Reducing our carbon footprints is mission critical to limit global warming. With this in mind, some recent research reveals the top 10 ways you can reduce yours.
If you’re anything like us, you’re the kind of person who is pained when you see someone fill the kettle up to full just to make a single cup of tea or coffee. Why waste energy like that?! Nobody is perfect mind you, and we’re not fans of green shaming. What we do like is clear science and research-based advice to help us live more sustainably.
Handily, the Centre for Research Into Energy Demand Solutions has carried out some extensive research into the most effective ways we can reduce our carbon footprints. These are especially relevant for people in more developed countries, who are responsible for the majority of the world’s CO2 emissions.*
So how can we go from bigfoots to ballerinas?
#1 Go car-free
Sorry petrol-heads but using a car, especially an SUV, is one of the most CO2 emitting thing we can do. Going ‘car-free’ (and we checked with the main research here) means switching to a combination of active transport e.g. walking or cycling and public transport. This will remove a hefty 2.04 tonnes from your personal account per year—the equivalent of the average Bolivian’s yearly emissions.
#2: Switch to an electric car
If you are going to drive then an electric vehicle is certainly greener from an emissions perspective, saving 1.95 tonnes CO2 per year, and it means those of us who live in cities can breathe a bit easier too. However, it’s worth noting that making electric cars still requires mining precious metals, which contributes to water scarcity.
#3: One less long haul flight per year
As we covered in our recent editorial, flying makes up a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and not just CO2, so it’s unsurprising that flying less will significantly reduce your emissions. One long haul flight adds 1.68 tonnes onto your account, so the numbers add it pretty quickly for frequent fliers
#4: Switch to renewable energy for your home
We spoke a few weeks ago about the rise of renewable energy and how over the last few decades renewable energy has exceeded everyone’s expectations with regards to growth. As such, in many countries, it’s now easy to switch to a green energy supplier for your home and save an average of 1.6 tonnes CO2 per person per year.
#5: Use public transport
Ah the good ol’ bus, tram, metro or tube. If you already live in a big city this may be the best option for you anyway, regardless of the occasional odd encounter. Another big plus is that you’ll save 0.98 tonnes of CO2 per year as well.
#6: Home refurbishment/renovation
Next in the home category is making refurbishment and renovations, for example improving insulation, using a more efficient boiler, or installing appliances such as smart metres. Doing so can reduce your account by an average of 0.895 tonnes per year. Of course, another advantage is that you save on bills too!
#7: Switch to a vegan diet
Food production accounts for a large proportion of our emissions globally, but as you’re probably aware it’s meat, especially lamb and beef, that are the main culprits. Cutting these out and switching to a vegan diet will remove 0.8 tonnes from your account. If this is a little too far for now, going vegetarian saves 0.5 tonnes.
#8: Install a heat pump
Heat pumps are extremely efficient at moving heat from one place to another and make great heating and cooling systems for buildings. They run on electricity too, so can be hooked up to solar panels, although generally upfront costs are high. Installing one will take 0.795 tonnes per year from your account and also save on bills.
#9: Improved cooking equipment
This is actually more relevant in developing countries that use cookstoves heated with coal, wood or paraffin are less efficient and more polluting. Replacing these with more efficient (and healthier) alternatives like solar-powered stoves has the potential to save 0.65 tonnes per year.
#10: Switch to renewable-based heating
Similar to renewable-based electricity, switching the renewable-based heating, preferably solar, can significantly lower your carbon footprint. 0.64 tonnes per year to be exact.
The bigger picture
So there you have it, the top ten most effective ways we can reduce our carbon footprints according to some recent research. But, as alluded to, this only takes into account carbon emissions and not other environmental considerations like plastic pollution, water scarcity and habitat destruction.
Eating organic, recycling, buying less and buying longer-lasting products also feature on the list, and are beneficial for different reasons. You can check the full list here.
Some are more realistic than others, too. We don’t all have thousands of pounds readily available to spend on home renovations or a heat pump, it's about doing what you can.
Lastly, as well as our individual actions, it’s just as, if not more important, that governments and organisations do their bit too. Other meaningful measures include donating to environmental organisations and exercising your political power to put pressure on politicians to make the right choices for people and the environment.
If you want to hear more about this from the lead author of the research, Diana Ivanova, then continue on to our #agoodcommunity interview with her.
* The average Australian emits 16.88 tonnes CO2 per year, whereas the average Ghanaian only 0.61 tonnes. The global average is 4.8 tonnes and we need to reduce that to zero.
We hope you found this fun and informative. If you have any questions or ideas about this (or anything really) feel free to get in touch with Emilia Cullborg, Editor and Head of Communication & Community Outreach.