Every journey begins with a single step...
Per person emissions: According to government data from 2017, each person in the UK is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions of 12 tonnes CO2 per year. This includes emissions related to household energy use, private and public transport, food consumption and waste. However, it does not take into account emissions caused by international flights.
Housing: The energy used in our homes accounts for around 2 tonnes of GHG emissions per person each year. This is mainly due to heating, hot water, lighting and refrigeration. Reducing our home’s energy consumption by insulation and reducing draughts in winter is the first step to reducing emissions. Then, using energy efficient appliances such as LED lighting and A++ rated fridges also have a big impact. Finally, a modern well-controlled condensing gas boiler or air source heat pump can reduce the amount of heating fuel used. to keep our homes warm.
Electricity generation: Low-carbon energy generation (such as rooftop solar PV) could save over 0.5 tonnes of CO2 per person each year for the average home. Further afield, larger installations of solar arrays or wind turbines can reduce the carbon intensity of the power consumed from the grid. Over the past decade, the increase in renewable energy generation, and the elimination of coal-fired power stations has reduced GB grid carbon emissions by over 50%.
Transport: An electric vehicle can save around 1.5 tonnes CO2 per person each year compared to a petrol or diesel equivalent. In tandem, expanding our local network of cycleways will reduce the need to use cars in the first place, especially for local trips. A key challenge is air travel – a medium-haul holiday flight to southern Europe can emit 0.5 tonnes of CO2 per person. While ‘offsetting’ our aviation emissions is probably better than doing nothing, either more sustainable forms of air transport are needed, or a reduction in our air miles.
Food: The average UK diet causes up to 3 tonnes of CO2e per person each year. Reducing our meat consumption can decrease food-related GHG emissions by 35% (around 1 tonne per person). Changing from GHG-intensive meats (such as beef or lamb) to less intensive meats can reduce our emissions by around 20%. Cutting out all avoidable food waste can reduce our emissions by 12%, while avoiding hot-housed food or food air-freighted to the UK can reduce emissions by another 5%.
Waste: By reducing and sorting waste, our emissions could fall by 0.25 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Habitat: Each hectare of mature woodland can absorb up to 5 tonnes of CO2 per year, as well as providing valuable habitat for wildlife and positively impacting biodiversity.
Climate Positive: Eventually, our combined actions could go beyond achieving net zero carbon emissions to actually create an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is called ‘net negative or ‘climate positive’. As a community, this could be achieved by generating more energy than we consume, by increasing local woodland carbon sequestration, and making more sustainable food and travel choices.
Consumer goods: A large proportion of our carbon footprint is the result of manufacturing and transporting the goods we import into the UK from abroad – around 5 tonnes CO2 per person each year according to the ONS. Over the past 20 years, this has doubled – the result of the shift of the UK’s economy away from manufacturing to services, and increased imports from carbon intensive countries such as China.