How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
You can minimise your carbon footprint and help the environment in many different ways. Whether at home, work, school, or while you travel, small changes can add up. In brief, to reduce your carbon footprint, you’ll want to do things like reduce the amount of energy you use, eat fewer animal products, shop locally, travel smart, and reduce your waste.
What is a carbon footprint?
Let’s start by looking at a carbon footprint definition. It’s a phrase that’s often used when talking about the environment and climate change, but it’s one that’s not always understood. What’s more, there are often other definitions you need to know to get the necessary context. We’ve highlighted the carbon footprint meaning and some definitions of other key terms we’ll cover in this post below.
- Carbon footprint. A measure of the total amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere as a result of an individual’s, organisation’s, or nation’s actions. It’s usually measured in tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).
- Greenhouse gasses (GHG). Any type of gas in the atmosphere that blocks heat from escaping. In relation to your carbon footprint and climate change, the main ones to mention are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane.
- The greenhouse effect. The process through which GHGs in the Earth’s atmosphere trap heat from the sun. Although this is a natural phenomenon that keeps the planet habitable, our GHG emissions are causing the Earth to warm up at an unnatural rate.
- Climate change. A pattern of long-term change in the temperature and weather patterns either globally or regionally. Although these alterations occur naturally, man-made climate change is rapidly accelerating the pace of them.
- Global warming. The rapid increase in average surface temperatures on Earth caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is just one element of climate change.
- Fossil fuels. Natural resources that produce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses when burnt. Coal, oil and natural gas are all examples.
How do I know what my carbon footprint is?
Amazingly, just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. But that doesn’t mean that individuals don’t also have a carbon footprint. Our actions and lifestyle choices all have some impact on the environment. So how do you work out your personal carbon footprint?
A good place to start is with a carbon footprint calculator. The one we linked goes into a fairly granular amount of detail, so for a simpler option, this WWF one is worth checking out. However, both follow the same format – asking questions about your life and activities to give you an overall picture of your emissions.
To understand what your carbon footprint is, you need to look at several key areas of your lifestyle, including:
- Your home energy use and waste production. This includes factors like how much electricity, natural gas, and other fuels you use and where they’re sourced from, as well as whether you recycle or send your waste to landfill/incineration.
- Travel. Your footprint will vary depending on whether or not you have car/motorbike, as well as how often you use it. Similarly, your use of public transport contributes. Any flights you take also need accounting for, as these contribute significantly.
- Your diet. The types of food you eat and where you source it from can play a central role in your overall carbon footprint. The more energy-intensive it is to produce and ship your food, the worse for the environment it generally is.
- Your consumption habits. Another factor is how often you purchase new products such as electronics, household goods and clothing. The lifespan of these items, as well as where and how they’re produced, can play a role in your carbon emissions.
Tips to reduce your carbon footprint
Now that we’ve got a more detailed understanding of carbon emissions and climate change, let’s look at some ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Many of these are simple and convenient steps you can introduce. However, combined, they can make a big difference to your impact on the environment.
Tips to reduce your carbon footprint at home
Let’s start with some steps to reduce your carbon emissions at home. Most of these are fairly quick and easy to implement, meaning you can start living a more eco-friendly life in no time at all:
1. Insulate your home
Heating your living space can be an expensive and energy-intensive process. By insulating places like your loft and walls, you can make sure your home retains heat during the winter and stays cool in summer. It means you’ll use less energy, reducing your carbon footprint and your household bills.
2. Switch to renewables
Energy providers around the world are now offering greener tariffs. By switching to a company that provides electricity from solar, wind, or hydroelectric energy, you can reduce your household emissions and save money on your energy bills. You could even install solar panels if they’re readily available where you live.
3. Use less water
It takes energy and resources to process and deliver water to our homes. What’s more, it’s also quite energy-intensive to heat it once it’s there. So, by using less, you can help the environment and lower your carbon footprint. Try turning off the taps when brushing your teeth, having short showers rather than baths, and only boiling the water you need.
4. Change your diet
The food we eat can have a significant impact on the environment. For example, meat and dairy products require a lot of land, water and energy to produce. They also create a lot of methane, a greenhouse gas. What’s more, food shipped from overseas uses a lot more resources than local produce.
By eating fewer animal products, especially red meat, (or choosing a plant-based diet) and shopping for locally sourced food, you can make a big difference. Why not support your local farmers’ market?
Tips to reduce your carbon footprint at work
Reducing emissions is something that you can do outside of the home too. Whether you make individual changes at work or company-wide policy adjustments, your activities can soon add up.
5. Turn off the lights
Powering empty rooms and office space is a huge energy drain. By making sure you turn off lights and appliances when they’re not in use, you can make sure you’re not wasting power. You could also request to install automatic, movement-sensing lights and energy-saving LED bulbs to address the issue.
6. Go digital
It’s never been easier to collaborate with others online. Whether through sharing documents using cloud storage or video conferencing instead of travelling, you can reduce your waste and emissions. Try moving away from printed documents where possible, and encourage others to work on their digital skills for the workplace.
7. Cycle to work
Cycling and walking are two of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel. And, not only are they good for the planet, but they’re also good for your health. If you can, choose to cycle or walk to work where possible. Your employer might even have a scheme that can help you purchase a bike.
8. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Companies of all sizes use a host of different products in their day-to-day running. Whether it’s things like paper, electronic devices, packaging, or water, it all has a carbon footprint. By reducing the amount of waste you generate, reusing IT equipment, and recycling waste, you can make a real difference.
9. Eliminate single-use plastic
Single-use plastics may be convenient, yet they’re fairly dreadful for the environment. Not only do they pollute our waterways and oceans, but they also require energy to produce and recycle. You can stop using things like disposable coffee cups and cutlery to reduce your company’s carbon footprint.
Text Source / Data: Future Learn 2021