We’ve talked before about carbon accounting and the benefits of creating a carbon footprint for your business. If calculating your greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory seems daunting, check out some free tools that will ease the pain.  They range from the more complex, like the comprehensive EPA Climate Leader’s spreadsheet, to the really-easy-to-use EPA online tool: ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.  And the latter may be all you need.

The Portfolio Manager online platform allows you to track the energy and water consumed in your buildings. You enter data and it calculates the GHG emissions for you!  It won’t measure every aspect of a carbon footprint (notably, it leaves out mobile emissions and refrigerants). But Portfolio Manager captures the lion’s share of what most building occupiers want to know.

Portfolio Manager is a simple interface to use. Open it up and follow along with this quick how-to!

The first thing to do is enter your company’s building information by clicking “add a property.” You can add as many as you like, as well as create property groups to keep it organized. The only information you’ll need for each property is the square footage, year built, and some types of use information.

Once you’ve created a property, you’re ready to set up the sources of your company’s carbon emissions. In ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, these are called your “meters.” You are able to create meters for energy sources such as electricity, natural gas, propane, and direct steam. You can also set up meters for water use, both potable and reclaimed.

All you need to know to create a meter is the “date it became active,” or the first date for which you have data, and the units in which the source is measured. This information should be available from your bills or purchase orders. If you are unsure what information on your bill to use, you can always contact your utility providers for specific information.

After the meters are entered, you’re ready to put in your usage data. Click on “add entries” under each meter. You should enter at least a year’s worth of data for each one. The information needed is start date/end date (for most, this is the billing period, usually about a month of activity), usage (in your previously selected units), cost (optional), and a “yes or no” as to whether this is an estimation (in other words, did your meter actually get read). ENERGY STAR has an excel spreadsheet template so entering this data gets faster as you go.

And that’s it! Once you enter a year of information for each meter, Portfolio Manager will calculate and generate graphs for total GHG emissions and site energy use. You can also use the “reporting” tab to create more specific charts and graphs, including emissions intensity, energy cost intensity, indoor water use intensity, and your facility’s ENERGY STAR score.

The best part is that once you set up your portfolio, you just need to do monthly updates and yearly recaps and you’re good to go! You’ll have all your data stored in one place, and you can track annual trends, making this the perfect free GHG inventory management tool for companies whose primary interest is in calculating water consumption and GHG emissions associated with energy used in their facilities.