How can I reduce my carbon footprint?

Why is reducing our carbon footprint so important?

Human beings are very good at producing carbon dioxide (CO2). Every outward breath releases CO2 from our bodies and it is also released by the burning of fossil fuels such as oil. In addition to this particular greenhouse gas, humans have devised ways of releasing other chemicals into the air such as methane which comes from landfill sites and nitrous oxide which comes from some farming processes. CO2 has the highest concentration in UK air at 86% and is therefore the gas which is focused on most often.

In normal and natural quantities, these gases can be processed by the plant life on our planet such as trees. They take in the CO2 and release oxygen which we breathe. This cycle is the natural order of things. However, the excess quantities of CO2 which we are releasing into the air and the amount of deforestation is leading to excess warming of the atmosphere.

Global warming

Greenhouse gases hang in the atmosphere and trap the sun’s warmth. While this can lead to global warming it also leads to climate change. This means that there are likely to be more weather related events such as hurricanes, severe snow storms, droughts and tornadoes. In addition, the general and overall warming can lead to melting of the polar regions which in turn will lead to higher sea levels.

In the last 100 years the average temperature of the Earth has increased by 0.75 degrees Celsius. While this does not sound like much, it only takes a 1-2 degree change to make huge alterations to the climate. For example in 2009 the UK experienced the worst rainfall and flooding for 270 years and in 2003 thousands died across Europe due to a heat wave.

Clearly none of these things are good. So you can see that caring about our carbon footprint is important, providing everyone else does too. Reducing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere is a job which is now being taken seriously by everyone from the government to big business. But individuals need to do their bit too.

How do I reduce my carbon footprint

Once you have worked out (to the best of your ability) what your carbon footprint is, you then need to start thinking of ways you can either reduce your footprint or offset it. Of course the obvious answer is to do some or even all of the following:

  • Reduce the amount of energy you use
  • Buy locally
  • Holiday in the UK
  • Drive less and walk more
  • Use public transport
  • Reduce and recycle packaging
  • Plant trees and gardens

While the last few of these options are relatively obvious and easy to achieve, we all know that reducing the amount of energy we use in our homes is difficult. There are a number of options which can make this easier.

An energy efficient home

Replace your old boiler with a new and more efficient one. Any boiler which is older than 20 years will use significantly more gas than a new one rated ā€œCā€ or better.
Between 420kg and 1,220kg
Solar panels
Solar power from the sun can be used to heat our homes, our hot water and provide extra electricity. Any which is not used can be sold back to the grid for a profit.
Around 1 tonne.
Heat pumps
These are a perfect alternative to using electricity when gas is not available. They work by harnessing the warmth from the air or the ground and feeding it into your home.
Between 800kg and 5,410kg
Wind turbines
These can be used by home owners or energy companies. Both are a good way to use the power of wind to get energy. Wind power is free from carbon emissions.
Around 5.2 tonnes
Wood burners
Burning wood may appear to produce carbon emissions, but actually the production of trees more than offsets the carbon produced by burning them.
Between 3 and 7.5 tonnes
Simply putting insulation into your loft and your wall cavities will reduce the amount of gas and electricity you will need to use in your home and can be installed very easily.
Between 110kg and 720kg

Approximate carbon saving per year

Next What is carbon offsetting?

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