The word from the bird.

10 ways to reduce your carbon footprint

6th October 214 mins
By George

With climate change becoming an increasingly pressing issue, it is vital that we all play our own part in the fight against global warming. Although a lot of the responsibility falls on governments and corporations, we can all make an impact by reducing our individual carbon footprints.

Your carbon footprint is the quantity of greenhouse gases that are emitted through the consumption and production of goods as a result of your activities. It might seem trivial, but the lifestyle decisions you make in relation to what you eat, how you travel and what you buy, all affect your personal carbon footprint.

Below is a list of positive changes you can make in your life that will reduce your carbon footprint and help save the planet.

1. Consume less meat

The production of meat and dairy products accounts for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing your meat intake, or cutting it out altogether, can help lower your carbon footprint. Research by the University of Michigan shows that a household switching to one vegetarian meal a week will save the equivalent of over 1,000 miles of driving in greenhouse gas emissions. Thankfully, there is now a vast range of tasty meat-free alternatives that can provide the same nutritional benefits as animal meat.

2. Buy local produce

Food that has had to travel across the world to reach a supermarket shelf accounts for a much higher amount of carbon emissions than locally sourced fruit and veg. For example, the Evening Standard reported that a small pack of two avocados has an emissions footprint of 846.36g CO2, equivalent to the average emissions of driving 7km in a petrol fueled car. By eating local, seasonal produce, which can usually be found in farm shops or similar outlets, you can help reduce the environmental costs associated with your food. 

3. Avoid single-use plastics

The majority of plastic packaging is not biodegradable, therefore the economic cost of recycling it is immense and is very bad for the environment. Additionally, less than 10% is recovered, with 50% going into landfill, and much of the rest ending up in the ocean. When possible, it is important to purchase goods that are packaged in recyclable materials. You can also use zero waste shops where you can refill your washing up liquid, detergent and other household necessities.

4. Take good care of your clothes

The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Therefore, the less clothing you buy, the less you contribute to those emissions. If you do need something new, why not buy second hand and give some clothes another lease of life?

5. Walk and cycle

Another major contributor to harmful carbon emissions are cars, trains and planes. According to Dr. Christian Brand from the University of Oxford, cycling or walking one trip per day instead of driving can reduce your carbon footprint by about 500kg over the course of a year. So if you can, walk and cycle your shorter journeys.

6. Use public transport

For longer journeys where walking or cycling is not possible, it is more environmentally friendly to use public transport than to travel in your own vehicle; the emissions produced by twenty people on one bus is far less than twenty people in twenty separate cars. Per APTA, by eliminating one car and taking public transportation instead of driving, up to 30% of carbon dioxide emissions can be saved.

7. Turn your heating down by 1°

The amount of energy you use in your home plays a major factor in the size of your carbon footprint. Simply turning down your heating by a single degree can help reduce your energy usage dramatically. And of course, make sure to turn off any lights when you leave a room. 

8. Take shorter showers

A shorter shower not only saves water, but also saves on the energy used to heat that water. Over the course of a six minute shower, roughly 1.6kWh of energy. If you want to be even more eco-friendly, try taking cold showers as well as reducing the length.

9. Stop overcharging your phone

If you charge your phone for longer than required - overnight for example - it uses up unnecessary amounts of energy. Not to mention, overcharging can negatively impact your phone’s battery life. Charge your phone during the day when you can monitor when the battery is full, and unplug it when it is ready.

10. Recycle your waste

At landfills, decomposing waste releases large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The process of recycling is much more environmentally friendly, so it is important to recycle your household waste correctly. If you don't know how to do this, information can usually be found on your local borough council’s website or check out these recycling apps.

You can also support charities that help combat climate change, as well as any other causes that matter to you, through the Toucan app today. Create a portfolio of up to three charities and split a monthly donation between them. Download today and make an impact.