How can I reduce my carbon footprint?
Climate change is happening now, and it’s the most serious threat to life on our planet. Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions to reverse climate change. We can all take responsibility for our individual actions, and help to make a difference by trying to reduce your own carbon footprint.
What is a carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (which include carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our every day actions.
The average carbon footprint for a person in the United Kingdom is 10 tonnes, and globally the average carbon footprint is closer to 4 tonnes. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tonnes by 2050.
You can calculate your own carbon footprint using this calculator.
Lowering individual carbon footprints from 10 tonnes to 2 tonnes doesn’t happen overnight, but by making small changes to our actions, we can start making a big difference. By committing to taking action to lower our own carbon emissions, we can also help to reduce overall consumer demand for things like fossil fuels and livestock.
Many individuals making small changes to their daily lives can send a powerful message that we do not stand for ‘business as usual’ and demand a change in current practices.
How can I reduce my carbon footprint?
We can reduce our carbon emissions through numerous methods including improving our homes, choosing low carbon travel options and making small behaviour changes – all while having a positive impact on addressing the climate emergency.
1. Make Your Money To Make A Difference
It might not be the first thought that jumps in your head when you are thinking of ways to reduce your carbon footprint, but how you save, invest and transfer your hard-earned money can make a difference to the climate.
The banks and financial institutions you invest with, could be having a huge impact on the environment. As a consumer with money to invest, you have the power to make decisions that are incredibly important.
For most, banks are the places that manage with your direct debits, savings and are the destination for your salary on payday… but many banks are also well-documented financiers of the climate crisis.
Between them, 35 of the world’s major banks, many of them high street banks, have provided $2.7 trillion (£2tn) to fossil fuel companies since the Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted at the end of 2015 (according to a 2020 report from Rainforest Action Network).
For those of us who lack the financial power to make huge moves in the financial market, our top tip is to vote with your feet and consider moving to a different bank if you are unhappy with your current bank’s policies. There are an increasing number of new, small banks marketing themselves as ethical and funders of solutions, so it’s worth doing some research and finding the best solution for you.
2. Eat more plant foods and less animal foods
When it comes to our diets, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says we need to buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter, but also eat more locally sourced seasonal food, and throw less of it away.
Shifting to a diet that is rich in plants is a consumer led solution to global warming that opposes the meat-centric Western diet that is on the rise globally. That diet comes with a steep climate price tag, which is alarmingly 20% of global emissions. To help get your head around that, if cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Numerous studies have shown “business-as-usual” emissions could be reduced by as much as 70% through adopting a vegan diet and 63% for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs.
Our top tip is to eat less meat, particularly red meat (lamb and beef) and less dairy. You don’t have to go totally plant based, replacing one or two meat-based meals a week with a vegetarian option will significantly reduce your carbon over the course of a whole year.
3. Try other modes of transport
Private transport is one of the world’s biggest sources of greenhouse gases, with emissions rising every year. For many people, the journey to and from work are something we don’t think much about, but how we choose to travel to the office, or even to pop to the shops, is also one of the biggest day-to-day climate decisions we face.
In the UK, the transport sector is now responsible for emitting more greenhouse gases than any other, including electricity production and agriculture. Globally, transport accounts for around a quarter of CO2 emissions.
Much of the world’s transport networks still remain focused around cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes, and these account for nearly three quarters of the greenhouse gas emissions that come from transport.
If you use a car frequently, the first step to cutting down your emissions may well be to simply fully consider the alternatives available to you, including hybrid and fully electric.
The average petrol car on the road in the UK produces the equivalent of 180g of CO2 every kilometre, while a diesel car produces 173g of CO2/km. In the US the average passenger vehicle on the road releases 650g of CO2/km. Generally, the larger the car, the higher the emissions.
Our top tip is to swap the car for walking, cycling and e-biking when you can. Even just changing your method of transport one day a week will make a significant impact on your personal carbon emissions.
4. Switch to a low-carbon energy provider
Electricity and central heating contributes at least 15 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide each year. That number will continue to rise as changes in the climate lead to increased reliance on heating systems and air conditioning.
Another great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to switch your electricity provider to a company that uses low-carbon energy.
Low carbon or renewable energy is that which is derived from any natural resource which can replace itself quickly and dependably without running out. Sources of renewable energy are typically part of our everyday environment including the sun, wind, water and even waste.
- Solar Photovoltaics (PV)
- Wind Energy
- Energy Storage
- Waste to Energy
- Energy Efficiency
- Concentrated Solar Power
- Hydropower and Tidal Energy
Our top tip is to find out if your current electricity provider has any renewable energy options and if not, you might well have low-carbon energy providers in your local area.
5. Reduce, reuse, and recycle to waste less
The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it in the first place. Making a new product emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and requires a lot of materials and energy. Also, raw materials must be extracted from the earth, and the product must be fabricated then transported to wherever it will be sold. As a result, reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can save natural resources, protect the environment and save money.
Humans throw away over 2.12 billion tonnes of waste per year and at least 6 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food loss and waste, which is around three times the emissions that come from global flights.
Benefits of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change
- Prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials
- Saves energy
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change
- Helps sustain the environment for future generations
- Reduces the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators
- Allows products to be used to their fullest extent
- Saves you money
6. Rethink your fashion choices
The fashion industry is the second-largest industrial polluter, accounting for 10% of global pollution, ranking higher than air travel emissions. When factoring in the entire lifecycle of a garment, from manufacturing to transportation to, ultimately, ending up in landfill, in total, 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions are released by the fashion industry every year.
The birth of “fast fashion”, the combination of cheap prices and low quality, leads many to feel that clothing is disposable. As a consequence, the UK sends 300,000 tonnes of clothes to landfill each year, making it the fastest growing waste industry.
Not only is the carbon footprint of the fashion industry influenced by the amount of waste sent to landfill, but CO2 emissions during the manufacturing and transportation processes, also contribute to the industry’s huge carbon and environmental footprint.
Some garments may travel around the world several times during the manufacturing process, contributing to increased emissions through air travel. Similarly, clothes are often produced in developing countries where there is less regulation around pollution. If nothing changes, research has predicted the fashion industry could account for 26% of carbon emissions by 2050.
Our top tip is to consider buying second-hand clothes. This is a great way to reduce your environmental impact while also saving some money. If you’re worried that buying second-hand clothes means you’ll have to sacrifice style, then popular social shopping apps such as Depop, Poshmark, and Asos Marketplace might just help to ease your mind.
If you do decide to buy new, organic clothing made from natural materials such as bamboo, hemp, cotton and linen is much better for the environment than clothes made from synthetic materials such as polyester.
If you can afford to, buy your clothing from companies that are eco-friendly and/or organically certified. Using Shop For Climate Change you can see which companies are Green Brands and Our Green Ratings page is a great way to find brands that are doing the most to prevent Global Warming.
If you do decide that you just must have a piece of fast fashion, you can use your cashback from that store to offset your carbon footprint and plant trees. Also, when you buy through us, 51% of our profits will support Climate Crisis solutions.
7. Choose energy-efficient appliances
In order to successfully transition to a zero-carbon community, we need to reduce our energy consumption. While choosing a renewable energy provider is the first thing you should consider when trying to reduce your carbon footprint at home, using energy efficient appliances can cut your greenhouse gas contributions even further.
As homeowners, energy-efficient appliances are essential to help you save money and energy and protect the environment. The more energy efficient home appliances you use, the lower your utility bills will be while reducing your carbon footprint.
Energy Efficient Products
Refrigerators, Freezers, Washing Machines, Tumble Dryers, and Dishwashers are traditionally not very energy efficient. Our top tip is to invest more in their efficiency, and it is also possible to generate considerable savings with these products over time.
The least efficient appliance is the refrigerator: The most efficient models consume up to 5 times less energy than a standard refrigerator. Energy efficient washing machines can reduce electricity usage by up to a third. Using the most efficient appliances across the board will have a massive impact on the amount of energy you consume.
Smaller electrical appliances are often overlooked, for example, using energy efficient light bulbs can save up to 4 times more energy than a standard bulb.
Having more efficient versions of these appliances could benefit you, and the entire world as well.
8. Travel less or travel wisely
Tourism is responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. From flights and boat rides to souvenirs and lodging, various activities contribute to tourism’s carbon footprint. The majority of this footprint is emitted by visitors from high-income countries, like the UK.
Transport accounts for around half of the emissions from tourism (49% according to Sustainabletravel.org). On average, planes and cars generate the most CO2 per passenger mile. In fact, The aviation industry was predicted to triple its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Without any changes taking place, the aviation industry’s carbon footprint could continue to grow exponentially.
In recent years, the number of people traveling internationally skyrocketed as airfare became more affordable. Similarly, between 2005 and 2016, transport-related tourism emissions increased by more than 60%.
To put it into perspective, It would take an acre of forest a year to absorb the same amount of CO2 emissions of a one-way flight from London to New York. That’s about the same amount of emissions that the average person in Zimbabwe generates over an entire year.
Our top tip is to take your holidays closer to home. The further the distance you travel, the higher your carbon footprint will be. We would also suggest that where you can, choose train travel over plane travel, to reduce your carbon footprint by as much as 90%.
If it is essential for you to fly, we would suggest that you consider off-setting your carbon emissions by funding projects or organisations that reduce carbon emissions in other ways, or by using your cash back from Shop For Climate Change to plant much needed trees.
We are all consumers
Whether we are shopping for clothing or food, using electricity or gas in our houses, driving a car or booking a holiday, we are all making purchases.
Every purchase you make does have an impact. As consumers your choices can make a huge difference to Climate Change.
In order to help you shop sustainably, it’s a good idea to first understand what sustainably is and understand how your own brain works when you make purchase decisions.
To understand your own psychology and motivation, check out our guide on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For a simpler overview on how to become a sustainable shopper, we created this guide – The Buyerarchy Of Needs.