How can I reduce my carbon footprint?

We’re in a period of transition in terms of global energy use: reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is now a worldwide priority to reduce our carbon footprint. Climate change, caused by high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, threatens all species on earth. So, it’s essential that we all reduce our carbon footprint in order to protect the environment and our own future. Our energy use habits have a direct impact on our greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, cutting our energy use - by using more energy efficient products, for example - is vital to shrinking our carbon footprint.

What exactly is a carbon footprint?

The term carbon footprint is linked to studies of ecology. Put simply, your carbon footprint is the volume of carbon dioxide (CO2) that a living being, be that a person, an animal or a plant, a company, a country or an object emits in its regular actions and function.

As individuals, the more energy we use (for example, via using electricity and gas in our homes), the larger our carbon footprint will be. Mostly, fossil fuels are burned to produce this energy to power gas and electricity networks.

This combustion of fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases, which directly contribute to climate change and global warming. Major culprits of greenhouse gas emissions also include transport, manufacturing and the agri-food sector, particularly the production of meat.

Experts predict that greenhouse gas emissions will contribute to raising the global temperature by around 8 degrees by the year 2100. It’s therefore incredibly urgent to change our energy use habits in order to reduce our carbon footprint and halt climate change.

This is, of course, easier said than done, as greenhouse gas emissions are a global issue. But, reducing our own energy consumption to shrink our individual carbon footprint is a great place to start.

Why should you reduce your carbon footprint?

Greenhouse gas emissions, particularly emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane, are largely responsible for climate change.

Some sources of these greenhouse gas emissions are more obvious than others. For example, it might be very clear to us that factories, the transport sector and energy provision (in terms of electricity and gas, for example) emit large volumes of greenhouse gases.

However, the agri-food sector is a lesser-known emitter of greenhouse gases. Cows in particular emit an incredible amount of methane into the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. A global reduction in beef meat consumption, therefore, would have a tangible impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts predict that the rate of climate change is set to increase in the coming years. The climate is heating up faster, glaciers are melting faster due to the impact on global temperatures, sea levels are rising and extreme weather events - such as tornadoes, hurricanes and droughts - are occurring more frequently.

These affect the safety and livelihoods of the human population around the world, while devastating the natural environment.

It is incredibly urgent to act now to reduce our negative impact on the environment through global warming. Climate change is a major crisis of our time - solving it will not be easy. There are many sectors required to hugely reduce their carbon footprint with vast shifts in their current impact on climate change, including electricity and gas providers and the transport, manufacturing and agri-food sectors.

We can, though, make our own changes by reducing our carbon footprint on a daily basis. If we all limit our greenhouse gas emissions, we can reduce our impact on the climate as individuals, then as a collective.

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How can you reduce your carbon footprint?

There are multiple steps you can take to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and shrink your carbon footprint.

Calculate your carbon footprint to offset your greenhouse gas emissions

There are various organisations out there that provide a service to help you calculate your personal carbon footprint, based on your energy use habits and other lifestyle components.

Many companies also use these types of calculations to measure their environmental impact and offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

The direct greenhouse gas emissions of your household are included in the carbon footprint calculation, as are many other aspects of your daily life that all impact the climate:

  • Housing (construction, insulation, energy use, electrical products, gas use, etc.)

  • Heating and fuel at home (electricity and gas vs. solar power, for example)

  • Food (meat consumption, local produce vs. imported produce, etc.)

  • Hobbies (emissions related to travel, and so on)

  • Management of household waste (recycling vs. landfill, etc.)

The aim of these calculations is to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions caused by your energy use and normal daily habits. Once your greenhouse gas emissions are totted up to calculate your carbon footprint, you then know the quantity of carbon that you need to offset.

One way you can offset your carbon footprint is by donating funds to plant trees, which suck in greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Changing energy use to shrink our carbon footprint

Switching your home energy consumption from electricity and gas to solar, wind and water power will have a huge impact on your carbon footprint.

Yes, this requires significant upfront investment, but you’ll save money on energy over time by switching to renewable energy sources.

5 key tips for reducing your carbon footprint

  • Change your diet to consume less meat, buy local and avoid processed products

  • Improve your home energy efficiency with better insulation and choosing energy efficient electricity and gas products

  • Use your car less to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, opting for public transport or a bike instead

  • Travel by train rather than plane

  • Use carbon footprint calculators to calculate and offset your greenhouse gas emissions and make donations to reduce your negative impact on the climate

Act now to shrink your carbon footprint!