Reducing Carbon Emissions

With electricity, heating and transport responsible for the bulk of every household’s carbon footprint, there’s an obvious link between energy saving and carbon emissions. We all know we should be trying to address our collective carbon costs – but what’s the best way to start?

Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities in our everyday lives for us to begin to cut back and many of them only take a moment to do. Best of all, if you’re already following an energy saving regime – you’ve started to reduce carbon emissions already.

Getting Started

All of the usually suggested energy saving tips will catapult you towards your goal of reducing your carbon footprint – turning down the thermostat, avoiding using “stand-by”, changing to low-energy light bulbs and only boiling the amount of water that you need.

There are lots of other similar ideas to ensure that you can make worthwhile savings in your energy use and reductions in your carbon emissions too. Adjust your central heating timer so you don’t use so much energy when you’re not there to get the benefit and your carbon footprint will shrink accordingly, while returning to a traditional clothes line rather than a tumble drier will cut it further.

Signing up for a green energy tariff, for example, with a supplier who will provide you with electricity made by renewable generation is perhaps the quickest of all quick starts; once done your “electric” carbon emissions fade away to nothing.

Transport Carbon

While the energy sector accounts for the lion’s share of UK carbon emissions, transport is not far behind – according to the Energy Saving Trust around a quarter of Britain’s CO2 comes from road use, with passenger cars responsible for more than half of that.

With Britons named in a recent report as the world’s biggest CO2 emitters from air travel – the average British flyer said to be responsible for over 600kg a year, more than double US passengers in third place – clearly any attempts to cut our transport carbon have got to be worthwhile.

There’s certainly no shortage of ways to set about making a bit of a difference. Avoiding unnecessary flights is one of the most obvious – and for many trips around the UK and nearer parts of Europe, trains and ferries offer more eco-friendly alternatives with little compromise on convenience or overall journey time.

Those other green travel mainstays – walking, cycling and public transport – also provide the chance to slash your carbon footprint even further, while car-sharing for commuting, the school-run or just going shopping, will make a serious cut in each participant’s carbon emissions.

Cutting Your Secondary Carbon Footprint

How much energy we all use and how we travel have a very immediate impact on our carbon emissions, a whole host of other factors – including our accumulated food miles, efforts at recycling and behaviour at work – contribute to a secondary carbon footprint

With DEFRA estimating that moving food accounts for some 25 per cent of all heavy goods vehicle movement on British roads, reducing food miles – the distance what we eat travels before it reaches our plates – has obvious benefits.

Buying produce grown or reared as close to home as possible is one way to do this, while opting for on-line shopping and home delivery is another. Not only does one supermarket van do the job of several individual cars, but the on-board frozen and chilled compartments mean you waste less energy cooling your purchases down.

Over-packaged goods are another area where we can reduce carbon emissions. Our waste production is often overlooked in terms of its contribution to our carbon footprint contribution, but it can be a significant one. By deliberately selecting products with the least packaging – and/or the most recyclable – we can cut back on this element in our overall total carbon debt, although the precise effect can often be difficult to calculate.

We can cut our overall carbon emissions total at work too; company policy aside, there are always going to be times when we can switch off, avoid printing or walk rather than drive. They may seem almost insignificant efforts in themselves, but as the well known supermarket slogan goes, every little helps – and if everyone cut back where they could, the cumulative effect could be enormous.

Trying to reduce carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency are opposite sides of the same coin and doing one inevitably also achieves the other and while the measure of energy savings is economic, the benefits of carbon avoidance lie firmly with the environment. Whatever your priorities, there’s probably never been a better outcome on offer.