Top 10 Life Hacks to Slash Your Carbon Footprint
So you want to cut your carbon footprint?
OK, the number one thing you can do in your life to reduce your carbon footprint isn’t really a life hack, it’s a major lifestyle choice, but it’s so fundamental we’re getting it out of the way first. And it’s: have fewer kids. If the child you didn’t have lived to 80, you’ve saved 1200 tonnes of CO2e. So our first life hack is related…
- Use a condom. (It’s a fair CO2e trade even if you throw it into landfill.)
- Eat less beef. This is already taking hold in consumer thinking. Everyone seems to be saying they don’t eat beef very often. One burger = 2kg CO2e from the beef alone so not eating it very often is still high impact in comparison. (A banana is 60g CO2e.) If you can’t resist occasionally, try to buy locally sourced, higher welfare beef.
- Cycle or walk. Personal transport makes up about 27% of the average UK footprint. Lift sharing at busy times doubles the savings of taking one vehicle off the road if you also include the reduced impact on other vehicles. If you can, use public transport, especially electric buses, now becoming much more common in urban centres.
- Cut your home energy consumption. Energy makes up about 21% of the average UK footprint. So if you’re in a household of 4 and you reduce your energy usage by half, that’s 40% of the CO2e of one individual. Replace halogen lights with LED. Use your tumble dryer sparingly, use a clothesline instead. Fill your kettle with the amount of water you actually need. Showertime instead of bathtime. These all add up to a big difference over the long term. Clearly Solar PV & storage can really cut your household’s footprint. A typical domestic Solar PV system pays off the CO2e of the installation in less than 18 months. The old rule to focus on insulation is still very relevant and in most cases the best payback if you’re concerned about the financials.
- Reduce flying. This is really one for long haul or regular fliers. A return flight to Hong Kong is about 3 tonnes of CO2e, so 20% of your average annual UK footprint could be used up in one trip. The reality is that regular and long haul fliers can make a big difference with this one but if you rarely fly but drive to work or leave the heating on unnecessarily would be better to focus on those issues. For short haul flights, it’s actually half the CO2e to fly than drive a big 4×4 with just one person in it.
- Wash clothes when they’re dirty/smelly, not as a matter of routine. Clothes make up 14% of the average UK CO2e. It may also surprise many people that synthetic materials are lower CO2e to produce than natural fibres like cotton, they’re also lower CO2e in cleaning too. However, synthetics do produce more plastic micro-particles that get into our water system, so it’s a balancing act.
- Buy from and invest in environmentally responsible companies. Corporations and financial markets are responding to consumer pressure. Unilver has declared it will be better than carbon neutral by 2030. If competitors see this makes good business sense, big changes in corporate behaviour can happen very fast. The same applies if you invest. Support companies that promote renewables and sustainable business practices.#
- Read ebooks. The first 7 are the real game changers and now we get in to the ‘nice to do’s rather than the big savers so it’s hard to put them in order as it depends too much on each individual. Anyway, lets start with easy changes like reading books on a Kindle app. (Sorry Amazon, but you don’t need to buy a Kindle device, you already have an app on your phone.)
- Mobile phones are OK. There seems to be a misconception that mobiles are bad for the environment. Looking in isolation at the environmental impact makes them look bad, but when you look at the potential CO2e savings mobile phones can give you then they’re a very worthwhile investment. These savings include…
- Reading books on a phone rather than a book, or even buying a Kindle device
- Send emails rather than letters
- Online banking, online bill paying, and anything else that they can be used for that used to involve sending letters or any other paper use.
- A single device replaces multiple devices – calculators, GPS, torch etc etc, that you may otherwise have bought.
- Use charity shops. The less we buy and the more we reuse the lower our emissions. And it’s fun browsing. One person’s rubbish, is another person’s treasure.
More than any of these, the biggest difference you can make is to tell other people about how they too can cut their carbon footprint. Because they in turn will tell others and the message will spread and take root.