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20 things to do to cut your carbon footprint

This week EU scientists have published their report concluding that the world’s poorest are set for yet more suffering.  Take action today and don’t believe the lie that small changes will not make differences – it just needs more people to make these changes! 

It seems we cannot yet rely on powerful individuals to make tough choices but we can be responsible for our own carbon emissions and contribution to improving things.  Here's 20 things which can reduce your carbon footprint by over 2 tonnes over the course of a year.  Just choose a few to start with.

1.  Buy as much organic and unprocessed food as you can
Intensive meat farming is bad for the environment, so try to eat a bit less meat – non-free range pork and non-free range chicken generate more CO2 emissions due the nature of their feed than lamb and beef. Chemical additives, herbicides and pesticides on non-organic vegetables also require energy and resources to make.  Greener alternatives are organic and unprocessed foods.

2.  Buy locally sourced food
Buying locally means less energy is required to drive your products to the market. Try to get your food home with the fewest food miles and buy seasonally locally produced food first. 

3. Practice the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle
Cut down on buying “things” – if one pair of shoes does the job, have one pair!  Production of recycled products causes less CO2 emissions than making the same products from virgin materials.  CO2 reduction = Approx 400 kg a year. 

4. Buy better bulbs for your most used lights
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) require only 25% of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs.  Just one light bulb change in the USA would equal removing over a million cars off the road for a whole year. Target the higher wattage bulbs which get lots of use.   CO2 reduction = 225 kg/year per bulb

5. Green up appliances
Fill all washing appliances before use and use cooler settings.   Use the fresh air to dry clothes when possible.  Keep up-to-date appliances with top A++ ratings as old appliances waste a lot of energy – a fridge and freezer are particularly important to have good energy ratings.  If you have two fridges or freezers, go back to one (a single, separate compartment fridge/freezer is the greenest option).  Getting rid of one fridge or freezer could cut 10% off your energy use.

6. Unplug
Many electronic devices continue to draw power even when they’re turned off or fully charged. Cordless phones, cell phones, power tools and digital cameras are some of the major culprits. TVs, cable boxes and computer monitors also waste energy. Plug these devices into a power strip and turn the strip off when the devices are not in use (the strip doesn’t draw power). Switching off a computer extends its lifetime, contrary to some misconceptions. Turning off all computer equipment at the plug will cut 200 kWh/y or more.  Keep in mind that the cost of wasted standby energy over a model's lifetime can be higher than the cost of buying it!   In the 15 countries of the EU in 2000, the total energy lost to standby in households was estimated at 94 billion kWh, or the equivalent of 12 large nuclear or coal power plants running for a year.

7. Heat your home not the sky
Ask your energy provider for a free home energy audit.  Don’t overheat or overcool room. Moving the thermostat down 2° in winter and up 2° in summer can save about 150 kg of CO2 a year.  Double glazing, good loft insulation and using draft excluders (saves approx 450 kg of CO2 a year) around doors and windows, will save even more energy.  In summer, use reflective blinds and plant trees for shade.  Insulate your home, service boiler, and install energy-efficient shower heads. CO2 reduction = 1127 kg/year

8. Heating your water
Keep your water-heater thermostat no higher than 120°F (227 kg of CO2 saving every 10°F Wrap tank in an insulating jacket will save energy (450 kg saving). 

9. Take a quick shower
Showers account for two-thirds of all household water-heating costs. Cut down your shower time and add low flow shower heads

10. Choose clean power
Contact your utility company to sign up for green power! More than half the electricity in the UK comes from polluting coal-fired power plants. Power plants are the single largest source of heat-trapping gas. You can switch to electricity companies that provide 50 to 100 percent renewable energy. Visit as an example of Green Energy provider.  Currently they are running a great Green Britain campaign which we have used as as a symbol on our site, with their permission.  

11. Stop guzzling
The sad truth is that your car could emit as much CO2 as your entire house.  The best option is if you have money to invest in cutting your carbon footprint to buy a more fuel efficient car.   Each gallon of fuel you use releases 11 kg of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.  Switching from a car that gets 20 miles per gallon to one that gets 30 miles per gallon will cut about two tons of carbon dioxide a year. A new hybrid gasoline or electric vehicle gets 50-70 mpg.   At 70mph you could be using up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15% more fuel than at 50mph.  Avoid revving and changing gear too late.  CO2 reduction = 2550 kg/year for buying a fuel efficient car

12. Keep your car serviced
Keep the tyres on your car adequately inflated means you’ll burn less fuel (check the air pressure monthly). Changing air filters and oil regularly also saves fuel.

13. Do less miles
Think ahead when using the car. Combine trips so that you are not using your car for single-purpose trips.  Leave your car at home at least one or two days every week (walk, bike, take a bus/tube/train or car share on other days).  Not using car two days a week CO2 reduction = 722 kg/year

14. Lighten up
Are you driving around with a boot full of booty? An extra 45 kg in your vehicle reduces fuel economy by up to 2%. When travelling, put luggage inside rather than on the roof to minimise drag and increase mpg.  We went on holiday with bikes on the back of our car and found fuel efficiency to drop dramatically.  We made sure we only took them next time if we were sure to get lots of use from them or we hired them.

15. Don’t sit idly
Idling wastes gas. Turn off your car when you’re simply sitting in it.

16. Keep your cool in the car
Using air-conditioning in stop-and-go traffic can decrease your fuel efficiency by as much as 12%, so consider opening the windows in those circumstances. At high speeds, however, driving with the windows open increases drag and can decrease fuel efficiency so use air conditioning instead.

17. Offset your carbon footprint
First, use a “carbon footprint” calculator to find out your individual annual carbon dioxide emissions (the average British person is responsible for approximately 3 to 10 tons). Then, purchase carbon offsets to balance your emissions. Offsets are available from non-profit groups and companies but try to go beyond tree planting as there is lots of scepticism that tree planting alone is not significant enough to get us out of trouble.   You can channel your money to clean-energy projects such as wind, solar and methane capture, planting trees and other energy-saving initiatives.

18. Campaign
Demand that your elected representatives implement programs that combat global warming. 

19. Keep your feet on the ground
Avoid flights – especially short haul.  Holiday in the UK and use video conferencing instead.  If you must fly offset your emissions. 

20. Educate others
Talk to others about changes they can make and carbon impacts.  Cut this out and give it to one friend.

See also:  A greener house flash from the Guardian.  10 steps to go green at work

Sources from various places off the internet including The Guardian, The Independent, Carbon Neutral, Climate,,, Green Peace and Friends of the Earth.

If you want to reproduce this information on your own site, please let us know and credit our website as your source providing a link.  Thanks.

Copyright: The Local Food Company March 2007


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