You can reduce your carbon footprint by 80% with ease by simply changing a few of your daily habits and adopting a low carbon lifestyle. What’s more many of the steps can be done immediately and will actually save you money. This will either be immediately or over a two to five year period but you will save money.
However, before you can start to lower your carbon footprint you must first realize what it is and how it is calculated.
So let’s start…
What Is The Average Carbon Footprint Per Person Per Year
The typical average carbon footprint per person per year is between 4.8 tonnes to about 12 tonnes. Put simply, a carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions.
This calculation is reached by looking deeply into and evaluating the CO2 and methane cost of every decision and every purchase made by an individual.
However, a quick internet search will show you that this figure can vary greatly from 2.4 tonnes to a massive 49 tonnes per person per year. This is because of the huge amount of variables involved which include location, wealth, and the participation of an individual and government.
Who Are The World’s Largest Emitters Of CO2
The world’s largest CO2 emitters per person are the major oil-producing countries. This is particularly true for those with relatively low population size. In 2017 Qatar had the highest emissions at 49 tonnes per person.
Australia has an average footprint of 17 tonnes, followed by the US at 16.2 tonnes, and Canada at 15.6 tonnes per person.
Taking all this into consideration the global average, in 2017 was 4.8 tonnes per person.
Use the carbon footprint calculator below to work out where on the scale your carbon footprint lies.
Carbon Footprint Calculator
How to Start
Now that you know what your carbon footprint is and how it is calculated you can start to take measures to reduce it. Below are listed some of the easiest, quickest, and cheapest ways to start. Plus, you will find a lot of extra information to help you on your way and the savings that can be made.
Choose just one of these and start doing it now then add more measures over time.
Take Fewer Car Journeys
Leaving your car at home for one day a week can make a real difference to your carbon footprint.
This is because private transport is one of the world’s biggest sources of CO2, and emissions are rising every year. In the US alone, it is estimated that the average vehicle on the road releases the equivalent of 650g of CO2 every kilometer!
If you can live car-free for a year the average saving calculated is about 2.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions!
Walk Or Cycle
I know it sounds obvious but it has to be said. Leaving the car at home and walking or cycling are the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. However, if this or using public transport is not an option for you then think about joining a car share scheme.
Doing this will help combat congestion and cut CO2 emissions whilst also reducing your carbon footprint.
Change To An Electric Car
For those who desperately need a car, consider changing to an electric one. Always check the company website for information about the car’s carbon footprint before making an offer. This is because car parts can be built all over the world and shipped to a central point for assembly.
This creates a massive carbon footprint before the car even reaches the consumer and you don’t want to encourage this practice. However, if the car footprint is low then changing to an electric car will definitely reduce your carbon footprint.
It is calculated that on average changing to an electric car could save about a tonne of CO2 per year.
Now times that by the number of cars on the planet and you can see the savings!
Change Your Electricity Supplier
Your electricity supplier can be putting over 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions onto your carbon footprint. Unfortunately even this is a low estimate and it’s linked to the burning of fossil fuels to create energy.
However, you no longer have to choose an electricity supplier who only uses fossil-fueled power stations. Electricity can now be easily sourced from suppliers who prioritize power generation from 100% renewable sources. An immediate carbon footprint saving.
Suppliers prioritizing power generation from 100% renewable sources are:
- NextEra Energy Resources
- avangrid Renewables
- Cypress Creek Renewables
- Acciona Energia
- EDP Renewables North America
- Pattern Energy
- MidAmerican Energy
- Amigo Energy
This “green energy production” has a lower carbon footprint and the costs are falling due to the increase in customer demand. Plus, as an added incentive, most green energy suppliers will include a monthly email telling you how much CO2 you’ve saved.
The CO2 emissions saved by changing suppliers can be upwards of 1.5 tonnes per person per year.
Again this figure can vary greatly. For instance, in 2015, only 6% of France’s electricity came from fossil fuels, compared to 55% in Germany.
In 2019 63% of American electricity was produced from fossil fuels.
The saving is all CO2 that has not gone into the atmosphere and is directly related to you and the choices that you have made.
Unplug Your Devices
Creating electricity creates a carbon footprint so if you want to lower your footprint, don’t waste electricity.
Did you know that items left on standby can still be consuming up to 85% of the electricity that they would use if left fully on?
Furthermore, in America devices left in standby mode account for between 5% to 10% of residential use. That equates to a lot of money over the year and a needless carbon footprint.
Unplug your devices when not in use or better yet, plug them into a power strip and unplug that instead!
Install A Smart Meter
Smart meters are the first step to creating a culture of smart energy usage as a nation.
These meters are linked directly to the energy company enabling them to see energy usage in real-time. In this way, they can forecast adjustments and plan the outage appropriately.
This means that supply can be matched to demand which will help to reduce CO2 emissions and provide cleaner air. Furthermore, each smart meter home user can have instant access to the power demands of each home appliance.
This information can be used to form wiser more carbon-friendly decisions and purchases plus influence the times of usage. In this way, the fitting of a smart meter can cut costs and reduce the carbon footprint both nationally and individually.
It is estimated that installing a smart meter can cut overall energy usage by about 30%.
Sunlight is probably the most sustainable form of energy production and the newer solar panels are very efficient. Those who know me know that I am not a fan due to the industry being too slow to invest in recycling technologies.
However, if you want to lower your carbon footprint, going solar could be a long time solution.
Plus a very cheap and efficient way to lower your carbon footprint is to invest in outdoor solar lighting. this lighting can be put onto a timer or motion activated for extra security.
Can I get A smart Meter If I Go Solar?
The short answer is yes. Your bills will show both your usage and the energy you have generated yourself. However to simplify things your in-home display will only show how much energy you are buying from your supplier.
Invest In Portable Solar Chargers
Solar chargers are small, portable and can be a great way to charge up your electronics whilst off-grid. Imagine the CO2 cost of producing fresh batteries or charging up at home. Now imagine the environmental and CO” saving by charging up from sunlight.
This is why a solar charger is a modern-day must.
Update And Turn Off Your Lighting
Incandescent light bulbs turn only 10% to 15% of the power supplied to them into light. Furthermore, they burn many hours of electricity when you first power them up. For this reason, it was common for them to be left on as it worked out cheaper than switching them on and off.
Today’s energy-efficient LED light bulbs do not suffer from this fault and they burn only what is supplied to them. They also have the added advantage of lasting about 25 times longer than an incandescent light bulb.
So if you want to lower your carbon footprint and save cash change your lighting to LED lights today.
Changing all of your lighting to LED lighting will reduce your carbon footprint by about half a tonne of CO2 per year.
Are Smart Home Devices Able To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
Some interesting data has come to light to muddy the once clear waters on this subject.
Smart devices, like your mobile phone, or amazon’s echo, can control many of your other smart accessories with a single word.
Amazingly, as they are all linked to your wifi you can even control them from another country!
Your smart thermostats can turn down the heating when you go to bed. Smart lighting can control the lighting balance as you move from room to room. Plus, all of this can be separately adjusted from your tablet, mobile phone, or another smart device.
For this reason, you may think that smart accessories are saving you money and lowering your carbon footprint; however, as with all good things in life, there is a catch.
In order to control all these accessories, smart devices need to be constantly monitoring their surroundings. This means that all the accessories are either switched on or in standby mode, (both of which consume power).
Moreover, as all these accessories and devices are connected by wifi the power drain on the remote servers inevitably increases. This results in each server getting incredibly hot and therefore drawing on extra power to keep it cool.
(Microsoft has even sunk some of their server banks into the cold ocean to draw off the heat).
This extra power generated plus the power needed to keep things in standby mode may then negate any savings made to your carbon footprint.
The jury is out on this one as I have no conclusive data which shows a benefit either way.
The Air Transport Action Group reported that flights worldwide produced 895 million tonnes of CO2 in 2018. Now that’s a lot of CO2!
So why not take a holiday in your own country and travel in a more eco-friendly way.
You will be amazed at what hidden gems you can discover in your own backyard. Plus you can do it at a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the CO2 emissions.
You can even go one step further and take a tent, walk, or bike and use the time to bond with the kids.
On average just skipping one flight could save up to 2.8 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Have Fewer Children
This is a big one and I am not trying to rule anyone’s life but it is worth an honorable mention.
For those who choose to limit family size the saving on CO2 is enormous, even though the figure is erratic.
This is because carbon footprint calculations vary enormously per person depending upon individual circumstances.
However, they still range between 20 to 60 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions per person per year.
Although on this point, most climate change experts agree. Having fewer children will directly influence, and be the largest possible reduction in our carbon footprint.
Change To Bamboo Products
Consider for a moment how much damage is done to the environment in the production and disposal of plastic. Bamboo by comparison is a natural material costing very little to produce and has a very low carbon footprint.
Furthermore, it can replace many plastic items whilst releasing no harmful chemicals into the environment.
Did you know that the average American shower uses up approximately of 15.8 gallons of water over 7.8 minutes?
All this water uses up a lot of resources in supply, delivery, and heating. so if you want to lower your carbon footprint simply reduce your shower time.
Dad’s tip, If you have to wait for your shower to heat up try collecting the cold water in a bucket to water your indoor plants.
Change To A Reusable Shopping Bag
Shopping bags need to be manufactured and most of these are plastic. This not only produces a lot of CO2 but they are incredibly harmful to wildlife.
Do you know that there is plastic in the stomach of every sea turtle as they see them as food?
Simply by using a natural, reusable shopping bag every time you go to the store can save up to 5 kg of CO2 per year.
However, the saving to the environment and wildlife will be priceless.
Eat less Meat & Increase Your Plant-Based Diet
Meat products have a much larger carbon footprint than grain or vegetable products.
This is because of the transformation of plant energy into animal energy. Simply put, its 1,000 calories of energy per sq meter for plants Vs 10,000 calories per sq meter of energy for meat.
Or to put it another way, it takes less land to feed people with plants than it does to feed people with meat.
Unfortunately, our rain forests are being cleared by impoverished local meat farmers to obtain land to graze cattle.
However, if individuals significantly increased their plant consumption we would save 1,000 sq meters of rain forest per person per year.
The carbon footprint of cultivating meat is further increased as methane (a greenhouse gas) is created as a by-product.
It is estimated that in the US alone, cattle, sheep, and goats produce 175 million metric tons in CO2 equivalents in enteric methane!
Enteric methane is one by-product of the digestive process which is expelled by the animal through burping.
This means that just by changing from eating beef to eating chicken for a whole year could lead to a CO2e carbon footprint reduction of 882 pounds.
Those who eat a largely meat-based diet have a carbon footprint of about 3.5 tons per person per year.
Eat Plant-Based Foods Only
Maintaining a diet rich in plant-based foods only can dramatically reduce an individual’s carbon footprint. In addition to all of the points mentioned when cutting down on meat, there are other, less obvious benefits.
Studies show that eating a plant-based diet such as vegan or vegetarian diet, will improve your health.
Eating a strict whole food plant-based diet, with a vitamin B12 supplement, has the potential to improve it further.
It has even been shown to control the spread of various diseases and in some cases reverse their effects. This has been proven with certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and some heart conditions.
Although weight loss is not the primary goal of a plant-based diet, dismissing processed and refined products will help you lose a few pounds.
These health benefits will result in fewer trips to the doctor, fewer medicines consumed, and a drastic saving in water. All of these benefits will ultimately help to reduce your carbon footprint over time.
It is calculated that eating a plant-based diet will have a carbon footprint of about 0.5 tonnes per person per year.
Did you know that it takes more than 2,4000 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat?
In comparison it takes just 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat!
Stop Burning Fossil Fuels
Another obvious one but I do feel obliged to include it.
A real coal fire is very nice to look at but if you don’t accept it from a power company, don’t do it yourself!
Due to consumer pressure, many manufacturers are adding carbon footprint information to the product description.
Look out for and buy these products when purchasing and remember to buy quality, not quantity.
For instance, an Energy Star rated clothes washer can use up to 50% less water and electricity than a standard one. Plus they can wash clothes at a lower temperature thereby lowering your carbon footprint with every wash.
Dads tip, Remember to line dry your clothing as its carbon-free but your dryer isn’t!
Repair, Reuse, Recycle
Every purchase is an addition to your carbon footprint so before you buy consider repair, reuse, recycle.
Repairing an item prevents it from going to landfill plus the digging up and processing of resources to produce a new one.
Reuse or some would say repurposing an item will prevent the materials from being lost to landfill. You can turn an old sock into a dog toy or try turning a standard lamp into a coat hanger.
Whatever the project, it will retain the materials in the world and thereby reduce the carbon footprint required to replace them.
Recycling helps to reduce our carbon footprint by offsetting the costs of obtaining new virgin materials. Therefore, lower processing means lower CO2 emissions.
Recycling paper also reduces deforestation requirements and by consequence the reduction of the world’s natural animal habitats.
Recycling food, glass, metal and other general materials will reduce your carbon footprint by about 0.5 tonnes per person per year.
The fashion industry is a large contributor to the global carbon problem.
Its dyes pollute waterways, the sweatshops ruin economies and the by product waste is incredible. There is also no need for any of it!
We don’t have to change our wardrobe each season and the environmental costs are just too high.
So why shop fashion when you can shop vintage?
Old clothes are durable, can be on-trend, and recycling them for use is carbon-free.
If you still need convincing then think of this. Clothes can take up to 40 years to decompose and shoes can take an incredible 1,000 years or longer!
Just look into the museums for proof.
When products get shipped around the world they leave a significant carbon footprint.
It makes sense therefore that a locally produced product will have a lower carbon footprint than one which has traveled thousands of miles.
So this is a quick way to stimulate your local economy and lower your carbon footprint with relative ease.
Of course, the best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to not buy anything at all.
Minimalists have very few possessions and by living their lifestyle they can save themselves approximately 2 tons of CO2 per year.
One trick they do to achieve this is to borrow instead of buying.
Borrow Not Buy
Whether its clothes, books, or tools, borrowing from friends and neighbors will reduce your carbon footprint and save you money, too!
Oh, and while you’re at it join a library it’s both good for the soul and your CO2 reduction.
Stop Buying Disposable Bottles
Is it so hard to buy a recyclable can instead of a plastic bottle?
A study by Earthwatch Europe found that 5.5 billion plastic bottles are littered, incinerated, or sent to landfill each year, producing 233,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
I think that’s all I need to say on that one.
Grow Your Own
Nothing can feed the soul whilst reducing your carbon footprint like growing your fruit and vegetables.
The carbon you produce will be at an absolute minimum. Plus, you will benefit from an abundance of fresh air, feed your mental health, and have access to lots of healthy, and nutritious produce.
Insulate Your Home
It is estimated that our homes account for around 20% of our carbon emissions and poor insulation can be a big percentage of that.
Housebuilders and governments have recognized this and are now trying to build zero-carbon homes.
Heat loss from your home can add 2.5 tons of CO2 to your carbon footprint. Therefore taking direct action to insulate lofts, walls, boilers, and pipes is essential if you want to reduce your carbon footprint.
Loft insulation alone can immediately reduce a home’s energy usage by up to 25%!
Fortunately, this is an area where the initial cost outlay is far outweighed by the cost-savings made over time.
While you’re at it, update or service your heating and cooling equipment to ensure that you are running at peak efficiency.
Did you know that if insulation were to be installed in 4 million European homes then the equivalent saving of CO2 emissions would be equal to that of planting 667 million acres of trees!
Send Fewer Emails
A study buy OVO Energy in the Uk shows that; if every email user in the country were to send one less unnecessary email per day, that would reduce carbon emissions by 16,433 tonnes.
This is equivalent to a staggering 81,152 flights from London Heathrow to Madrid.
I know this sounds crazy but it is linked to the energy required to send, store, and retrieve data.
Part of the calculation is also about the electricity your computer is using whilst reading, drafting, and replying to emails.
All in all the network and the necessary data centers use a lot of electricity which, in turn, creates a massive carbon footprint. So believe it or not, the simple act of saying thank you is increasing your carbon footprint.
Boil Only What You Need
It takes a lot of energy to boil water and many people boil much more than they need.
Think about this next time you are watching your electricity meter spin round and an enormous rate. If you can boil only what you need you will save money, time, and reduce your carbon footprint.
For real change to happen it must begin now and we all have the power to do that.
By adopting most, if not all of the suggestions mentioned in this article you can make a difference.
You can reduce your carbon footprint by 80% or more and you can track that through the carbon footprint calculator.
Please just pick just one thing or pick several but make a conscious decision to commit to change today.
Start small, think big, and think environmental and you could make a difference that the whole world can see.
Good luck and happy reducing.
Mark Aspland is a proud father of two boys, would be amateur actor and green living enthusiast. He has been sharing hints, tips and sustainable living content on his website Sustainability Dad since august 2019.
He now has an army of followers who are like hearted individuals passionate about the environment and how to affect positive change through peaceful action.