7 ways to reduce your carbon footprint
Today, there are a growing number of pleas to pay attention to climate change, and we often hear about how important it is to do our part by reducing our carbon footprint. But what exactly does this mean? The phrase 'carbon footprint' refers to the amount of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO₂) released from the atmosphere through our daily activities over a given period.
CO₂ is essential for sustaining life. Without it, the average surface temperature of the Earth would be an estimated -18 degrees Celsius. However, since the Industrial Revolution, our consumption of fossil fuels has led to a rapid increase in CO₂ emissions, causing our planet to warm to unsustainable levels. Global warming and a fast-changing climate are already causing extreme weather events, rising sea levels and disrupted water and crop systems - making it vital that we reduce our individual carbon footprint. Little things can make a huge difference, so we have suggested 7 ways in which you can reduce your day-to-day carbon emissions.
1. Ditch the driving
In 2018, figures recorded for Belfast revealed that drivers lost 190 hours to congestion, an amount costing drivers £1,400 annually. Not only is this costing drivers time and money, but it is also increasing air pollution which contributes to over 550 deaths due to respiratory conditions every year across Northern Ireland. We can reduce our carbon footprint by simply driving less. Availing of public transport, walking and even cycling are all great ways of lowering emissions, saving fuel and even getting some exercise. Consider using Belfast Bikes, a carbon-friendly way to get around the city which is easily accessed by downloading the 'Nextbike' app. If driving is unavoidable, make sure you plan your journeys to minimise travel and ensure your car is running efficiently - checking your tyres are inflated can improve mileage by over 3% and every gallon saved can keep up to 10kgs of CO₂ out of the atmosphere.
2. Reduce and Reuse
The latest statistics from Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have recorded that NI’s recycling rate has increased by 3.7% in 2018. Recycling is excellent for conserving space in the landfill and preserving our natural resources. However, there is plenty of room for improvement. By reducing our consumption and reusing what we consume, we can focus on not creating waste in the first place. Try avoiding purchasing single-use products such as; coffee cups, plastic bottles and bags, by replacing them with reusable mugs, bottles and cloth bags. These little swaps and changes can make a huge difference in reducing our carbon footprint.
3. Use Water Wisely
According to Northern Ireland Water, one bath can use over 80 litres of water, washing machines use on average 60 litres per cycle, and a dripping tap can waste up to 30 litres of water every day. Treating and pumping water uses a huge amount of energy, therefore we all have a role to play in ensuring that we are using water sustainably. Fixing leaking taps, taking showers instead of baths, even just waiting until the washing machine is full, are all small changes we can make to use less water. Check out more of NI Water's tips on how to become more efficient with your water usage in both your homes and businesses.
4. Green Energy
According to the Department for the Economy (DfE), more than a third (38.2%) of Northern Ireland's total electricity consumption in 2018 was generated from renewable sources. A positive figure, but the need to reduce and further eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels is crucial. Installing renewable energy, such as solar photovoltaics (PV) or biomass for your home and/or business is one of the most effective ways of lowering your carbon footprint. If your own property isn't suitable, ask your electricity supplier if you can change to a renewable tariff.
5. Switch Off
Northern Ireland's latest Carbon Intensity Indicators Report 2018 revealed that greenhouse gas emissions per unit of electricity generated has decreased by 22%, some of which can be attributed to improvements in our energy efficiency. We can continue to decrease our electricity consumption by choosing energy-efficient appliances, turning off appliances instead of leaving them on standby and making the switch to modern LED bulbs, which use between 80% - 90% less energy than traditional or halogen lightbulbs. All these changes are huge carbon saving opportunities and will ensure we are conserving our energy for the sustainability of the planet.
6. Reduce your carbon foodprint
Everything we consume, including our food has a carbon footprint. In fact, we produce over 5 billion tonnes of CO₂ from beginning to end of both crop and livestock production. We can mitigate against this by reducing our meat consumption, buying local to cut back on emissions from transportation and even growing our own fruit and vegetables, can all help in reducing our carbon footprint. Calculate your current diet's carbon footprint here.
7. A conversation about conservation
Encouraging family and friends to become more energy efficient is a small, but important step towards reducing the overall impact we have on the planet. Sharing information and knowledge on things like keeping heating on a low, consistent level, checking and replacing insulation when necessary, turning off unused lights and appliances and even sharing the benefits of installing renewable energy such as solar panels are all steps that can help us conserve our energy, save money and overall, reduce our carbon footprint.
Take a look at our blog about carbon foodprint: