CO2WhatToDo.org

A Guide to Low Carbon Living


The power to make really big changes in CO2 emissions lies in the hands of governments and big business.

As individuals, we can lobby politicians, and move our custom between businesses, but if we want to put our own house in order, what changes would give the greatest benefit?

Fortunately, the more effective changes don't involve extra expense, and others would repay an initial outlay in lower running costs.

Depending on where you look, the average person in the UK generates between 6 and 9 metric tons of CO2 per year.

 Climate Stewards had the idea of representing  the average person's emissions like this:-


So, What Could We Do?

Roughly in order of effectiveness:-

  1. Children:
    Taking the long term view, every extra child added to your family will  generate their own emissions, and probably go on to have children of their own. It has been calculated that if those emissions were totalled, and attributed to each year of your own life span, it would amount to 58.6 tons of
    CO2 per year. (!)

  2. Food: Perhaps the easiest thing to change.
    Food accounts for 20 - 30% of our annual carbon footprint. Eating less meat (especially beef & lamb), and less dairy saves around 1 ton of CO2 per year.



    Cows and sheep are singled out as worse than others, because in addition to the emissions derived from producing their foodstuffs, these animals are ruminants producing methane in their burps and farts, (and manure), which has about 25 times the global warming effect of CO2

    Choose Foods that Haven’t Travelled Far.
    Look at the labels before you buy.
    Highly perishable types of fruit and veg from outside the EU are likely to have flown. See list. 
    Bananas, apples and oranges generally come by sea - incurring only about 1% of the CO2 emissions of air freight.

    Waste Less: WRAP estimate that 5 million tons of food are wasted each year in UK households. How?

    BBC on Food Emissions


  3. Avoid Flying: Some people fly a lot, others not at all.
    A return flight from London to Malaga generates 320kg of CO2 .

    Taking a return flight from Heathrow to New York adds 1.7 tons – almost a quarter of a year’s emissions – and by putting the emissions directly into the upper atmosphere, the greenhouse effect is roughly doubled.

    We can choose to take different holidays, or make more use of Skype and Facetime for business meetings.

  4. Home Heating: Lower Bills = Lower CO2 ;
    Heating the average UK home produces 2.34 tonnes of CO2 per year.

    Turning down the thermostat by one degree can save 300kg of CO2 per year .

    Insulating your house and hot water system generally pays back in a few years - but learn about the heating myths.


    Smart heating controls make it easy to heat your house only when you need.

    Replacing an old boiler could reduce your emissions immediately and repay its cost in 5-10 years.

    Heat Pumps treble or quadruple the amount of heat generated by each unit of electricity, but take 10-12 years to repay the cost.

  5. If you must burn anything, make it gas.
    Not coal, wood, oil, or garden bonfires.


    Replacing an open coal fire with an enclosed stove will reduce CO2 and fuel consumption for the same heat by 75% .

    Although wood is often claimed to be carbon neutral – this is controversial – largely because it will take years for new trees to absorb the CO2 emitted by trees burnt today – leading to a spike in CO2 at a time when we desperately need a dip.

    (A fast-growing tree can absorb about 22kg of CO2 per year)

  6. Use the Train instead of Car for inter-city trips.
    Travelling by train from London to Edinburgh and back generates about 70kg of CO2.
    Whereas, if you drive alone in a small car, it generates about 150kg. (A large car might generate 300kg.)

    Sites like www.thetrainline.com make booking trains easy, and around 12 weeks in advance the fares can become absurdly cheap.

    The Guardian published a good article about planning European train journeys.


  7. Take a Bus or Tube:

    Often cheaper and quicker. Choose the Transit option in Google Maps on your phone, and it will guide you to the nearest bus or train stop, and calculate all your connections.

    It makes public transport easy for a visitor to a strange city.


  8. Pick the smaller car:
    If you have two cars in your household, try to use the cleaner one most often – probably the smaller or newer. It can halve the emissions from 230g per kilometre to 120g/km, saving 1.4 tons of CO2 over an average 8,000 miles per year.

  9. Is it worth buying a newer car?
    Remember that road tax varies from £570 per year to zero, depending on the car’s emissions statistics.

    Combined with the potential fuel cost savings, this could encourage you to bring forward the replacement of an old (high emissions) car. 
    See Energy Saving Trust car listings.

    The manufacture of a new car produces about 6 tons of CO2 .
    Electric cars produce more during manufacture, but lifetime emissions are about 5 tons less overall.

  10. Add Passengers to your car:
    Sharing a car journey divides the emissions.
    Could you share with a colleague, or start a more formal car-sharing scheme at work?
    See Nottingham City's Scheme .

  11. Don’t let your car or van idle when stationary:
    It is a (little known) fixed penalty offence to leave a vehicle unattended with the engine running.

    When driving in traffic, if your car has ‘Autostart’, let it do its job; put the car in neutral when stopped at junctions. (Don’t leave it in gear with your foot on the clutch.)

  12. Walk or Cycle instead of Driving.
    The Bike to Work Scheme can save up to 39% off a new bike.
    If you are concerned about your fitness, electric bikes are available from as little as £450.

  13. Go Electric.
    All renewable energy is distributed in the form of electricity. Avoid gas heaters and cookers. Use electric heaters, and electric power tools rather than petrol.

  14.  Buy LED lighting.
    It seems counter-intuitive, but throw away your incandescent bulbs. An energy saving bulb can save up to 170kg of CO2 and up to £60 over its lifetime. They used to be dim, but not any more.

  15. Use a Green Energy Supplier?
    This will not directly save any CO2 , since there is already more than enough renewable electricity being produced to meet the needs of all Green Tariff customers (possibly double) - and the surplus is being supplied to 'ordinary' customers.

    Only when demand for green electricity rises to match the capacity, will pressure be applied to add more green generating capacity. You can be a part of that trend - but it will take time to have an effect on  CO2 .

     
  16. Solar Panels: A 4Kw installation could save 1 ton of CO2 per year and pay back its installation cost in about 12 years.

  17. Don't Discount Nuclear Energy:
    It's the only non-renewable source with zero COemissions. If properly managed, it may yet prove the least bad option. The Guardian article.

    Also see 'Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air', and
    the May 2019 IEA report on Nuclear Energy .

  18. Clothes: Buy less; wear more.
    Fashion accounts for 10% of global CO2 emissions.

    Wash clothes at 30°C, less often, and dry them outdoors. (The tumble drier costs £30/yr).
    See also clothes washing and microplastics.

  19. Be a Supporter:
    If you aren't able to make much change to your own lifestyle, you could financially support organisations that are working for change with businesses and politicians on regional, national, and international levels:-


  20. Calculate your Footprint:
    There is a quick guide table here, or you can make a detailed calculation here


  21. CO2 or CO2e? - For simplicity we have used units of CO2.  This should more properly be CO2e . Emissions are often a cocktail of several gases including CO2 and methane, each with a different Global Warming Potential.  CO2e  is the equivalent amount of CO2 that would have the same warming potential.




    Hasn’t the UK done enough; emissions down by 43% since 1990?

    It sounds good, but most of this has been achieved by changing from coal to gas-fired power stations to comply with EU regulations, and the success of the Feed in Tariff in encouraging solar and wind power.

    Greta Thunberg pointed to research by Manchester University’s Tyndall Centre; the big omission our official stats, is that international air travel, and emissions by sea freight generated by our imports, are not included. details

    Adding those emissions reduces our savings to only about 10% over 27 years, or 0.4% reduction per year. So there is still work to be done. Source.

    Our stats have also been reduced by the trend towards importing manufactured goods (inc. £44bn from China alone in 2018) – which has the ‘advantage’ that the manufacturing emissions are attributed to another country.

    If we took 'ownership' of the emissions from the manufacture of items we import (the so-called 'embedded emissions') then our figure would almost double.

    Who exports the most of its emissions?



    Isn’t this a problem that only China and the USA need to work at?

    Well, if you look at emissions by country, yes.


    But if you look at emissions per head, the Chinese are only 10% worse than UK citizens, and the worst performers are Canada, USA, Australia (!), and Saudi Arabia.



    Germany scores highly because of its use of lignite as a fuel, and from turning away from nuclear power after Fukushima.


    Feedback: Happy to hear of any errors or omissions in the above.

Email: admin@maccinfo.com

If you are also interested in plastic pollution see www.NotJustOnce.org

This page is privately edited and published by Colin Townend.