7 Easy Ways To Curb Your Carbon Habit

carbon footprint

One of the more common reasons people give me for not reducing their carbon footprint is a lack of knowledge, especially in ways to cut down on their emissions with very little cost or effort.

So I have complied a short list of things that most people can do that are more likely to save you money than cost you money. They shouldn’t prove too difficult to do either so for those of you who suffer from a lack of footprint shrinking appetite there are no excuses.

We’ll start with one of the biggest scandals in the convenience food and drink sector – bottled water…

Ditch Plastic To Tap Potential Savings

Despite repeated coverage in the mainstream press, some people seem to be hooked on bottled water as their chosen form of hydration. They may claim health benefits as a reason for this but there is very little evidence in support of these claims and, in the UK, the water coming out of your tap is far more regulated and closely tested than it’s bottled alternative so contamination and the subsequent health scares are far less likely.

If you are still not convinced bottled water is a big problem, just take a moment and look at the figures behind the industry. In the US alone, the production of the plastic bottles requires 17 million barrels of oil which would be enough to fuel a million cars for 1 year. Add to this the staggering fact that it takes up to 7 litres of water to produce a 1 litre bottle of water and you will see how big a difference could be made if we cut bottled water out of our lives.

With estimates of between 100g and 160g of CO2 equivalent emissions per bottle (which could be as much as 1000 times that of tap water), if you drink a bottle a day for a year, you are responsible for 58.5kg of emissions. In a fuel efficient car, this could be as much as driving over 650 kilometres.

Alternatively, you could get a reusable metal water bottle and simply ask cafes, bars and pubs to fill it up as you walk past. Licensed premises are legally obliged to provide free tap water while there are schemes such as Give Me Tap which have many other member outlets where you can fill your bottles up.

Some universities in the US have taken the battle to bottles by banning their sale which shows just how important an issue it is becoming.

I haven’t even gone into the environmental damage of bottles that don’t make it into recycling but that can wait for another day.

Don’t Say It With Flowers

We all know how nice it can feel to receive a big bloom of flowers from a loved one but have you ever stopped to think about the environmental damage it could be doing?

Ok, I’ll admit it – not all bunches of flowers are bad but if you were to buy a single red rose that has been greenhouse grown in Holland, it might have a carbon footprint of 2.1kg so a dozen roses on Valentines Day might have the same carbon footprint as leaving a low energy lightbulb on all day for 100 days.

Like food, cut flowers also have the same issues surrounding fertilisers and pesticides which means you don’t only have to consider carbon emissions but a whole host of other issues too.

If you do want to give flowers to a special someone then look for seasonal UK varieties or better yet, grow your own with organic fertiliser to make it even more meaningful.

If you want to be sure of where your flowers come from then check out a seller such as Flowers by Clowance who give each item of stock a ‘Flower Miles’ score out of 5 to show you just how far they have travelled.

Stop Snail Mail & Opt Out Of Junk

I have previously blogged about a plan to make it far easier to opt out of junk mail in the future (very soon if the initial press release was correct) but if you need more information right now then check out this site or see how Mrs Green deals with her unwanted and unsolicited mail.

Other than stopping junk mail, you can send fewer letters yourself to make a difference, no matter how small. Given that even a tiny 10g letter written on recycled paper and recycled after use can lead to 140g of greenhouse gas emissions, just imagine what all the birthday, anniversary and Christmas cards you send each year add up to.

It might not yet be the done thing but I don’t really believe in cards for special occasions and if I thought there wouldn’t be any offense taken I probably wouldn’t send them.

And if you are thinking of sending an old friend a letter to keep in touch, why not just pick up the phone and talk to them instead?

Land Is Better Than Air For Making Calls

It might seem a bit pernickety to label mobile phones as carbon intensive but if you look at the figures then heavy users have a lot to answer for.

I tend to spend a fairly small amount of time on my phone and I don’t have a landline either but I know of plenty of people who talk on a mobile for an hour or more each and every day (well every work day). This level of usage for a whole year could mean as much as 1.25 tonnes added to your carbon footprint which is around 1/8th that of an average person in the UK.

If you fall into this group of heavy mobile phone usage, consider that a landline uses something like a third of the energy and will not cost nearly as much (in many situations).

Alternatively, ask yourself whether you really need to spend so much of your life on the phone? Is what you’re talking about really essential to say there and then or could it wait until you see someone in person?

And by the way, a text is a lot more environmentally friendly than phoning and you’d struggle to write so many texts that this wasn’t always the case.

Cook Together, Eat Together

This one may prove difficult for some working families but I think it is worth mentioning nonetheless. I have seen it all too often where people who live together do not eat together at evening mealtimes; this could be professional sharers, students or families.

What you need to remember though is that your oven is one of the most energy intensive appliances in your home and according to carbonfootprint.com it goes through as much as 1.56kWh per use. If we take the average CO2 per KWh from the DECC as 450g, then each use of your oven (no including any hob usage) generates 702g of CO2 emissions.

So, if you use an oven twice a day instead of once a day then you will generate an additional 256.23kg of greenhouse gas emissions per household per year. In my time sharing with friends, there were times when the oven would stay on three times longer than if we all cooked together so here the savings could have been huge.

Obviously people get hungry at different times but if you can get as many people cooking and eating together as possible, you’ll not only slash your carbon footprint but also your utility bills.

Make Your Own Baby Food

Ok so this tip is clearly for new parents only but if this is you then making your own baby food can save you money while bringing down your carbon footprint. While many baby foods are now sold in squeezable pouches, some of the biggest manufacturers still use glass jars and these require manufacturing which takes energy – this is true whether you use recycled glass or not.

By making your own baby food you can control exactly what your child is eating and can afford them a great deal more variety in what they eat.

Another good thing about making your own baby food is that you can better control portion sizes by puréeing fruits, vegetables and even meats and freezing it in ice cube trays. This means that as your child grows, you can give them slightly more food without the waste that often comes from buying jars or pouches.

If you want some ideas or recipes for baby food then I suggest you check out this site from Christine Albury which has the best selection of homemade baby food recipes that I have come across.

One Man’s Junk Is Another Man’s Treasure

Everything we use or consume requires energy and raw materials to produce so it makes a lot sense to get as much use as possible out of every item. However, the Western world has an addiction to excess and an obsession with owning the latest in fashion, electronics and even cars. This results in a mass of unwanted bits and pieces which often find their way into landfill.

Just think of how often you buy a new computer; is it once every 2 years, every 5 years? Some people buy a new computer every single year but the carbon cost of a brand new, fairly high end desktop PC is, according to Dell, around 720kg CO2 in the UK. That’s 7.2% of an average person’s annual carbon footprint.

The same can be said about TVs, beds, washing machines and just about any other type of consumer or household product.

So to reduce your carbon footprint, try not to buy brand new items if you don’t really need to. Look for what you want on sites such as Ebay, Gumtree or even Freecycle and you could be saving the planet and saving your wallet at the same time.

These are just a few of the things you can do to easily cut your carbon footprint and there are many more to come on this blog so keep an eye out and don’t forget to subscribe to the GreenSteve newsletter, like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Steve (152 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.


9 Responses to “7 Easy Ways To Curb Your Carbon Habit”

  1. April 26, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    Fantastic post and thanks for sharing a link to our junk mail page – I appreciate it :)

  2. Temesgen.A
    May 7, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    Hi Steve,
    It is quite interesting.I agree that many of the points you mentioned are realy easy to apply.
    Thank you,

    Temesgen.A.

    • Steve
      May 7, 2012 at 3:26 PM

      Hi Temesgen, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I’m glad you have found a few of my points easy to put into action.

      All the best, GreenSteve

  3. Derek Holder
    June 23, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    interesting subject although I’d like to flip one of your points on its head. You say that talking on the phone for:

    “an hour or more each and every day (well every work day)” would equate to “as much as 1.25 tonnes added to your carbon footprint which is around 1/8th that of an average person in the UK”

    Whilst this is true I work in the phone conferencing industry where we save a lot of CO2 by getting business people to stop getting in their planes, cars and trains to attend their meetings. I believe we save more CO2 than we use by a huge margin!

    • Steve
      June 23, 2012 at 5:55 PM

      Very good point Derek – I’m definitely with you when it comes to picking up a phone instead of driving/flying somewhere for a meeting. If a phone call is important then by all means talk for as long as you like but sadly these days people spend so much time gossiping and generally chatting for hours which isn’t always necessary.

      • Ian
        October 23, 2012 at 8:00 PM

        Nice article – have you got the background figures that bring about the 1 hour a working day on a mobile equalling 1/8 th of average person’s carbon footprint claim?

        Ps I think the restaurants obliged to provide tap water on demand is an urban myth

        • October 23, 2012 at 8:21 PM

          I believe the mobile phone stat came from the book “how bad are bananas” by Mike Berners-Lee and while it does sound quite high to me, I think he gives his reasoning (I don’t have the book to hand right now).

          As for the free tap water, the page I originally linked to is now gone but I found an update on the Home Office’s website and its provision is indeed mandatory for all licensed premises. I have updated the link to reflect this so feel free to take a look.

  4. David
    June 29, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    What did the pound say to the penny? We all need change.

    I think this is really important if we are going to make a difference to this planet. If we consume less generally we can save a pretty penny as well.

    Thank you for your tips and advice, I do what I can already but with your suggestions I can try and go further. Thank you.

  5. David
    June 29, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    Thank you for your tips.

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