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10 Ways to reduce your Carbon Footprint

A recent UNEP report estimates that our economies need to reduce our global emissions by 4.2 per cent per year between 2020 to 2030 if we are to limit global warming by 1.5 Celsius, and 2.7 per cent per year to limit the temperature increase by 2 degrees Celsius.

This reduction is certainly not an easy task considering we live in a world with a forecasted increase in global population, and an economic system that relies on ever-growing GDP to stay ‘’afloat’’. This means that we could be reducing our emissions per GDP, or even per capita, but still increase our global emissions overall due to our growth.

As always, the choice to do something about it is in our hands. We can choose to do nothing and hope that someone else will, or we can take responsibility for our share of global carbon emissions and reduce it within our own limits. In this blog, we explore a few ways in which everyone can reduce their carbon footprint and become a climate champion by contributing to solving the biggest threat facing humanity.

1. Calculate your footprint

The first step towards minimizing our carbon footprint is to measure it. While some people take the average carbon footprint per capita as a proxy, you can use our easy and user-friendly calculator to quickly estimate yours.

2. Change your power provider

Power generation is one of the most polluting activities in our economy, and while the energy systems of some areas of the world like Europe and the US are getting cleaner through investment in renewable technologies, and by implementing market-based mechanisms that make polluters pay, the shift towards a cleaner energy mix must happen more rapidly if we are to reduce dangerous global warming.

By switching energy providers to those who offer a supply of renewable or green electricity, our individual energy bill will be helping shift the energy system at a faster pace.

3. Reduce your energy consumption

The average per capita household emissions in Europe account for 23% of our total carbon footprint. This means that our behaviour at home and the energy efficiency of our appliances can have a big impact on our final footprint numbers.

For example, with simple changes like replacing light bulbs with low consumption LED alternatives, decreasing our thermostat by a couple of degrees Celsius, or unplugging unused electronics to minimise standby energy consumption we can make big differences in our energy bill.

Despite costing a lot up front, improving the insulation properties of your household by using double or triple glazed windows and well-insulated doors can also save energy and reduce your carbon footprint.

4. Avoid unnecessary travel

In 2017, the transport sector accounted for 27% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union, an increase of 2.2% compared with 2016.

To put it into context if we are to achieve the EU 2030 targets of 55% reduction of emissions from transportation compared with 1990, we will need to reduce the sector’s emission by two thirds. This can only happen if our means of transportation become more sustainable and efficient in the coming years, but also, by reducing the amount we, and our freight, travel.

For instance if your commute to work can be done by public transport or cleaner means of transportation such as a bicycle or electric/hybrid scooter or car, consider swapping. The frequency we fly has increased exponentially in the last two decades, adding a huge amount of GHG to the atmosphere at an altitude difficult to be cleaned and stored by the natural mechanisms of our planet (rain, vegetation). So, until flying becomes more sustainable we should aim to reduce the amount we fly, and when we do fly, it is important to try and choose greener airlines with newer fleets and offset the emissions of our flights.

5. Minimise consumption of goods

Everything we buy has a carbon footprint embedded in it, which unfortunately in most cases has not yet been calculated. However, by buying less unnecessary stuff, by choosing used items, and by purchasing our goods from companies that are more environmentally friendly we can make sure we reduce our carbon footprint.

6. Recycle and minimise waste

Our economies need to reduce waste and reuse materials to become more in tune with our natural world. Buying goods and products that contain recycled or recyclable materials and then sorting them out at disposal in their respective containers will preserve resources, save emissions and create further value in our economies.

7. Change your diet

Not all foods and diets have the same environmental impacts. Food production accounts for roughly 30 percent of all greenhouse gasses produced by humans including methane and nitrous oxide (a GHG 296 times more potent than CO2) as a by-product of fertilizer mainly used for animal agriculture. At the same time, the intake of high resource-intensive products such as beef is increasing at a faster rate as the GDP per capita of poorer countries grows.

By shifting our diet to a more plant-based one, let us say by cutting beef and dairy from our menus, we can reduce as much as 80% of our diet’s carbon footprint a year as well as from saving millions of animal lives and thousands of litres of water / tons of grain.

Buying locally sourced and seasonal food products would also reduce the impact of our shopping baskets considerably.

8. Mind your political choices

Since many of the changes required to manage the current climate crisis need to happen at a political level, it is key that we all become aware of the political green agendas at different levels to be able to choose those with more environmentally friendly measures or to demand from our governments more ambitious and stronger responses if they do not do enough.

9. Use your awareness to impact others

Spread your awareness and knowledge about climate change and our environmental emergency. Encourage and support others to act because in the end the balance of life on earth as we know it depends directly on the actions we take.

10. Compensate for your emissions

Once you have calculated your carbon footprint and taken the necessary steps in your hand to make reductions, you can become totally carbon neutral, or even climate positive, by supporting emissions reductions projects and purchasing high quality carbon offsets to compensate for your unavoidable emissions.

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