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June 2020

Measuring our Family Footprint, by Olivia Rowley

By Footprint, Uncategorized

Last February we were learning about climate change as part of my GCSE geography course. For homework, we had to calculate our family’s environmental footprint using the WWF calculator ( So, one evening, we sat around the dining table and went through the step-by-step process of measuring our footprint for the previous year (2019). This was very interesting, as I hadn’t realised the whole range of things that contribute to how we impact on the environment.

First of all, we found out that a significant part of our family’s impact comes from the food we eat at home and at school or work. It turns out that the ‘air miles’ in imported food, the process of meat production, and wasted food all cause lots of greenhouse gas to be emitted.

Next came travel, which for us included a trip to Australia for a family wedding, as well as a holiday in Italy. When these air miles were added to our bus and car travel, our travel impact was huge – over 50% of our total footprint in fact!

How we use energy at home came next. We have solar panels on our roof  which helps reduce our greenhouse gas emissions quite a bit. It turns out that most of our energy impact comes from our gas boiler which heats our water and keeps the house warm in winter.

Then we looked at the stuff we consume, like household goods, phones and internet usage. Most ‘stuff’ is produced in factories around the world and shipped to the UK, which adds up to a big impact, although we do try and recycle as much stuff as possible.

So what were our results? Well, during 2019 we didn’t do very well I’m afraid. Our emissions came out to be over 15 tonnes per person – a whopping 60 tonnes for our family! This compares to an average of around 12 tonnes per person in the UK. So, we’ve set a target for 2020 of reducing our family’s environmental footprint to 10 tonnes per person. This will be quite a challenge, but I think that the effect of the Covid-19 lockdown, and the fact that we now know how to reduce our footprint step-by-step means that our target should be achievable. I will report back in a future issue of Roundabout to let you know!

Olivia Rowley