Embodied Emissions

Embodied Carbon Emissions or Embedded Emissions is the amount of carbon emitted during the creation and disposal of a hardware device. In order to estimate embodied emissions in the cloud, we need to calculate the fraction of the total embodied emissions that should be allocated to your particular amount of usage or workload. For example, if you are only utilizing a subset of virtual CPUs that are available on a given physical server, then we need to allocate a relative amount of embodied emissions to represent this.

Recently, the Green Software Foundation (GSF) released the first version of the Software Carbon Intensity (SCI) Specification (v.Alpha), which defines a methodology for calculating the rate of carbon emissions for a software system. While it is on our roadmap to more broadly adhere to the SCI standard, for the purpose of estimating embodied emissions, we have leveraged a particular part of specification. In addition, we have leveraged research published by Teads and @github-benjamin-davy in order to apply this to AWS, GCP and Azure.

In our implementation, we leverage this formula provided by the SCI standard:

M = TE * (TR/EL) * (RR/TR)


TE = Total Embodied Emissions, the sum of Life Cycle Assessment(LCA) emissions for all hardware components
TR = Time Reserved, the length of time the hardware is reserved for use by the software
EL = Expected Lifespan, the anticipated time that the equipment will be installed
RR = Resources Reserved, the number of resources reserved for use by the software.
TR = Total Resources, the total number of resources available.

In order to get TE for each specified hardware per cloud provider, we leveraged section 5 of the methodology presented in the Teads Engineering article “Building an AWS EC2 Carbon Emissions Dataset” by Benjamin Davy, to estimate the manufacturing emissions for each hardware. In the case of AWS, we directly use the total embodied emissions calculated by the Teads team as they have gathered additional information about the underlying hardware provisioned for each instance type. For GCP and Azure, we have calculated the total embodied emissions using the underlying microarchitecture or microarchitectures that could be used for a given instance or machine type. We welcome any contributions to help us gain further accuracy like AWS, which we believe should be possible at least in the case of Azure. We have published this embodied emissions data in this spreadsheet, and will be using the Cloud Carbon Footprint ccf-coefficients repository as a library of the most up to date embodied emissions data for each cloud provider.

For TR (time reserved) we used the amount of time a given compute instance was running for.

For EL we use 4 years, which is the same number chosen by the Teads team, based on the Dell PowerEdge R740 Full Life Cycle Assessment.

For RR, we use the number of vCPUs of the given instance.

For TR (total resources), we use the largest instance vCPUs for the given family. In the case of burstable (AWS) or Shared-Core (AWS) families, we use the largest instance in the closest family, as this is more accurate than using the largest in the burstable/Shared-Core families. For the Azure Constrained vCPUs capable instances, we use the underlying vCPUs of each instance as the largest vCPU, as this is our current reading of the documentation on their website.

At this moment, we only include Embodied Emissions for the Compute usage types for all the cloud providers we support, but welcome any contributions to apply embodied emissions to other types of cloud usage.

Cloud Carbon Footprint is an open-source project, sponsored by Thoughtworks Inc. under the Apache License, Version 2.0