As the team who presents multiple climate issues to tackle throughout the year, let us be the first to say, knowing where to start is HARD. There’s plenty of small ways to get the ball rolling but we want to make the biggest impacts with the least amount of effort. Let’s just say, we want to get the most value from our sustainable actions. So, we’ve taken a look at the typical person’s carbon footprint in the UK and we’re working from there. If you want to know how to prioritise the climate crisis in your life and where the best place to begin is – get a load of this.
Always choose to reduce
When looking at our carbon footprints, it’s important to note that we can never truly escape them. Even breathing contributes to our carbon footprints, so don’t aim to eradicate, aim to reduce. The more you can reduce in your lifestyle, the more you can reduce your carbon footprint.
Breathing aside, nearly every aspect of your lifestyle can be reduced. Walking more and driving less. Eating all your food and wasting less of it. Buying fewer items from every type of shop you visit. So, when it comes to doing your part for the planet and creating a smaller carbon footprint, always have ‘reduction’ in the front of your mind. It’s a great tool to use and when you nail it at every opportunity, you’ll significantly reduce your impact.
Climate crisis hurdle 1: Food
This area will look very different for everybody. Ultimately, food is to be enjoyed so eat what you enjoy eating. Just know that there are techniques you can master for reducing the carbon impact of your food. As far as the climate crisis goes, food attributes anywhere from 10%-30% of carbon emissions, and then food waste is responsible for a further 6%-10%. Translate this into the average UK citizen and food (and waste) accounts for around 25% of a person’s carbon footprint.
There are many actions that come into play when looking at food. The production methods, the source of the food, the transportation it may go under, how it is cooked and then how much of it is thrown away. It’s impossible to control every element of your food to neutralise its carbon impact. So, pick your battles wisely and choose from the following list which area you can easily tackle to reduce your carbon footprint:
- Eating less meat as livestock are living animals so as a source of food, they have a high carbon footprint.
- Look at the distance from the food source to your home. Just because it is a fruit or vegetable doesn’t mean it’s eco-friendly if it comes from South America via freight.
- If the food is packaged, ask yourself if the plastic is necessary or whether you can get it plastic-free elsewhere.
- Using your microwave might feel like a cheat, but in terms of energy it’s incredibly efficient compared to the hob.
- For every 1kg of food waste created, 2.5kg CO2e is attached to your carbon footprint. Are you wasting unnecessarily?
Remember, it’s about choosing something that works for you. You may dislike the idea of using the microwave or love your meat too much – that’s fine. It’s far easier to continue with a sustainable action that you like and enjoy than it is to force yourself to do something else.
Climate crisis hurdle 2: Travel
In recent years, travelling has significantly reduced. It’s perhaps one of the only things that we can thank the pandemic for. However, as the world starts to open back up to us, we think now is the perfect time to remind people just how much it can impact their carbon footprint – domestic and international.
Before we were all restricted to our homes, travel would account for 27% of our carbon footprints. This included the average person taking one European flight a year and one long haul every three years. If you never flew that much in the first place, consider this area of your carbon footprint already below average. 11% of this area is attributed to vehicle fuel – which equates to the average person owning a petrol or diesel car that does 10 miles to the litre and about 7,600 miles a year. As we start to travel more, here are a few ideas on how you can reduce the travel percentage of your carbon footprint:
- Reduce the frequency you use your car by walking to the local shops and other areas. A 30-minute walk isn’t as hard as it may seem.
- Share transport where you can, whether that’s in another car with friends or on public transport.
- If you’re a frequent flier, choose to conduct some business meetings online
- Should your work present the opportunity, work from home a couple of days a week
Imagine reducing the travel and food side of your carbon footprint, by prioritising the climate crisis from a personal viewpoint. Sounds like you’re onto a winner. Just looking at food, vehicle fuel and personal flights, you could potentially reduce 43% of your current carbon footprint.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of prioritising the climate crisis as next time we’ll look at other large contributors such as household energy, accommodation away from home and everything else like leisure, recreation and attractions.