Notes on Setting Up Custom Resources, Custom Units & Impacts

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Overview

In Scope 5, resources describe activities - such as such as fuel use or waste generation - with a unit type to measure the activity in (review the glossary for details). 

Resources are organized into libraries of two types: custom and standard. Standard Resource Libraries are maintained by Scope 5 and include emission factors published by various environmental authorities. The Custom Resource Library allows users to create unique resources to address specific needs not covered in the Standard Resource Libraries. It is also used to create resources for normalizing metrics, such as employee count or facility area, or activities that do not incur emissions.

Resources frequently include conversion factors for various impacts. These conversions can be emission factors (such as pounds of CO2e per kWh of electricity consumed) or, in custom resources, any unique impact metric.

This article offers some notes on how to configure custom resources and add custom conversion factors. For more details on standard resource libraries, review this article.

How to Create a Custom Resource

From the Organization tab, click on the link in the left-hand side nav under the header Resource Libraries that corresponds with the name of your organization:

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Then, click on the Add custom resource button:

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The Resource Basic page will prompt you to name and organize your custom resource:

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Under Name, consider titling the resource with the name of the activity and, if the activity can be tracked in multiple unit types, the unit type. For example, Biodiesel Fuel (volume)Seattle City Light Electricity or Acres of Farmland Preservation would all be great custom resource names.

Resource Category, Resource Type and Resource Sub-Type (optional) all tell Scope 5 where in your custom resource library to organize your custom resource. In the example below, Environmental is the Resource CategoryWaste is the Resource Type, and Regulated Medical Waste is the Resource Sub-Type. As you'll note from the layout, each subsequent category falls directly below its parent:

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Next, indicate if the resource is biogenic by clicking the Biogenic check box.

Finally, select the Activity Unit Type. Commonly used unit types (such as energy, volume, distance, area or cost) are readily available in the dropdown select. To add a different activity unit type (such as people, tons of carbon sequestered or heating degree days), chose custom. When custom is selected, a new field will prompt you to Specifiy Custom Units:

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Save the resource.

How to Add a Conversion Factor Set

From the custom resource page, click Add a New Conversion Factor Set:

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Then, from the Add a Factor dropdown select, choose which impacts you'd like to add from the categories Custom (discussed in the following section), General, Total GWP, Base GHG and Other GHG. Multiple Factors can be added per conversion factor set.

Note that it is possible to add either a CO2e factor or factors for individual greenhouse gasses. If a Total GWP factor is defined, all other Base GHG and Other GHG factors will be grayed out. Inversely, if a Base GHG and/or Other GHG factor is defined, the Total GWP factor will be grayed out. This is because if component gasses are defined individually, Scope 5 will automatically calculate the carbon dioxide equivalent for the set.

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After selecting which factors you'd like to add to the conversion factor set, fill in the factor in the first box, the global warming potential you'd like to use in the first dropdown select, the numerator units in the second dropdown select and the denominator units in the last dropdown select:

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So long as all numerator and denominator units are of the same unit type (defined by the resource), each factor can have unique activity units. Note in the example above, CH4 and N2O are expressed in grams per kWh and CO2 is expressed in lbs per MWh. In all cases, the numerator and denominator units are of type energy.

Finally, add a Description and Source to the conversion factor set. For Description, we recommend documenting where the conversion factor set came from (such as the document name and table number from the source authority) and anything unique about the emission factor. Under the Source field, we recommend including a direct link to the page where the emission factor was sourced from. This will assure that an audit trail is available.

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For exampleshover over the question mark icon of conversion factor sets in Scope 5 standard resources:

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Finally, click Save.

How to Define a Custom Impact

In addition to commonly used impacts, such as greenhouse gases and cost, any custom factor can be added. Examples of custom impact metrics might be Carbon Sequestration (per acre of land tree cover) or Driving Distance Avoided (per telecommuting employee).

To add a custom factor, select -- define new -- under the Custom category from the dropdown select:

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You will then be prompted to name your custom impact. Similar to the automatically available factors, fill in the factor in the box following the name field, the numerator units in the first dropdown select, and the denominator units in the last dropdown select.

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