I Went on a Carbon Diet: Case Study

Gracie has always loved animals and watching a documentary about the plight of polar bears in the Arctic has really made her think more about the damage that human beings are doing to the natural environment. “I had heard all the stuff about global warming and, to be honest, I had not taken a lot of notice. I hate being cold, so rather selfishly I didn’t see why it would be such a bad thing,” says Gracie.

Watching the polar bears struggle to jump between patches of rapidly melting ice as the Arctic ice cap shrinks really brought home to Gracie that global warming could be having some devastating impacts on wildlife and she decided to find out more about what she could do. “I did a lot of reading about carbon emissions and using fossil fuels and how this is all causing climate change. Most sites suggest we should all cut back to do our bit so I decided to work out my carbon footprint and then go on a ‘carbon diet’ to see what I could do,” she says.

Gracie’s Carbon Footprint

Gracie works in an office in a town four miles away from her home in a two-bedroom flat. She runs an old car and drives to work each day. Because she hates the cold she often puts the heating up when she gets home and forgets to turn it down again. “I also have three mobiles that I leave on charge and love going to hot places on holiday,” she says.

She went onto an Internet site and put in her details to give an idea of her carbon footprint and to see how she compared with the national average. “I was quite shocked to find I was producing nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as the average person”, says Gracie. The site also suggested some changes she could make but Gracie went one step further and looked at other sites to find out about all the possible savings that she could start making to reduce her carbon footprint.

The Carbon Diet

Some of the first steps that Gracie took were cheap and fairly easy to do. “I realised that I didn’t have a single energy saving light bulb in place in the whole of my flat. I already had six in the cupboard because they had been sent free from my gas and electricity supplier and I had never got round to putting them in any lamps,” Gracie admits. Gracie used the six energy saving bulbs she had and bought some others so that now, every ceiling lamp, down lighter, table lamp and spotlight has an energy saving bulb. “It took a while to get used to the fact they don’t come on straight away and they get brighter after a few minutes, but now I am pleased with my achievement,” she says.

Gracie also set her timer on her heating to come on half an hour before she got home, so that the flat was warm when she got in. “This stopped me coming into a cold flat and turning the heating right up, and I kept the thermostat to 19 degrees and just put a jumper on when I felt chilly,” she says.

Some of the other decisions Gracie made had more of an impact on her lifestyle. She has now vowed to only go on a holiday abroad every two years and to spend more time exploring her local area in Derbyshire. “I have lived here for three years but have never really been walking in the peaks – it is time for me to do that, get some more exercise and appreciate the natural environment right on my doorstep,” she says. Gracie now also takes the bus to work, which involves walking one mile to the stop and another half a mile at the other end.

Unexpected Benefits

Not using her car in busy periods and switching to public transport has cut down her carbon footprint but the extra exercise has meant she has lost a few pounds in weight and got fitter in the process. “I now don’t have to go on a food diet,” she laughs.