Easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint
From cutting down on meat to brushing with a bamboo toothbrush and investing in clean energy, here are some ideas to help reduce global carbon emissions.
Pick one thing, or pick several. But please commit to changing today, so that we can all do our bit to slow down the climate crisis.
Things you can do at home
Brush with bamboo
The first plastic toothbrush was made in the 1930s. Since it takes 400 years for them to decompose, nearly every single toothbrush made since then is still out there. So think about that for a minute while you’re getting ready for work. Bamboo handles take around six months to compost.
Reduce shower time
The average shower in the UK lasts eight minutes and uses around 60 litres of water, according to The Green Age. A water-saving shower head restricts the volume of water, so it's an easy swap to make, or simply try to stay a shorter time in the shower!
Off means off
Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. And don’t forget to turn off lights when you leave a room.
Poorly insulated housing requires large quantities of energy to heat. If you have properly insulated the loft and filled the cavity wall, the most important action you can take is to draught-proof the house, something you can do yourself. Those with solid brick or stone walls will also benefit from adding insulation, but the financial benefits are unlikely to cover the cost of doing the work, over time.
Wash clothes at a lower temperature
We’ve all heard the wash at 30 mantra, but did you know that a lower-temperature wash is less likely to shake out plastic fibers? Also think about whether something really needs to be washed.
Switch off standby
The Energy Savings Trust estimates that up to £80 a year is wasted in the average home because of appliances left on standby. That's a lot of electricity (and money) wasted.
Turn off the tap
Next time you’re brushing your teeth or shaving, switching off the tap could save up to 200 gallons of water a month.
Fill up the dishwasher
By filling up the dishwasher completely each time, you'll actually use less water than you would doing the dishes by hand, according to Friends of the Earth.
Use your tumble dryer less
Line-drying isn’t possible all year round but one dryer is thought to emit more than a tonne of carbon dioxide a year so switch to a clothes rack or washing line when you can.
Green energy can save you money but and sends a message to your supplier that you want to avoid electricity generated from fossil fuels.
If you can afford it, invest in those solar panels you’ve been mulling over. It’s a green renewable energy and doesn't release any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants.
Change some of your shopping habits
Eat less meat
There’s loads of tasty vegan or vegetarian food. So even if it’s just a day or two a week, try to eat more plant-based food. To put it into perspective, it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat, while 25 gallons of water is needed for one pound of wheat, PETA say.
Even if it’s one day a week, try to go dairy-free. In an Oxford University study, boffins found that "avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth."
Replace single-use items
Those baby wipes, razors, tampons and nappies, for example, all have reusable alternatives. So start using them. The average household in the UK produces more than a tonne of waste every year.
Research suggests that the UK may already use as many as five billion coffee cups per year. That’s a lot of cups. So while you may assume coffee cups are recyclable, most single-use ones contain a thin plastic lining. Lots of places now offer discounts to customers who use their own coffee cups too.
Supermarket produce can travel hundreds of miles to get to you, so start buying local where you can.
Bring your bags
And stop using plastic bags for loose fruit, vegetables and bakery items, too.
Don’t buy into fast fashion
Clothes are inexpensive these days, leading to people buying far more than they need to. If you want to buy new, consider buying fewer items that are better made so they last longer, and choose natural materials when you can.
Try to avoid palm oil
Palm oil is found in many everyday products but it is a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most bio-diverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino, according to WWF. You could try the new app called Giki that will let you scan products in the supermarket and tell you how sustainable, healthy and ethical are by giving them a score.
Use natural cleaning products
Most cleaning products come in disposable bottles and some chemicals can be harmful to you as well as the environment, so switch to eco-friendly alternatives.
Ditch disposable cutlery
Instead use a compact, portable cutlery set.
Not your cup of tea
Switch to biodegradable teabags. Or even better, loose tea. If you love a cuppa, think of how many teabags you go through - and bear in mind some teabags contain a up to 25% of plastic.
If you use batteries regularly, invest in rechargeables.
Use shampoo and soap bars
It will reduce your plastic waste.
Reduce your food waste
Be more mindful of what you are buying and throwing away. Buy less if you don’t need it, freeze food for later and compost what you don’t use.
Buy in bulk
Less packaging is better for the environment. Or go one better and start using a zero-waste supermarket.
Lace up those boots for shorter journeys and take public transport or cycle when you can. Taking your car off the road for one day a week can really make a difference. Cars are said to account for 60.7 per cent of total CO2 emissions from road transport in Europe.
Share the journey
If working from home or using public transport is not an option for you, join a car share scheme to help combat congestion and cut CO2 emissions.
Get on your bike
You’ll be exercising, getting out and doing your bit for the planet. If there was a dramatic, worldwide increase in cycling, it could cut CO2 emissions from urban passenger transport by nearly 11 per cent in 2050, according to Cycling UK.
Reduce air travel
Swap this year’s holiday abroad for something in the UK, and you could even travel by train to make it that much more eco-friendly. The Air Transport Action Group was flights worldwide produced 895 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018.
Cancel paper bank statements
Do they usually just head straight to the shredder? It's time to go paperless.
Speak to your MP
And ask them to champion climate change policies. The 2019 snap general election was the greenest ever in terms of political promises, but the momentum needs to continue.