bike power reduced the amount of CO2e the journey created, it made calculations a bit more fiddly.

Getting to net zero

We are ultimately working towards net-zero, but still learning about what we need to do to achieve this.
But we’ve already taken steps in the production of our first collection to use as little energy as possible, by utilising hand-craftmanship. 

The cotton we used for the outside layers of our Happy Blankets is hand-woven on a traditional handloom, meaning we minimise emissions.  Although the artisan undertaking the weaving needed lighting to work, they did not rely on any other energy.  The fabric is also dyed by hand, which again minimises emissions.
Meanwhile, the amazing mothers who make up our stitching team conduct all their needlework by hand.  Not only does this mean each blanket has had time, effort and talent poured into it, producing a high quality item with a personal story, it also means less CO2e was created during production.   
In all my CO2e calculation-related discussions with Laura, Khushi Kantha’s founder, after having a catch-up (both about the progress of blanket production, and life outside Khushi Kantha), making each calculation as comprehensive and transparent was a top priority.  Working on the calculations has given me an opportunity to learn so much, meet genuinely lovely people and lead to a quirky curiosity in CO2e readings!
*’Net-zero’ means working to reduce our greenhouse gases to the point at which remaining emissions cannot be reduced further, and then offsetting the emissions remaining through carbon removal (as opposed to carbon reduction) projects.
** ‘CO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalents)’ is a measure of all GHGs produced, with non-CO2e GHGs weighted to the amount of CO2 that would need to be produced to create that same level of warming (Brander, 2021).


Better Cotton Initiative (2020) ‘Measuring Cotton Consumption: BCI Conversion Factors and Multipliers’, Better Cotton Initiative, [Online]. Available at (Accessed 12 September 2021)
Brander, M. (2021) Greenhouse Gases, CO2, CO2e, and Carbon: What Do All These Terms Mean?, Ecometrica Available at (Accessed 17 January 2022).
Dowd, M., Pelitire, S. and Delhom, C. (2018) ‘Seed-Fiber Ratio, Seed Index, and Seed Tissue and Compositional Properties of Current Cotton Cultivars’, The Journal of Cotton Science, Vol 22, pp 60-74 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 12 September 2021)
Heimpel, E. (2021) ‘Carbon-Neutral vs. Net-Zero: what’s the difference?’ Ecologi, 20 May 2021 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 11 April 2022)

About the Author

Clare studied an undergraduate degree in International Studies with the Open University before going on to complete a Master’s degree in Climate Change and Development at SOAS University of London.  It was here that she became interested in calculating and comparing CO2e footprints, as she assessed the atmospheric impact of different foods.  It was also through SOAS that she was introduced to Khushi Kantha, which she has now been volunteering with since June 2021.  In her free time, she enjoys walks with friends, reading and exercise.  She currently works in education.
Back to journal