The phenomenon of global warming, or climate change, has long been attributed to the growth in man made carbon dioxide emissions.
If we continue to release the current levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the consequences for our planet will be severe, according to the experts. As consumers, we all share a moral obligation to do what we can to reduce our own carbon footprint to help minimise our individual impact on the environment.
What can you do to help?
Making a few small changes to the way we go about our daily lives could make a big difference to the production of carbon dioxide we are individually responsible for. Of course, whether we are aware of it or not, almost every aspect of modern living can be linked in some way to the production of carbon dioxide emissions, so there are plenty of things we can all do to make a difference.
You may only take on one or two of our recommendations or you may decide to introduce all of the changes we suggest. Either way, it all adds up and, although you may not see the results firsthand, rest assured that you will be contributing to a positive impact on the environment. Don't forget, too, that being 'green' can also translate into cost savings, so there is another incentive to make a change.
What changes can you make around your home?
Your home is the best place to start, as it presents some of the easiest opportunities to reduce your carbon footprint.
Your household appliances
Think carefully about how you use your appliances and electrical equipment. There are plenty of ways to reduce energy wastage simply by being more aware and conscientious. Such initiatives could include:
- Switching off audio and TV equipment rather than leaving them on standby
- Turning down your central heating by a couple of degrees and using the timer efficiently (it's a waste to be heating a house after everyone has left for the day)
- Maximising the load in your dishwasher or washing machine (wait until you have a full load before turning it on and save water, electricity and soap)
- Unplugging chargers for portable games consoles, mobile phones and any other electrical equipment after they have charged
- Defrosting your fridge-freezer regularly to improve their efficiency
- Only boiling as much water as is necessary in your kettle (don't boil a full kettle for just one cup of tea or coffee)
- Avoiding using a tumble dryer (hang washing over radiators or outside instead)
- Fitting energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the home
- Turning off the lights every time you leave a room
- Buying only the highest efficiency-rated appliances (washing machines, dishwashers, etc.)
Minimising heat wastage
Look at what you can do to minimise heat wastage in your home. Although our recommendations are a little more expensive to administer in the short term, the changes will translate into long term cost savings as well as minimising the impact on the environment. These could include:
- Getting double glazing fitted throughout the property and making sure all draughts around the windows are adequately sealed
- Making sure you have the most energy-efficient boiler and heating system in your home
- Turning off radiators in rooms or areas that are not being used
- Incorporating effective insulation in the loft, around the water tank and in wall cavities to prevent up to 35 per cent of the heat produced in your home escaping the property
What about travelling?
How you decide to travel short and long distances can make up a significant proportion of your carbon footprint. You should think carefully about how you make certain journeys and work out the most environmentally-efficient way to travel. Ask yourself:
- Do you really need to use your car?
- Can you walk or cycle?
- Could you use public transport instead?
- If you must use a car to get to work, can you organise a car share scheme?
- Avoiding taking the plane for long domestic, or short-haul overseas journeys (take the ferry, a coach, or the train if you can)
- Trying to avoid regular long-haul flights, as these tend to be one of the worst offenders for carbon emissions
- Using technology such as video conferencing as an alternative to travelling long-haul on business
- Using the national rail network as an alternative to driving across Britain
What else can you do to make a difference?
The products or goods that you buy can also indirectly influence your carbon footprint. Be aware of what you are buying, how your purchases might have been produced and the potential impact they might have on the environment.
- Avoid buying fruit or vegetables that are out of season (they may well have been flown in from abroad)
- Try growing your own fruit and vegetables or purchase locally produced farmed goods (you'll know that they have not travelled across the UK to get to your supermarket)
- Avoid buying bottled water if the local water is perfectly safe to drink (the bottled water may have come from a long way away, or even abroad)
- Try not to buy over-packaged goods (use your judgement and buy an alternative if necessary).
- Recycle as much of your household waste as possible (read our Guide to recycling waste for more advice and tips)
- Re-use anything that makes sense, such as plastic bags, and avoid buying disposable versions of products, such as razors
- Ask your energy supplier to switch you to one of its green energy tariffs (it is one of the easiest and quickest ways to reduce your carbon footprint)
Calculate your carbon footprint
Find out how much you contribute to climate change by calculating your carbon footprint right now. Write down your score and keep it safe. Then, implement some of the recommendations we have suggested and go back and take the test again. See how much of a difference you can make with just a few simple changes to the way you live your life, and help preserve the environment for many more generations to enjoy.
You can also watch a short film produced by the government on how energy use in your home produces carbon dioxide and how you can help reduce those emissions. Watch the 'my CO2 film' now.
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