Cut 77% from Your Carbon Footprint
Over the past two years, I cut 77% from the average Australian household footprint. I ran one-week experiments to cut carbon and used carbon accounting to see what worked. I tried simple lifestyle changes anyone can make.
The chart, slideshow and video below give an overview. Each one-week experiment is covered in a Post. Data and spreadsheets appear in the Notes. I'm giving workshops and writing articles and a book to show how to cut carbon.
1. Renewable household electricity
Meet all your household electricity needs with 100% renewable power. Ask your state government to switch the grid to 100% renewable electricity (like the ACT has). Until they do this, you can install rooftop solar or buy into a community or GreenPower scheme.
Saves 2,175 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
2. Electric car
Swap your petrol or diesel car for an electric vehicle to cut over a tonne from your footprint. Run it on 100% renewable electricity to save even more carbon.
Saves over 1,661 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
3. Fly Less
Fly one-third the distance you currently fly. Teleconference, take a bus, train or car and enjoy local holidays. Avoid Business and First Class which are more carbon-intense. Think you can't cut back? Many Westerners have joined the Flight Shame movement and no longer fly at all (see Week 6 and 26).
Saves 1,157 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
4. Get Off Gas
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that used to be seen as green, but it's a poor choice now that we have efficient electric appliances and renewable electricity. Gas fracking also leaks unknown amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Replace gas appliances, hot water and heating with electric ones and then use renewable electricity.
Saves 1,083 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
A vegan diet with no meat, fish, dairy or eggs is very low carbon. It's increasingly popular and there are restaurants, cookbooks and delicious products to help. But if veganism is not for you, don't panic! Try the Supermarket Swap instead.
Saves 970 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
6. Mass Transport
If you don't want or can't afford an electric car, try public transport for work commutes and regular trips. Car-pool when possible. Trip-chain and plan your meetings and errands. Work from home a day a week. However you do it, limiting driving to 32 kilometres per person per week will save nearly a tonne of carbon.
Saves 904 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
7. Supermarket Food Swap
Eat more plant foods. Limit red meat to once a month. Eat white meat, fish and dairy in moderation. Swap in tofu, hommus, lentils, beans, coconut, nuts, avocado & non-dairy milk. This diet cuts carbon compared to the average and it still has over 1 kilogram of meat and 1 kilogram of dairy each week.
Saves 643 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
8. Carbon Pawprint
Feed dogs a 'complete and balanced' kibble that lists grains as the first ingredient and has no beef or lamb. Choose treats that are vegan, roo or white meat. These steps will slash your carbon pawprint by over half a tonne. Even better, get smaller pets that eat less next time or mix in some vegan petfood to their diet.
Saves 625 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
9. Lights, Appliances, Insulation
Household efficiency saves electricity, carbon and cash. Measure the power used by fridges, heaters and computers with an appliance meter. Run fewer big appliances (one fridge not two) and run them for fewer hours (turn off your desktop when you're not working). Upgrade your fridge or change its seal. Use LED light bulbs. Draught-proof and insulate your home (see Week 9 and Week 28).
Saves 602 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
10. Active Transport
Cut your car kilometres by 30% with active travel. You can do this by riding to work two or three days each week and walking some errands and school drop-off. You'll save even more carbon if you find you love riding so much that the bike becomes your main form of transport. Go on. You know you want to.
Saves 574 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
11. Buy Less, buy Better, Don't Fly It In
Cut your purchases of furniture, toys and other stuff in half. Then buy half of that remaining stuff secondhand or made from recycled material. Don't buy if it flies. Ask your online retailer if they ship by sea and road freight and if not, say no. Never pick Express Shipping.
Save 505 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
If you don't want to go vegan or try the Supermarket Swap, why not be vegetarian? I sampled a creamy and delicious diet that slashed carbon from the average high-meat Aussie fare. But remember, many dairy foods are as high-carbon as chicken and some seafoods are even higher. This cuts carbon but you'll need to do your research.
Saves 450 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
13. Drink Less
Cut carbon by cutting your drinks in half. Beer, wine, spirits and soft drink all have similar carbon indexes, so pick your vice but reduce the overall amount. If you must drink sweets, mix your own from cordial. Drink tap water, not bottled water.
Saves 405 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
14. 5:2 Fast
The 5:2 Fast is a weight-loss diet for healthy adults that restricts calories two days each week. This will cut carbon, but only if you keep your normal diet the same and eat plant-based fasting foods with a little chicken, fish or egg. A 'fast'of egg and steak generates more carbon than a day of regular eating! Use with caution.
Saves 356 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
15. Hot Water
It takes energy and carbon to heat your water so cut it down. Stick to 4 minute showers (shorter for frequent washers). Install low-flow showerheads. Take fewer baths and don't fill the tub right up for kids. Wash laundry in cold water. Set your water heater to 50°C.
Saves 343 kilograms CO2e per person per year AND saves water.
16. Recycle paper, Food & Garden Waste
Paper, food and garden waste all generate methane if sent to landfill. Keep them out by reducing your paper use and separating it all out for council recycling. Put food and garden waste in the designated council bin if you have one, or in your own compost (see Week 3 and Week 4).
Saves 247 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
17. No Fast Fashion
Australians are the world's second-largest consumers of textiles. Clothing generates a lot of carbon. Buy 75% less new clothes. Do this by buying less overall or shopping for secondhand clothes or clothes made from recycled fibres. Pick items that last. Borrow, swap or hire for one-off pieces.
Saves 200 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
18. heat Pump heater & Air Con
Heat pumps are very efficient. A reverse-cycle heat pump heater & air conditioner uses less energy and less carbon than traditional heaters and air con. It also helps you adapt to climate change heat waves and bushfire smoke. You'll save even more with a heat-pump hot water system too.
Saves 122 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
19. Turn Down the heat
Set your winter thermostat three degrees lower than usual and put on a jumper. You'll save carbon and money and you won't notice the difference after a week. Remember, fifty years ago houses were only heated to 12°C. Your family will adapt.
Saves 111 kilograms CO2e per person per year.
20. Waste Less Food
It takes a lot of water, energy and carbon to produce our food but around one-third of it is wasted. Waste less. Buy, cook & order less. Let kids serve themselves. Don't overcater and serve plants, some white meat and no red meat at functions. Buy seconds, eat leftovers & raid the pantry & fridge before restocking. Ask your cafe and supermarket to waste less too.
Saves 100 kilograms CO2e per person per week.