How to: reduce your carbon footprint
29th November 2018
By Lyndsey Hall
Have you been wondering how you can reduce your carbon emissions, limit your impact on the environment and help to fend off climate change, all from your own home? Here are our five top tips for cutting down on fossil fuel consumption and reducing your personal carbon dioxide production:
Join the Meatless Mondays movement
With the government considering a red meat tax, eating less animal produce could be lighter on your pocket, your heart, and the planet. Meatless Mondays are growing more and more popular for both money-saving and health reasons, and Fish Fridays have long been a firm family favourite (although the fishing industry has its own environmental issues, but that’s a whole other kettle of, well, fish).
The impact of animal agriculture on the environment is becoming increasingly clear, with the high levels of land and water needed, and the enormous amount of greenhouse-gases produced at every stage of the process. It’s a matter of supply and demand, so reducing your own meat consumption will have a domino effect on the industry, and pressure from consumers as well as government legislation on carbon emissions will hopefully push the industry to clean up its act. Win, win!
If you’ve been considering trying vegetarianism, or even veganism, there’s never been a better time, with new free-from food ranges being introduced in supermarkets and restaurants every day. Prefer to remain a card-carrying carnivore? One day a week really can make a difference. Check out the Meatless Mondays website for loads of delicious meat-free recipes, including lots of ways with vegetables and pulses, and how to use meat-alternatives like Quorn.
Reduce, reuse and recycle
Bags for life, paper straws and reusable coffee cups are common sights on the high street nowadays, as legislation introduced over the last few years has successfully reduced the amount of plastic waste we generate. Thanks to the plastic bag charge, consumption of single-use plastic carrier bags has dropped by 83% over the last 3 years. In just a decade, it’s expected that the scheme will result in a boost of £780 million for the UK economy, £730 million for good causes, and a saving of £60 million in litter clearing costs, as well as £13 million of carbon savings.
As for disposable takeaway cups, many major coffee chains now offer a discount to anyone who brings their own cup. Some chains have even produced their own ranges of reusable travel cups and mugs, available for purchase in store, for when you forget to grab your own before leaving the house. Costa Coffee has also pledged to recycle as many cups as it produces by 2020.
In March this year, the government announced a new plastic bottle deposit scheme intended to increase the number of single use containers that are recycled. Currently, 13 billion plastic bottles are produced in the UK annually, and 3 billion are not recycled. With similar schemes already established in around 40 countries worldwide, including Germany and Sweden, and over 20 US states, the UK’s deposit scheme will mean a small increase in the initial cost of drinks in bottles and cans, with a part refund available when the container is returned to the place of purchase or an automated collection point. The scheme will include plastic and glass bottles, as well as steel and aluminium cans.
There’s no excuse to use single-use, disposable plastics when you can choose a reusable and recyclable alternative. Your environmentally-friendly starter kit should at least include a canvas tote and a travel mug (such as a KeepCup), so you never need to buy a plastic carrier bag or a takeaway coffee cup again.
Swap to plastic-free alternatives
The first plastic made from organic materials, Parkesine, was demonstrated by Alexander Parkes in 1862, but the first wholly synthetic plastic, Bakelite, wasn’t invented until 1907. Until then, objects we now expect to be made from plastic were constructed from other, naturally-occurring materials. Now that we’re aware of the environmental effects of our obsession with convenience and disposability, many people are turning back to traditional materials and newer plastic-free alternatives.
Food in glass jars and cardboard packaging, shampoo and conditioner in bars like soap, and even beeswax cloths as a replacement for cling film and foil, are all increasingly available. Bamboo is also becoming popular as a plastic alternative, as it grows quickly, providing a sustainable source, and farming of the plant has no negative impact on the local environment.
Modern cleaning products not only contain dangerous chemicals and can be harmful to our health and the local environment, but they often also come in plastic bottles and containers. According to health care professionals, the most effective weapon in the fight against bacteria is simple hot water and soap. If it’s good enough for hospitals, it’s good enough for home! Next time you’re tempted to buy a cleaning product full of strong, corrosive chemicals, give a bowl of hot, soapy water a try and see what a little elbow-grease can do instead. Easy on the pocket, easy on the environment, and easy on your family’s health.
Disposable wet wipes, which are made using plastic fibres, account for 93% of all UK sewage pipe blockages, and are a major component of the so-called fatbergs that are clogging our sewers. They are not normally flushable and don’t biodegrade for a hundred years, meaning every wet wipe you’ve ever used is still in existence. The government is starting to take notice and will soon be banning single-use plastic (SUP) products like wipes, straws and cotton buds. There are hundreds of reusable cloth wipes available on the market, whether you’re wiping a little ones’ face and hands, or cleaning your bathroom. Just pop them in the washing machine (30 degrees is best, but we’ll allow the odd hot wash for bacteria-killing purposes!) and they’re ready to use again.
Whilst it’s unlikely plastic products will ever be completely eradicated, unless a viable alternative is found for medical and other specialist purposes, there are plenty of options for day-to-day items. Grab a bamboo toothbrush and a glass jar of toothpaste, and save the planet! Or something catchier, we’ll work on it.
Jump on the solar panel bandwagon
Yes, those ugly, reflective instalments on your neighbours’ roofs are actually at the forefront of sustainable energy. According to the Town and Country Planning Association’s (TCPA) guide for local authorities on town planning for climate change, the entire global energy demand could be met by solar power alone if the current rate of deployment continues until 2030. The number of solar panels deployed has doubled every two years for the last decade, with the costs decreasing by a quarter for every doubling, so all we need to do is keep producing solar panels at this rate and all our sustainable energy problems will be solved in just ten years.
Alright, it’s not as simple as that, but with the other available clean energy sources increasing steadily as well, such as wind farms and hydroelectric power plants, it’s an achievable target to have dramatically reduced fossil fuel usage by 2030.
Look into the possibility of having solar panels installed on your own home, if the initial outlay is affordable then it’s worth doing as the benefits to both your electric bills and the environment outweigh the cost. If the price is still too high in your area, wait a couple of years and check again, it should have dropped considerably.
Ditch the gas-guzzler and go electric
The cost of electric and hybrid cars has dropped considerably in recent years, meaning they are becoming more accessible to the majority of consumers. Most petrol stations, motorway services and supermarket car parks now have at least one charging point, so you’ll never be far from one when your power runs low. BP believes the number of electric cars on the road could reach 300 million by 2040, resulting in a huge drop in demand for petrol, and forcing the huge oil conglomerates to diversify into other petroleum based products.
For short journeys, why not walk or cycle? Or make the most of your local public transport, things have changed since you last took the bus and you can now pay with a contactless card and enjoy on board free WiFi! Check out our guide to making the most of your commute no matter how you travel, you might get some new tips for having a pleasant and productive journey.
You might be thinking your personal carbon footprint doesn’t matter - you’re just one person, how much greenhouse-gas could you possibly produce? But if we all made just one or two small changes to our daily lives, together we could have a real impact on climate change and stop the destruction that the rising temperature threatens. Eating less meat, using fewer single-use plastic products, and switching to a more environmentally-friendly method of transport for your daily commute are just a few simple, painless changes we could all make. With 7 billion people on the planet, that’s a big reduction in our global carbon emissions.
Still not convinced? Take a look at our blog post on the impact of climate change on business, and see how your industry will be effected. Change is coming, let’s make it a positive change.
Do you have any other tips for reducing your carbon footprint? What changes have you made in your daily life to reduce plastic waste and carbon emissions? Leave a comment or chat with us on Facebook and Twitter.