We are all very much aware that climate change is already posing a significant threat, much earlier than many could have imagined. I know that sounds very heavy as an opener for a blog but we have just seen the hottest year on record and more frequent unusual weather patterns. However, there is hope, we know we have time to change and we know exactly what is required to reduce our carbon footprint. Now, I know a lot of people hate the carbon footprint term and the responsibility it puts onto the individual and I get that, there are companies and celebs contributing to climate change at a huge rate but I still believe that every little bit helps and if we can change just a handful of things in our lives that will make a difference then I am more than happy to do that… And I hope you’ve come here because you want to make a difference too. So, how can you do that and what is a carbon footprint?
What is Your Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint represents the amount of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, emitted into the atmosphere as a result of your activities and lifestyle choices. From the house you own to the car you drive, how much energy you use, where you source your food from, whether you use public transport and even what you feed your dog, all these lifestyle factors have an impact on your carbon footprint.
The average carbon footprint in the UK is around 8.8 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) per person, per year, the EU produces around 7.7 tonnes but the highest average carbon footprint goes to both the US at around 16 tonnes and Australia at 15 tonnes. If you’d like to see how yours compares you can take this quiz over on the WWF website.
Now, if it came in high, don’t worry too much, these calculators can’t factor in everything. For example, I haven’t seen one ask about reusable nappies or sustainable dog food or any other changes you may have made. It really is just a guide. There are lots of ways we can all try to reduce our carbon use but today I am just going to focus on 5 that I think most of you should be able to do.
1. Reduce Energy Consumption
Energy consumption is one of the primary contributors to carbon emissions, especially when it comes from fossil fuel sources like coal and natural gas. By reducing your energy usage, you can significantly decrease your carbon footprint and here are a few practical steps to achieve this:
- Switch to Energy-Efficient Appliances: Invest in energy-efficient appliances and electronics that clearly show that they have been manufactured to use less energy.
- Use LED Light Bulbs: Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs, which use significantly less electricity and last much longer.
- Unplug Electronics When Not in Use: Even when turned off, many electronics continue to draw power. Unplug chargers, computers, and other devices when you’re not using them to avoid wasting electricity.
- Invest in Sensor Lights: Sensor lights are an easy and eco-friendly way of lighting areas of your home as and when you need them. We have Hall Sensor Lights for our landing when the children get up which saves us having to keep a light on all night for them.
- Heating Maintenance: To ensure that your home is being heated sufficiently make sure that your boiler is regularly serviced and your radiators are bled and topped up as required.
- Heat Pumps: If you are looking to upgrade to a more sustainable way of heating your home you could consider heat pumps as your next home improvement project. I have more information on heat pumps here.
- Small Actions: Use simple things like draft excluders, use curtains to keep heat in, tuck curtains behind radiators, close doors, heat one room rather than the whole house, add layers before putting your heating on, turn your thermostat down by a degree.
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2. Opt for Sustainable Transportation
Transportation is another major source of carbon emissions, particularly from petrol and diesel-powered vehicles. To reduce your carbon footprint in this area, consider these actions:
- Use Public Transportation: Whenever possible, use public transportation such as buses or trains instead of driving your car. Carpooling is another option that will help to reduce emissions and save you money too.
- Walk or Bike: For short distances, consider walking or biking instead of driving. Not only does this reduce carbon emissions, but it also helps to keep you fit!
- Choose Electric or Hybrid Vehicles: If you’re in the market for a new car, you could consider purchasing an electric or hybrid vehicle.
3. Minimise Waste and Recycle
Waste generation can significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from landfills where organic waste decomposes in an unnatural environment and therefore produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. To minimise your own household waste and reduce your carbon footprint, why not follow some of these simple guidelines?
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Adopt the mindset of reducing consumption, reusing items whenever possible, and of course recycling materials such as paper, glass, plastic, and metal.
- Reusables over Disposables: These days there are many reusable options to help eliminate those disposable items. Period products, cloth nappies, reusable wipes, beeswax wraps, water bottles, coffee cups… The list could go on and on, in fact, I list 55 reusable in this article here.
- Compost Organic Waste: Instead of throwing away food scraps and garden waste, why not start up a compost bin/heap? These will quickly naturally break down into nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Composting helps to reduce methane emissions, reduces how much goes into your bin AND will save you money on shop bought compost.
- Choose Products with Minimal Packaging: Avoid products with excessive packaging, and opt for those with minimal, zero or recyclable packaging instead. If you have a local refill shop why not check out what you can purchase from there?
4. Conserve Water
It may surprise you to learn that water usage also contributes to carbon emissions, especially in the energy-intensive processes of treating and transporting it as well as us heating it within our homes. Conserving water not only helps preserve this precious resource but will also reduce your carbon footprint. Here’s how you can conserve water:
- Fix Leaks: Repair leaks in faucets, toilets, and pipes to prevent water waste. Even small leaks can add up to significant water loss over time.
- Install Water-Saving Fixtures: Install low-flow showerheads and taps to reduce consumption. You could also add a water displacement bag to your toilet cistern.
- Cold Showers: Taking shorter and colder showers is a simple way of reducing both water and heating usage.
- Bath Water: If you can, share bath water or bath your children together. An average bath uses around 80 litres of water so by reusing it where you can you will be saving a lot of water and of course heating. After use, you could even use this out in te garden to water your plants too!
- Tap is Best: Drinking only bottled water increases your carbon footprint due to the resources used to package and deliver this. Instead, choose to refill a bottle at home to take out with you.
- Collect Rainwater: Consider installing a water butt to collect rainwater for outdoor use, such as watering plants or washing cars.
5. Adopt Sustainable Eating Habits
The food we consume can have a significant impact on our carbon footprint, from production and transportation to packaging and waste. Adopting more sustainable eating habits can help reduce your carbon footprint:
- Eat Locally and Seasonally: Where you can choose locally grown and seasonal foods.
- Grow Your Own: Why not have a go at growing your own? It doesn’t get more local than that!
- Reduce Meat Consumption: Animal agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane and nitrous oxide. Consider reducing your weekly meat consumption or adopting a plant-based diet.
- Minimise Food Waste: Plan your meals carefully, store food properly and compost food scraps to minimise food waste.
Reducing your carbon footprint is an achievable goal and it can be a fun one (I promise!) Tackle the areas that feel doable at first and once you begin to see how they pay off, move onto the next ones. Remember, it’s all about those small sustainable steps. By implementing these five strategies you can most definitely make a positive impact on the environment.
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