Carbon footprint

Carbon footprint

Wouldn’t it be nice to leave a carbon pawprint just for a change, eh? Sounds a bit more friendly. Anyway, a carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities. Heating a home, using fuel and producing/consuming factory goods all leave a carbon footprint. These not-impossible suggestions may help you reduce yours.

1. Turn the lights off when you leave a room

It sounds simple, but an estimated 63% of homeowners forget to turn their lights off or think it won’t make enough of a difference. So turn them off. If you do martial arts, turn them off with a controlled dropkick – save the planet and improve your skills in one. You can also help by fitting energy efficient bulbs, which cost 75% less to run than regular bulbs.

2. Buy food locally at a market

Buying local produce cuts out the vast amounts of energy used to get the products into shops. The average sunday dinner ingredients can travel over 24,000 miles to reach you.

3. Turn off your electronics

If you forget to turn off your TV and other electrical devices when you’re not using them you’re still using valuable energy. Don’t leave them on standby!

4. Use the microwave more

Well, it’s a double-edged sword, this one. Because studies of microwaving food show that microwaving probably does have a denigrating effect on nutrients (as does any heating process, but particularly microwaves), especially vitamin B12. However, microwaved food will only give you fewer nutrients, it won’t actually kill you. If you’re more concerned about the environemnt, did you know that using a microwave is more energy-efficient than using an oven?

5. Choose showers over baths

Taking a bath uses over 55 litres more water than a shower. Take a shower on your own, or have a bath with anyone who’d be willing to share a bath with you. That’ll be your partner, then, unless you have some really free and easy friends.

6. Turn your heating down

If you nudge your central heating thermostat down just 1°C, you could save up to 10% on your fuel bill. Easy easy easy! Autumn and Winter are why jumpers were invented!

7. Keep your car windows closed

If you open your windows on warm days, this reduces your car’s aerodynamics and fuel efficiency, increasing the emissions generated by your journey. Also try to avoid air-conditioning, which affects fuel consumption.

In a hot country this obviously isn’t going to happen – keep your windows up? One thinks not. So consider doing as the bedouin do, and wear loose flowing clothes with the window open – that way you can at least leave the air-conditioning off.

8. Wash and dry your clothes more sensibly

You can save up to 30% of your energy usage by washing clothes at 30°C. Plus, always dry naturally and avoid using tumble dryers and radiators. This is easy – you just have to stop freaking out if that one particular top isn’t dry by tomorrow.

9. Choose tap water over bottled

It is estimated that a litre bottle of water generates up to 600 times more CO2 than a litre of tap water. Not only will using tap water save energy, it will also save money. You can get filters to put on your sink so the tap water tastes good, or have a filtered jug of tapwater in your fridge that you refill as needed.

10. Keep out the cold

Remember to close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping and draughts coming in. If your curtains are light and floaty, drape them attractively with more layers of cloth come autumn for a boudoir feel and better insulation. If you can afford it, or struck lucky in a pile of old curtains in a flea market, go with velvet curtains. You’ll never regret it. They keep the sun out when it’s hot, and keep the heat in when it’s cool. And everyone who comes round will purr and rub themselves like a small cat on your curtains all day. Prrmmmrmm…

11. Keep your fridge flat

Did you know that a wonky fridge uses up more power to create the same amount of coldness? Well, there you go. Make sure your fridge is on a flat plane, not wonky, and it’ll work less hard to keep your food cold.

12. Use less hot water when washing dishes

If you like to wash each item separately under a running tap, change thy ways, heathen child! From now on, fill a sink and get scrubbing. It uses less water. Oh, and you don’t need water to be particularly hot for the washing up liquid to activate.

13. Just a cup of tea for me and thee

When boiling a kettle, don’t always fill it before boiling unless you’re having a tea party. Just fill the kettle for as many cuppas as you need.

14. Produce less waste

* Buy products with the least amount of packaging
* Buy products that use recyclable packaging
* Compost your food scraps
* Recycle everything that you can
* Consider buying products second hand
* Sell things you no longer use (garage sale, online auction, newspaper advertisement, etc)

15. Calculate your carbon footprint

You can do this at www.google.co.uk/carbonfootprint/ or any number of places online. It takes awhile and you might be expected to know stuff about your income/living arrangements you’ve never really considered before, but it’s worth it. Be prepared to scream and make a hopefully-not-empty promise to live neutral straight afterwards.

16. Plant a tree

Planting your own tree is great. Grab the nut or seed of some tree indigenous to your country (an acorn, a helicopter from a sycamore, a… er… maple nut?) and stick it in some wasteground somewhere.

Alternatively, get someone else to plant a tree for you.

Planting trees is one of the easiest ways to offset your carbon footprint and become carbon neutral. Trees absorb carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and wood, both of which are very useful for humans and other animals.

There are plent of online missions out there promising to plant trees to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. Do a bit of research to check they’re not planting trees that are unsuitable for the environment (yes, they exist), but on the whole, these websites choose trees that:

* Offset CO2 emissions
* Provide wildlife habitats
* Are native to the area (again, good for local wildlife)
* Enhance the natural landscape

With thanks to the lovely people who created “Arctic Tale” (win your own copy here)

 

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