What is my Carbon Footprint and How to Reduce it?

Whatever we hear about climate change, and the need for humans to take action, central to most actions is the idea of reducing your carbon footprint. What is carbon footprint? It’s the measure of the total greenhouse gasses that are released in the earth’s atmosphere because of the things you do living your life.

If you want to get an idea of what your own carbon footprint might be, the WWF calculator https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/#/ is easy to use and gives a general comparison. It asks about:

Your travel; whether you use a car or motorbike; how much you travel by bus, train, and aeroplane
The house you live in: Whether this is a house or flat; how many people share; and what energy is used for heating or air conditioning.
The food you eat: whether this includes meat or is a plant based diet; how often you eat at restaurants and takeaways; how much of the food you buy you think ends up being thrown away; and how often you buy local produce.

The stuff you buy; whether you have bought new, big, appliances recently; how much you typically spend on clothes, pets, phone, etc
Depending on the country you live in, you then are given a comparison of your carbon footprint to the country average. The results may surprise you!
There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint and help to protect our precious planet. At work or at school, making a number of small changes can really add up.

What are the things that you can do at home?

  1. Increase the amount of plant based foods in your diet, and reduce meats, highly processed foods, and takeaways. Cooking locally produced foodstuffs yourself is always going to have a lower detrimental impact on the environment.
  2. Walk, cycle, or use public transport instead of driving alone in your car, at least for some journeys. The next time you buy a new car consider switching to electric or hybrid.
  3. Insulate your home. The single most effective thing to do is insulation. In the winter stop all the warm air that you have paid so much to heat up escaping, and in the summer stop the sun outside warming up your cool interiors and making your air conditioning work harder. In many countries, governments or local schemes subsidise insulation, so this can be a very cost effective method.
  4. Switch to renewables. Energy providers all over the world are providing energy on a green tarriff, promising to supply all, or a large percentage, from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric etc. Often these are no more expensive than a standard tariff, so deciding to make the switch is easy. Some providers also pledge to do other things like planting more trees, or supporting environmental charities.
  5. Be more energy efficient yourself. Whether you switch appliances for a more energy efficient option, use LED energy efficient bulbs, or only turn the washing machine on with a full load, you’ll be saving energy. Hanging out your washing to dry rather than using a tumble dryer is a huge plus. Unplugging or switching off your laptop, TV and other tech all saves carbon, and your electricity bill. Use less water. Water is all around us, sometimes too much, but delivering it to our homes clean and ready to drink is costly in terms of energy to clean and purify it, and pump it into our taps. If we use less when brushing our teeth, use your washing machine for only a full load of washing (not half), and replace the plants in our gardens with native varieties that don’t need extra watering in the summer.
  6. Buy less stuff. Do you need that new outfit, or would one you already have do? Can you get something repaired instead of buying new? One of the IH Young Environmentalists projects looked at the high environmental cost of fast fashion – did you know that it can take about 10,000 litres of water to produce a single pair of jeans (mostly to grow the cotton for the denim).