The average carbon footprint for someone living in the UK is 9.84 tonnes CO2e. This doesn't really tell you much until you look at the fact that a sustainable carbon footprint is around 3.00 tonnes CO2e - a third of what most of us are currently producing. Even if you're living an ordinary life, not leaving your car running all day or burning tons of plastic in your garden, you still might not be living sustainably.
But how can you get any lower? It might seem that if the average carbon footprint is higher than the sustainable level, it's impossible for most of us to get there. Luckily, that isn't the case.
By making small, mindful changes every day, you can actively lower your carbon footprint and reach a more sustainable level. These changes might not seem like ways to change the world, but in fact, they are! If we don't do them, then we're on a one-way journey to climate chaos, but if we all chip in and do our bit (looking at you too, businesses!), we could save our planet for future generations.
To start helping out those of you asking how can I reduce my carbon footprint? here are some easy things that you can start doing today.
1. Start Skipping the Beef
Beef isn't just the top polluter in the agricultural industry; it's one of the top polluters in the world. The meat and dairy industry has always been one of the biggest causes of global warming, and when you look at the huge chunk that beef takes out of the whole industry's pollution count, you can see why it's something that simply has to stop. Per kilogram of beef produced, 60kg of CO2 is released into the atmosphere (lamb is next at 24kg for reference), and cow farms in the EU produce more than the entire bloc's vans and cars put together.
Beef farming is also the top cause of deforestation around the world, including in the Amazon, where deadly fires are started just to make way for new farming land. If you've ever donated to a forest fire fund, the best thing you can actually do to help is stop eating beef. It's that simple! Even UK-bred cows are usually fed using soy grown unsustainably in the Amazon, making it a no-brainer to cut it out if you want to save the planet.
I myself am vegan, which is the best way to cut down the carbon footprint of your diet - and your carbon footprint as a whole, in fact! But I know that's too much of a leap from a meat and dairy diet for some people, so start by cutting out beef and see where the journey takes you.
2. Cut Down on All Plastic (Not Just Single-Use!)
By now, we all know that plastic is bad for the planet. Not only is it polluting our oceans and killing our wildlife, but by 2050 it's also predicted that plastic production will make up 17% of the global carbon budget. To put it simply, if we can cut down on plastic, we can cut down on the whole world's carbon footprint! This doesn't just mean single-use plastic, either, but everything you buy.
Some simple ways I cut down on plastic include:
Buying from zero-waste shops and storing food in glass jars
Avoiding takeaways that deliver in plastic packaging (like Tupperware)
Switching to plastic-free household cleaning supplies (like those from Ocean Saver)
Using a soap bar instead of shower gel and a solid moisturiser bar instead of a lotion
Opting for kitchen appliances made from metal or wood rather than plastic (e.g. my toaster, kettle, chopping boards etc.)
Buying real wooden furnishings instead of plastic-imitation wood
Avoiding clothes made from plastic-derived materials like polyester
3. Shop Locally Wherever Possible
I'm lucky enough to have a little grocer and a bakery at the bottom of my road where I can buy all of my fruit, vegetables, and baked goods (they even do vegan sausage rolls and bakes, which are to die for). Most of the products in the grocers are locally grown and seasonal, and I can walk there, saving on transportation costs. It might sound like a tiny thing, but it can make a huge difference if you can do it! The reduced transport of the products drastically cuts down every meal's carbon footprint, and you can feel good about supporting a local business. A win-win? I'd say so.
4. Get Organised and Avoid Taxis
I don't have a car, and I work from home, so I'm not on the roads very often. As cars and other transport modes release a whole lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, this is an easy way to reduce my carbon footprint. But one thing I have been guilty of in the past is taking taxis when I do have to go somewhere.
It doesn't sound like much, but let's do the maths. If I were to take a 10km trip in a petrol-run taxi that has a fuel consumption of 8.4 litres/100km, I'd be releasing the equivalent of 0.003t CO2 into the atmosphere. If I make that trip just once a week, that's 0.156t CO2 per year. Those numbers don't mean much on their own, but when you take into account that that's almost a third of what's considered a sustainable yearly footprint, it's huge! Just from one car ride a week, I'd be using up around 30% of my annual carbon allowance. So, instead, I stay organised, make sure I'm always ready with time to spare and get the train instead.
Find out the toll of your car rides on the planet and calculate your own carbon footprint for each journey you make here.
5. Switch to Renewable Energy
Last but not least, here's one of the easiest ways to lower your carbon footprint - no exaggeration! By switching to an energy supplier that uses 100% renewable energy, you automatically lower your carbon footprint by 25%. That's a huge reduction, and all you have to do is make the switch. To make things even easier, here are some 100% renewable energy companies in the UK that are trusted and have a great reputation:
Start Saving the Planet, One Day at a Time
You don't have to be a hero to start reducing the world's carbon footprint. It's down to each and every one of us to do our bit, and these five ideas are a great place to start! Give it a go and let me know how you get on by getting in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're a business owner looking to create a more sustainable brand, it's also a good time to note that I'm a sustainability writer for eco-friendly businesses. Check out more about my services to see how I can help you.