How to Slash Your Carbon Emissions


An overwhelming majority of scientists believe that for temperatures to become stabilising around an increase of 2°C, individuals and industries have to cut around 70% off our carbon emissions as quickly as possible. If we cannot control the increase in global temperature to around 2°C, calamitous changes in our world are expected in the next century. The UK has taken the boldest step yet by aiming for a 60% reduction, although every indication is that this target will not be achieved unless significant changes are made.

"Chris Goodall, author of How to Live a Low Carbon Life…reckons it is possible to cut individual emissions by around 75 per cent without seriously altering our lifestyles. For a western European, that means slashing personal emissions from about 12 tonnes of CO2 to just 3 tonnes."

The New Scientist (2007) gives the following figures for carbon reductions. See if you can reduce at least 1 tonne off your carbon emissions today, and aim to reduce them to around 3 tonnes within a year:

Carbon Emmisions

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A single flight across the Atlantic can guzzle about 60,000 litres – more fuel than the average motorist uses in 50 years of driving – generating around 140 tonnes of carbon dioxide, along with 750 kilograms of NOx. At around 10 kilometres up, where most airliners fly, NOx is very efficient at creating ozone, which at these heights help to warm the planet. Additionally, water vapour in the exhaust creates contrails that act as seeds for cirrus clouds, reflecting heat back to Earth. The net result, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is that pollution from high-flying jets is up to four times as damaging to the environment as the same amount released by chimneys and exhaust pipes at ground level.

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A typical car takes between 3 and 5 tonnes of CO2 to manufacture. That is twice what it typically emits in a year. So even if the new model would be more fuel-efficient, it is probably better to put off buying it.
The bottom line, of course, is that we should all drive less. Getting rid of the car would be best, but is rarely practical. Community 1500km to work by public transport saves 0.5 tonnes of CO2
In the UK, the average emissions are 40 grams per passenger-kilometre (g/p-km) [on a train] but, depending on the engine, the source of power and the journey, the figure varies from more than 70 g/p-km down to 27 g/p-km. So going by train is usually better, but a small, fuel-efficient car with four passengers may be more carbon-efficient than taking one of the less efficient trains.

The emissions from a typically-laden car are around 180 g/p-km, whereas the emissions from a typical coach ride are around 40g/p-km.” ***
As a rule of thumb, meat and dairy products have a high carbon footprint because of the energy needed to grow the feed for the animals. Going vegetarian could halve your carbon footprint from food to 1 tonne per year, but only if you cut back on dairy products too. If you can’t go without meat and milk, you could instead halve your food footprint by going organic, largely because of the saving in fertiliser. A diet made up exclusively of locally grown, non-processed and non-packaged food can strip another 0.7 tonnes from your food-based carbon footprint, bringing an impressive total saving of 1.7 tonnes per person.

"Drinks packaging matters too. Smelting alimunium is one of the most energy-intensive industries in the world and making one beer or soda can emits 170 grams of CO2. That’s the same as running your TV for 3 hours. The average person get through 120 cans in a year, which adds up to 0.2 tonnes of CO2. Always recycle your cans and, for preference, buy draught beer or bottles instead. Glass’s carbon footprint is rather less than aluminium’s."

Why is it important for individuals to make these carbon cuts? Because “if just one-third of the UK population …[cut nearly 8 tonnes down to 2]…it would save 160 million tonnes of CO2 or more than a quarter of the nation’s emissions.” Put in a global scale, “if 100 million people in richer nations cut their CO2 emissions by 10 tonnes per year, on average, that would save a billion tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, or around 5 per cent of the current global total."

If you've reduced your emissions because of our pages, post what you’ve done on our blog. Your success can motivate others to change their lifestyle too.