It’s unlikely that you have come this far without hearing about global warming or climate change or the problems that these pose for our plant. Countries and individuals around the world are making efforts to reduce their carbon emissions and promote a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Having a positive effect on the environment is something we can all do by reducing our ‘carbon footprint’.
A carbon footprint measures your individual impact on the environment based on the level of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere as a result of your action. One of the most common and the most damaging greenhouse gasses are carbon dioxide (CO2) which is predominantly released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, all of which are used for industry, heating, electricity production and transport.
Whenever you use energy in your daily life, you are contributing to a small portion of the world’s CO2 emissions. Add up all the contributions across your daily life and you’ll have your carbon footprint. Knowing how you’re contributing to CO2 emissions is the first step to reducing your carbon footprint, and collectively we can have an impact on global warming.
Reducing your carbon footprint comes down to making several lifestyle changes that, combined, can significantly reduce your impact on the environment. Here are some of the easiest and most significant ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and how you can incorporate them into your lifestyle.
Commercial air travel accounts for a massive portion of the worlds annual carbon emissions. The average long-haul flight will emit as much CO2 as the average person does in an entire year. In addition to this, the emissions released by planes are let out directly into the upper atmosphere where its effect if more significant.
Air travel may be a necessity for some, but steps can still be taken to reduce your carbon contributions. Attending work meetings online, taking alternative forms of transport where possible and limiting international holidays will all make a significant impact on your annual carbon footprint.
Becoming vegan or flexitarian has been the subject of a lot of media attention over the last few years. High profile documentaries and celebrity endorsements have caused many to make the dietary change, but how does this affect CO2 emissions? Agriculture and farming are very energy-intensive industries, requiring industrial machinery and extensive transport networks, all of which produce large amounts of CO2 annually. Studies have shown that vegan diets produce over 50% less CO2 than an equivalent meat-based diet and can reduce your total carbon footprint by around 20%. While you don’t have to necessarily go completely vegan, reducing your meat consumption to once or twice a week and sourcing your meat and dairy from local suppliers can also have a significant impact.
Unless your home runs entirely ‘off-grid’, chances are a large portion of your electricity will be coming from carbon-emitting fossil fuels. By making your home more efficient, you will reduce your total energy consumption and reduce your carbon footprint. Changes you can make to your house could include cavity-wall and loft insulation, energy-efficient boilers and sealing draughts; all of which will help reduce the amount of fuel needed to heat your house and reduce your energy bill at the same time. These changes to your home can also allow you to be eligible for government subsidies and grants, saving you even more money.
Cars are another huge contributor to our CO2 emissions, seeing as most people in the UK own a car that is directly burning fossil fuels and emitting CO2 into the atmosphere, reducing the amount you use your car can be one of the first lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your carbon footprint. Walking, taking public transport or cycling will all help share or remove the carbon emissions from transport.
If you are a frequent driver and other transport options are not possible, it might be a good idea to invest in an electric car to reduce your carbon footprint. However, buying an electric car will not always reduce your carbon footprint. In some cases, the carbon emissions caused by the production of an electric car can outweigh the emission savings from using one.
Collectively, making these changes to our lives will have a significant impact on the environment, but it is not the only way that you can benefit the environment.
Individual changes can make a difference, but change must also happen at an industry and government level. Joining activist groups and petitioning politicians can both help to influence this change.
Reducing your carbon footprint to zero is no easy feat and particularly difficult for lots of people to achieve on a large scale. Once you have reduced your carbon emissions as much as you can, you can ‘carbon offset’ to account for the rest. Carbon offsetting involves investing in carbon negative projects around the world that remove CO2 from the atmosphere and can bring your net CO2 output to zero.