Your Footprint

Carbon Footprint

In the UK, the average amount of carbon dioxide produced per person is just over 10 tonnes in a year. Around half of this is the direct result of personal energy use in your home or journeys you undertake.[1]

This is often called their carbon footprint.

How does this happen?

–        When people burn gas for heating or cooking, burn smokeless fuel to keep warm, drive a car with a petrol or diesel engine, or use public transport, some carbon-rich fuel burns to produce carbon dioxide

–        When you switch on an electrical appliance, somewhere a PowerStation burns coal or gas to generate most of the electricity you use

Then there are emissions to do with the food we eat and the packaging our food and other products come in.

And the infrastructure we use – hospitals, schools, roads, government offices, rubbish dumps …

Most of the carbon we use is to provide heating, our homes and water, and for our transport. So making an 80% cut in these emissions by 2050 as the Government wants is a very tall order indeed.

Have a look below at what we can do for little or no cost,  for a little more, and measures that are more expensive but cost effective

What we can do for little or no cost

–        Switch off lights and appliances when we don’t actually need them.

–        Stop draughts.

–        Use low energy light bulbs.

–        Reduce your waste and recycle more.

–        Use less water.

–        Refuse plastic containers and plastic bags.

–       Fill the kettle with just enough water

–       Use a conventional kettle on the gas burner.

–       Wash laundry at 30 degrees.

–       Turn the thermostat down by 1 degree

–       Set the hot water in your tank at 60 degree.

–       Eat much less meat. Meat production uses a huge amount of energy and water.

–       Close the curtains a dusk.

–       Put lids on saucepans when cooking.

–       Don’t leave taps running.

–       Make sure nothing is on standby.

–       Grow a few veg on the window sill.

–      Trade on the internet for items you need.

–       Buy second hand clothes.

–       Put up a No Junk Mail sign on your letter box.

–       Make sure you car has correct tyre pressures and is serviced regularly.

–        For short journeys, walk or cycle rather than take the car.

–        For longer journeys, use rail rather than short haul air flights.  For long haul flights, can you avoid taking them?

What we can do for a little more

–     Have good quality well lined curtains made for all your windows even if you have double glazing.

–    Carpet ground floor wooden floors against the draught that come up between the boards.

–    Insulation — Make sure your insulation is adequate in the loft, or in the cavity walls if you have them.

–    Food –Waste less food, buy locally produced, seasonal foods when you can.

–    Transport — Join a car club instead of using your own car. When people make this switch, they use cars less. Fly less often.

–    Renewable Energy – can your community produce renewable energy for its own use? A large PV array on a school or public building might be cost-effective and inspire others to take action.

Measures that are more expensive –  but are likely to be cost-effective

If your central heating boiler is more than 10 years old, then a new and more efficient condensing boiler could be cost effective and save on CO2 emissions.

If you have a suitable roof, you could install a solar thermal system that uses the Sun’s heat to heat your water. That may be cost-effective and a Government Grant is available.[1]

In the longer term, and when you have done all of the above, you might like to consider

–        Solid wall insulation (100mm layer of insulation installed on the inside of external walls)

–        Double glazing

–        Photovoltaic panels. These convert sunlight into electricity. They are not cost-effective to install at the moment but their price is coming down sharply so they will be cost-effective in a few years, especially if the Government increases any subsidy

–        Domestic combined heat and power (DCHP). There is a new kind of central heating boiler under development that generates electricity as well as producing heat for hot water and central heating. This could be more efficient that existing types of central heating boiler.

All these may become cost-effective, particularly if the cost of electricity and gas rises substantially. If you are doing substantial work on your home eg replacing windows, overhauling roofs etc, then it might be cost-effective to install some of these measures now.


[1] These figures include an allowance for international air travel. See Mayer Hillman with Tina Fawcett, Howe we can save the planet, Penguin, 2004 p.155

For details of UK energy use see especially page 14