7 ways to reduce your carbon footprint

7 ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Reducing your carbon footprint is beneficial for many reasons. Carbon is one of the main contributors to global warming so reducing your output is better for our planet, but also will save you money. The energy we use and the products we consume come at a cost. With the cost of living causing such concern across the globe, and climate change becoming a constant threat, now is a good opportunity to evaluate your lifestyle and habits.

Recently, The House of Lords committee said that behaviours need to change in order for us to meet legally binding net zero targets. Lords suggest that a third of the UK’s emissions must be cut due to lifestyle choices and changes to prevent further climate crisis and environmental damage.

This blog will give you a breakdown of emissions produced by certain activities, so here is a quick overview to give some perspective on emissions.

An average person is responsible for around 19 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year. It would take between 700 – 1,000 trees to offset emissions for just one person’s daily lifestyle.

Here are 7 ways to reduce your carbon footprint (and monthly outgoings).

1 – Driving

Private transport is one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases. In the UK and the US, transport emits more greenhouse gases than any other sector – including electricity! An average petrol car in the UK produces the equivalent of 180g of Co2 per kilometre.

Credit: BEIS Conversion factors 2019 / Javier Hirschfeld (Via BBC)

Credit: BEIS Conversion factors 2019 / Javier Hirschfeld (Via BBC)

Most of us need some form of transport for our day to day lives – be it going to buy groceries, getting to work, or taking children to school. But there are solutions to limit the emissions that come from our transport.

The simplest solution is to cut back as much as possible and opt to walk or cycle where you can – cutting emissions massively. This isn’t always possible. You could consider carpooling to reduce the number of cars on the road with only one passenger. Electric vehicles still do generate greenhouse gases but cut back on around 66% of emissions in comparison to a petrol car.

Driving style can also play a role in the emissions you produce. Eco driving means driving at lower engine speeds to reduce fuel use by up to 25%. This includes accelerating gently up to 20mph, maintaining a steady speed, limiting your speed to avoid driving too quickly, and coasting to decelerate where you can.

2 – Home energy

In the UK home heating is responsible for around 14% of all carbon emissions. Even if every home reduced their heating by only 1oc, there would be a saving of 1.18 million tonnes of Co2 across the UK. The small changes do add up! If you’re looking to make bigger changes, consider installing solar panels on your roof and check your electric provider is on a green tariff.

There are other changes you can make in your home to reduce your energy consumption. Little changes, such as switching off appliances at the wall when they’re not in use and making sure you only turn on the lights when you’re in the room. The bulbs you have can make a difference too. A 60-watt light bulb wastes up to 90% of its energy as heat, so if you can, switch your old bulbs out for LEDs.

3 – Food

The food we eat makes a big impact. To make the biggest reduction in your food emission footprint, try your hand and grow your own fruit and veg or make the most of local grocers.

By eating locally sourced and seasonal food you cut the emissions used in transport. Recent studies have shown that the climate impact of food miles is three times greater than previously believed – contributing to around 6% of global greenhouse emissions. Fruit and veg was discovered to have some of the highest food mile emissions due to the refrigeration requirements and demand of out-of-season produce.

In terms of overall food production, meat and dairy are consistently ranked the most damaging greenhouse gas emitters. The global production of food is responsible for around a third of all global emissions, but livestock cause twice the emissions of plant-based foods – accounting for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gases. Cutting out, or reducing, your meat and dairy intake will quickly cut down your food emissions.

4 – Recycle

The products we buy take a lot of emissions to make and ship. Recycling reduces the need for more products. Everything we recycle, re-use, or repair, helps the environment. In most cases, manufacturing products from recycled materials uses significantly less energy than creating a whole new product.

So, be sure to recycle your materials as much as possible. If you can, avoid products with single use plastic – for example, there are great alternatives for reusable food bags, instead of buying pre-packed fruit and veg. There’s more about plastic reduction under point 8!

As well as recycling your waste materials (paper, plastic, glass etc) you can recycle things you own too. Upcycle your clothes and furniture to give them longer lives – if you really don’t want to keep them, think of donating so they can be re-loved instead of wasted.

5 – Fashion

Fast fashion makes up 10% of our global carbon emissions. As well as being highly damaging in terms of greenhouse gases, it has been found that fast fashion is responsible for drying water sources, polluting rivers, and even contributing to poverty.

Fast fashion has become a very convenient part of life. Many companies offer next day delivery on online shops, and there are companies selling low-quality garments for very low prices. It’s very easy to consume fast fashion, especially with the cost-of-living crisis reducing household disposable income. Unfortunately, where the clothes are so cheap, they often need replacing far quicker than more sustainable alternatives – contributing to even more waste and environmental damage.

There are changes you can make to limit reliance on fast fashion. Upcycling the clothes you have, or shopping in charity shops is a great way to give the feel of having new items, without breaking the bank or contributing to more greenhouse gases. So, instead of buying new jeans when you get a hole in your favourite pair, see if you can sew it up or alter the garment for a new style.

Be mindful of the choices you make. The good news is that shopping sustainably is getting easier! Many companies are now offering ranges that are recycled, carbon neutral, organic, and fair. See if you can find the eco-friendly lines and you will benefit from environmentally friendly clothing, and it will probably last you longer!

6 – Water

You may think that a natural resource such as water would be low on emissions, but you’d be wrong. It takes a lot of energy to move, treat, and use water. In the UK, water usage accounts for 5% of all Co2 emissions.

Of course, we need water. We use water for showering, drinking, cleaning, washing, and more. But you can easily cut back on your water waste. The easiest solution is just to turn your taps off! Be sure you are not leaving them on when brushing teeth – even switching off faucets for this time will save up to three gallons of water a day.

If you are able to get a dishwasher, instead of washing by hand, you will also benefit from reduced emissions. You may think that a dishwasher would increase your water and energy use, but you’d be wrong! You can actually reduce emissions by up to 70% by using a dishwasher instead of hand washing. If you do have to wash by hand, try using less water and reducing the temperature. Also, by using a bowl instead of a running tap, you could save about 666kg of Co2 a year.

A final option to keep your water use low is to reuse water and make the most of what you have. A great example of this is if you have a dehumidifier, use the water from that to water your plants, instead of from the tap.

7 – Travel

Daily travel is damaging to the planet and going further afield causes harm too. When comparing flying to driving, planes do actually come out lower on emissions, but it’s still important to think strategically and avoid extended travelling when not necessary.

The easiest way to reduce your air miles and Co2 increase is to simply limit your use of planes. The chart below shows that coaches and trains are far less damaging than even domestic flights. So, if you can switch out a couple of flights to trains and coaches, you’ll quickly cut down your emissions.

Credit: BEIS/Defra/BBC

Credit: BEIS/Defra/BBC

Another suggestion for when you are travelling is to consider locations closer to home. If you’re in Europe, European short haul flights are about 20% less damaging than long haul flights. It’s also beneficial to fly as directly as you can. When a plane goes straight from A-B it spends more time at cruising altitude, which requires less fuel than other flying stages, including landing and taking off.

Finally, stick to economy seats. The graph below shows what a difference the seats you choose can make. For a short haul flight, it’s around a 25% increase in Co2 emissions when upgrading to business class. For long haul flights, first class seats are around 6 times worse for the environment. The Co2 emissions per seat change based on how much room is consumed for a single traveller. Also, for first class seats specifically, the seats are heavier as well as taking up more space.

Credit: BEIS GHG Reporting Conversion Factors 2019 – Via Aviation Environment Federation

Credit: BEIS GHG Reporting Conversion Factors 2019 – Via Aviation Environment Federation