Liam Flanagan, Research Postgraduate on the Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet DTP (SSCP DTP), lists his top 8 ways to cut your carbon footprint.
These are just the sorts of questions that make up the carbon footprint game ‘How Bad are Bananas?’*, which is based upon the eponymous book by Prof. Mike Berners-Lee. Students on the SSCP DTP adapted the game into ‘The Carbon Calculator’ as part of the Challenge Team training component, which promotes working across disciplines and outreach. The game was designed to kick-start conversations about climate change and encourage participants to consider how much different lifestyle choices can contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
The game proved popular at Imperial Festival earlier this year, with some answers that surprised festival-goers – did you know that locally brewed cask ale has a lower carbon footprint than bottled beer? Encouragingly, many participants were keen to know more about how to cut their carbon footprint and impact on global warming. So, as requested, here are some simple steps you can take:
- Think carefully about your A to B
Transport now accounts for 26 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions – but changes to your daily routine could make a big difference to your personal carbon footprint. Try to walk or cycle anywhere within a two-mile radius of your house – it will keep you fit as well as cutting your carbon footprint! For longer journeys, use public transport, or team up with friends to ‘carpool’. If you do have to drive, make sure the tyres are fully pumped, and that the oxygen sensors are in good order; this can improve the cars fuel mileage and efficiency by up to 3% and 40% respectively.
- Reduce your meat and dairy consumption
Meat and dairy have an enormous environmental footprint – avoiding such products is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the planet. A recent analysis showed that beef results in up to 105kg of greenhouse gases per 100g of meat, while tofu produces less than 3.5kg per 100g. And, reducing your meat and dairy consumption is not just good for your carbon footprint – eating green has a myriad of health benefits too.
- Go local
Buy locally-produced, seasonal food and drink. The produce will travel far less ‘food miles’ before arriving at your plate, therefore cutting your carbon footprint – and it will be fresher. More tips on how to make sustainable food choices here.
- Take control of your energy consumption
It’s all too easy to forget to turn the lights off, or habitually leave the air conditioning on when you go out – but now, we have technology to counter our absent-mindedness. Smart meters give you instant control of your energy use from a smart phone, so you can make sure you only use what you need – reducing your carbon footprint and saving money at the same time!
- Support clean energy
Consider changing your energy supplier – there are now numerous companies that use clean, renewable energy sources and are similar in price to traditional suppliers.
- Quit wasting water
You may not think your use of water would impact your carbon footprint, but energy is required whenever water is moved uphill, treated, heated, cooled or pressurised. The Energy Trust developed a Water Energy Calculator that estimates, per household, the quantity of water and energy used, and the amount of carbon emitted, and provides recommendations of simple steps you can take to clean up your act.
- Reuse and recycle
Manufacturing has a hefty carbon footprint – the extraction, refinement and processing of raw materials all requires a lot of energy, and impacts hugely on our environment. Avoid throw-away products; for example, by swapping disposable coffee cups and plastic containers for reusable alternatives, like Keepups and Tupperware; be careful about how you get rid of things you no longer need; for example, some shops offer in-store recycling, while certain brands are trialing a ’refurbished garments’ service.
- Before you book a flight, consider the alternatives
Many people are aware that flying has a high impact when it comes to carbon emissions. Although air travel can sometimes be unavoidable, in many cases there are other options. When travelling around the United Kingdom and Europe, make the most of the railways. Compared with the queues, delays and stress of a short haul flight, train travel can be a relaxing, civilised alternative. Or, for a more economical option, travel by bus.
At Imperial Festival, lots of ‘Carbon Calculator’ participants said they would be prepared to make changes to their lifestyle to cut their carbon footprint – some motivated by a desire to reduce their impact on the environment, others by economic or health-based reasons, like saving money or losing weight.
It goes to show that cutting your carbon footprint is not only good for the environment, but has multiple benefits that will improve your lifestyle and help make the world a better place. It’s a win-win-win!
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* The ‘How Bad are Bananas?’ game was originally developed by Anja Fischenich (formerly of LSBU) and is now marketed and sold in the UK by Future We Want.