What You Can do to Prevent Climate Change
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Help Keep Antarctica Cool. Help Reduce the effects of Global Warming on Antarctica and the rest of the world.
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I'm glad we got a nice big, modern walk-in fridge that uses only a little power. You'll find plenty of lists of "how to save the world" in easy steps, and a lot of them are fiddly little things that it's a problem to remember and sometimes a pain to do. There's also the fact that some make a huge difference, while others though terribly worthy may be wiped out by that light-bulb you forgot to turn off last night.

Here is a list of the more effective steps - that make the largest difference, if you want to re-use shopping bags as well even better, but if you don't do those listed here, you're missing the more important tricks.

These are ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, that you are personally responsible for releasing. Some are obvious, drive a car - carbon dioxide (CO2) comes out of the exhaust, some are less obvious, buying just one new shirt instead of two that you don't really need for instance saves on CO2 emissions in its production and transport.

In approximate order of effectiveness

  Don't Fly - or at least cut down

A long haul flight is about 18 months motoring equivalent per person.Flying is the one (usually unnecessary) thing we do that can have the biggest immediate effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

Long-haul flights are the worst as they have to carry extra fuel that in the early part of the journey that is burnt to carry the extra fuel that is needed in the later parts of the journey - short-haul flights don't need to do that to the same extent, so the kilometres per liter or miles per gallon for fuel burnt is better with short haul than long haul flights.

So how bad is it?

A single long-haul return flight, say from Europe to Australia, South America or the Far East can release about as much CO2 as driving 15,000 miles in a fairly standard 1.4L car on your own (and yes that is per person, you don't divide it by all the people on the plane). The average annual mileage by a motorist in the UK is about 10,000, so one long-haul airline round trip is the same as 18 months of normal motoring - and wipes out an awful lot of eco-friendly bike-riding in a single stroke.

All of these thing produce about the same amount of CO2

  • 15,000 miles (18 months worth) of motoring in an average size standard car
  • 1 return long-haul flight e.g. UK to Australia, South America or the Far East
  • 3 return medium-haul flights e.g. UK to East Coast USA, Africa or India
  • 6 return short-haul flights e.g. UK to Europe, USA internal.


Good for You

Discover all those not-so-far-away places you always meant to go to, but never got around to.

The realization that vacation is a state of mind as much as a matter of geography.

Save money and time on long haul trips, not to mention being jet lagged while you're supposed to be enjoying your holiday.

 

Good for Everyone

Lots and lots less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Less fossil fuel usage - means it will ultimately last longer.

Less other pollutants (such as nitrous oxides) released by the aircraft too.


  Dump the SUV or Pickup - get a less polluting and more economical car

Slow, wallowy ride, corners by appointment & Hi-Pollutin'You can probably reduce your CO2 emissions by getting a more fuel efficient vehicle.

An MPV will do pretty much the same job as an SUV for a considerable saving in fuel and emissions while giving a similar internal space, though maybe not being so good at mounting a machine-gun on the back and taking part in a limited regional armed conflict or hauling a whole winter's worth of lumber from the back-woods - hands up who needs to do those things?

Relative CO2 emissions (approximate guide):

Small petrol 1L 0.85
Hybrid e.g. Honda Insight 0.82
Supermini 1.4L or smaller 0.91
Family car 1.4L engine or smaller* 1
Family car larger than 1.4L 1.1
MPV 1.4L engine or smaller 1.2
MPV car larger than 1.8L 1.25
Coupe between 1.9 and 3L 1.37
Executive car 2.5L or less 0.93
Executive car larger than 2.5L 1.7+
SUV 3L or smaller 1.37
SUV larger than 3L 2.0+

 

* Based on 2015 Audi A3 1.4TFSi, Family car of the year category winner, average CO2 emissions, 117g/km, 55.4mpg. Data from UK car fuel and emissions information August 2014 environmental data on all current cars here

Faster, leaner, better chassis (corner with smiles), less polluting and waaaaay cooler. Alfa Romeo BreraAlso - hybrid alone doesn't always mean low emissions, some hybrid SUV's with large 3L+ engines have emission levels far above many standard family petrol and diesel models.

No-one needs to always drive around in something the size of a school bus, safety considerations are partly negated by the increased tendency of SUVs to overturn in accidents as they're top-heavy, they are also more dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists. So help the planet, the Poles and get a car that can go round corners better and is far more fun to drive.


Good for You

Spend less cash on travelling costs without going anywhere less often or doing it any slower.

 

Good for Everyone

Lots and lots less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Less fossil fuel usage - means it will ultimately last longer.

Less particulate pollutants released which cause respiratory illnesses, especially in cities.

 

  Get More Efficient Refrigeration

Old refridgerator - power-hungry-planet-eater.In most homes, the single most energy-hungry appliance over the year is the refrigerator. It might not use much electricity on an ongoing basis, but it is always switched on. Buy the most energy efficient model you can - it will be cheaper in the long run. Less efficient models are usually less expensive to buy up front, though the initial cost price difference is getting smaller compared to the most effective appliances. The extra running cost of electricity of cheaper models easily wipes out the initial cost-saving.

If you need an extra freezer, then get a chest freezer rather than an upright - they are significantly more efficient. Open the door of an upright freezer and all the heavy cold air falls out (hot air rises, cold air falls) to be replaced with warmer air which needs refrigerating again when you shut the door. Chest freezers retain their cold air when the lid is opened and they also usually have better insulation than an upright - a much more effective choice in every way - especially for somewhere other than in the kitchen.


Good for You

Spend a lot less cash on your electricity bill for no loss of refrigeration convenience or efficiency.

 

Good for Everyone

Lots and lots less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere

 

  Reduce Space Heating Requirements

The second largest energy user is frequently the heating of a living or working environment. The scope for reducing energy usage is less than with refrigeration, but still considerable.

Insulation - roofs, ceilings, walls, windows and floors, you may be able to get a grant to help you do this, ask at your local council, government office or library.

Use curtains on windows to keep the heat in and shelves above radiators (about 2"/5cm above) to deflect heat outwards rather than up under curtains where radiators are so frequently placed and the heat lost in heating the window.

Turn the thermostat down by 1 degree - 2 is better. 1 degree Centigrade will save around 10% of the energy needed and you probably won't notice much - if you're cold, put something on. If you're cold and don't put something on it'll help you lose weight as you generate more heat from within by burning up food instead!

Keep doors and windows closed as far as possible.

Don't heat little used parts of the house / workplace. Rarely or unused spare or guest rooms for instance can have their heaters turned off and doors closed when not in use.


Good for You

Spend a lot less cash on your power bills for no loss of heating convenience or efficiency.

Less noise / dryness / breakdowns and maintenance costs as your system doesn't have to work so hard any more.

 

Good for Everyone

Lots and lots less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

 

  Reduce Water Heating Requirements

Multi-Mode Handset Chrome One of the easiest ways of doing this is to take showers instead of baths, though it is possible to use an awful lot of energy in the shower too. Power Showers are the worst culprits, normal showers are fine for getting you clean. Also, don't spend so long in the shower and you probably don't need to take them multiple times a  day.

In Antarctica a shower longer than 2 minutes is known as a "Hollywood Shower" - extravagant and unnecessary, though in Antarctica it's due to a lack of freshwater in liquid form.

More efficient washing machines and dishwashers can make a big difference here too, so consider paying a little extra at purchase time to save an awful lot more in energy and water costs over the lifetime of the appliance.


Good for You

Spend a lot less cash on your power bills for no loss of heating convenience or efficiency.

 

Good for Everyone

Lots and lots less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

 

  Eat Less Meat

File:Beef inspection USDA.jpgMeat is expensive and not just in monetary terms. It is expensive because farm animals process their feed inefficiently. About 10% or less of the food fed to an animal reared for meat is converted to meat. The rest of the energy is is lost largely through respiration, generating heat (the vast majority of farm animals are warm blooded) and locomotion.

For every 10 units of (plant based) food energy given to a farm animal, more than 9 are not available for the consumer of that animal who only gets the less than 1 unit left. Whereas the whole 10 units could be gained by directly eating plant food.

Factory farming is more energy efficient and free-range less energy efficient as factory methods are based on the premise of maximum profit while free-range is based on the premise of animal welfare. Free range animals are outdoors where it is colder and they can move around so more animal feed is needed to get them to the appropriate weight.

Eating meat is an extravagance. Much more food is grown to feed the animals than would need to be grown if people ate plant-based food and with all the energy intensive infrastructure needed to feed rear and process the animals, this mean a lot of carbon dioxide is produced. This is without even starting on the rights and wrongs of rearing and eating animals for meat versus being a vegetarian or the environmental impact of cow farts!

Just one day a week (in fact just one day) without meat will have knock-on positive environmental effects as well as knock-on positive health benefits for yourself.

You don't have to become vegan or know the source and provenance of every morsel that passes your lips, just don't eat so much meat. Beef and lamb are the least environmentally friendly meats, chicken is most and then pork, though all meat is less environmentally friendly than eating plant sources of protein.


Good for You

Spend less.

Eat more healthily.

Try new foods/recipes.

 

Good for Everyone

Less animal suffering, however you do it as fewer are killed.

Lots and lots less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

 

  Get More Effective Lighting and Use it Less

Low Energy LED 5WWe're all aware of energy efficient light-bulbs - they started off with those short coiled fluorescent tubes that use about a quarter to a fifth of the energy of the incandescent light bulbs they replaced and lasted longer too. These are now being superseded by LED lights that use a tenth of the energy of old fashioned bulbs as they are actually primarily lights unlike the incandescent bulbs that were primarily heaters that happened to produce about 10% light too.

The lifespan of the latest LED lights is in the region of 25,000 hours. While more expensive to buy initially they are considerably cheaper over the life of the bulb. You don't need to throw away all your current bulbs, just remember next time you replace any to get the most energy efficient and as time goes by you'll find yourself having to replace them less often than you used to.

Maybe it's too obvious to say, but turn lights off where they are not needed, the same goes for all those appliances you leave on stand-by.
 


Good for You

Replace light bulbs less frequently as they last longer and go out far less often.

Spend a lot less cash on your power bills for no loss of lighting convenience or efficiency.

 

Good for Everyone

Lots and lots less carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

 

  Drink tap water - The great bottled water swindle

Brita Elemaris XL White Water Filter JugIn the vast majority of the developed world our tap water is more than clean enough to drink, but somehow we started to fall for marketing messages that told us to go out and buy drinking water in bottles instead of just getting it from the tap.

Get it from the tap and you will prevent the huge amount of fossil fuels consumed in transporting bottles of water to and from the stores, millions of tonnes of water unnecessarily transported over millions of road-miles. You will also help to avoid all those billions of one-trip plastic bottles needed.

If you want your tap water to be even cleaner, you can get a filter jug, or for greater convenience a water filter under the sink so it comes straight out of the tap super-filtered.


Good for You

Much cheaper than bottled water.

No more carrying big heavy bottles of water from the store.

The water doesn't sit around in a plastic bottle for months on end (or longer) absorbing chemicals from the bottle.
 

 

Good for Everyone

Huge reduction in pollutant production associated with transport.

Billions of plastic bottles per year less to deal with.

 

  Buy local food - even grow it yourself

Locally grown food has less "food miles", it doesn't need to be transported so far (obvs!) It is much more widely available than imagined. "Vegetable box" schemes are popular ways of getting seasonal veg whereby you buy a box of veg that is delivered once a week or so of whatever veg is in season, and seasonal veg aren't transported so far and also don't have the energy costs associated with storage.

If you have the space, the best way of all is to grow it yourself, but think carefully about what you will grow. For instance, there is little value of struggling against slugs and weather to get a crop of lettuce that you can't possibly eat quick enough at the time when they are at their cheapest in the shops. Instead try lollo rosso, rocket or any of a host of cut-and-come-again salad leaves. Tomatoes are easy in many places and are at their best when taken directly from plant to plate in a few minutes, or plant to mouth in seconds.

Other good vegetables to grow are green beans, easy to grow and they don't travel well when fresh, so the ones in the shops are never as good or as fresh as home grown.


Good for You

Tastes better, home grown varieties can prioritize taste over commercial considerations like shelf-life and ease of transport.

Growing your own:

Cheaper than shop bought.

Satisfaction in your gardening prowess.

Food that is not contaminated by any chemicals you'd probably rather it didn't have.

The absolute freshest fruit and veg.

 

Good for Everyone

No transport costs at all and so no transport emissions.

Less chemicals used which has a direct effect reducing the amount in circulation.

Biodiversity-friendly as there are no indiscriminate chemicals that kill everything in their path and not just the pests.

 

 

  Ready Meals / TV dinners - don't do it!

quality ingredients prepared at home are better for you and the planetOur busy lifestyles mean that we have been sold the idea that we have no time to properly cook or prepare food anymore. We arrive home late, exhausted and unable to do anything other than take a packet of something exotic sounding from the refrigerator - barely able to press the microwave start button before slumping semi-lifeless in front of the TV.

OK - 'fess-up time, does that really apply to you? every day? or is it more like a case of taking the path of least resistance? Even if you don't have much time, it doesn't take long to cook proper food and it doesn't need to be exotic.

The problems with ready-meals

  • Lots and lots of packaging

  • Often twice cooked, once when prepared, then once again by you, energy inefficient and extra cooking removes flavour and degrades nutrients.

  • May contain additives you could do without.

  • Frozen meals require extra resources to keep them frozen in transport and storage.

  • Do you really like them? Go on be honest - they're not that nice really are they?

What's the alternative? - This is for the unconverted, if you already cook from scratch (or thereabouts) you're already there.

  • Quality ingredients simply cooked and freshly served out-do food that has sat around for days and been cooked twice.

  • Cheaper than buying ready-prepared food.

  • Roasting a chicken for example will take you about 15mins effort, it will take the chicken an hour and half or so, but that's your time, you don't need to sit there watching it. You don't need the full roasted accouterments either, lots of other simple things you can do with it instead.

  • We are swayed in particular by TV chef's talk of complex and subtle combinations of flavour, there is no more complex flavour than a fresh piece of fruit, veg or meat on its own. Remember to get quality ingredients. Many ready meal sauces are not only needlessly complex, but have flavourings that are needed to compensate for the lower quality ingredients and the fact that it's sat around in the supermarket and then your fridge waiting to be cooked - and why do any carbonara-types always repeat on you for hours afterwards?


Good for You

Tastes better, the food is in better condition and has less preservatives.

Probably healthier as you know exactly what has gone into what you are eating.

 

Good for Everyone

Less energy used in preparation as the food is cooked once, not twice.

Much less packaging, ready meals are one of the most over-packaged goods in the supermarket.

Less energy used in transport, prepared food in all that packaging take up far more space meaning more trucks to ferry them about .

 

  Recycle stuff

It's becoming easier and easier to do this as recycling facilities become more widespread reducing the need to throw things away to landfill.

Freecycle, Gumtree or your local town, village, city FaceBook page are good places to get rid of stuff you no longer want and as I've found can be far more convenient ways of getting rid of bulky things in particular than arranging transport yourself.


Good for You

Many local governments are now collecting landfill waste less often, so if you don't segregate properly, you'll need to go to the tip to take the stuff that doesn't fit into the bin any more. Segregate recyclable waste properly and you won't have to do this.

Get money for unwanted stuff, or things you want either cheaper or for free!

Selling borderline items can be a pain, giving them away is much easier.

 

Good for Everyone

Lots less carbon dioxide pumped out into the atmosphere as much less energy is needed to recycle aluminium and glass in particular compared to making it anew

Less mining with associated spoil and environmental degradation needed as less raw materials needed

Recycling something intact saves ALL of the energy and resources taken to make another one as only one is made instead of two.

 

  Business Can Help Too

For some reason I don't entirely understand, all of the above often goes instantly out of the window when business is concerned. Here's a few obvious ways that business can help VERY considerably:

1/ Don't assume that it doesn't matter as long as "it's business"  - it does - you / they are responsible. At the moment in many cases the polluter doesn't pay, but in reality WE ALL PAY and the polluter is riding on the backs of everyone else. "It's Business" is not a no-blame joker-card, often the effort to improve may be small and the effect large.

2/ Don't have doors open in the winter with a fan heater blowing downwards above the entrance so people can walk in but still feel nice and warm even though the door is wide open. Doors are a very effective low tech means of retaining heat and therefore cutting greenhouse emissions - use them! (it reduces fuel bills too - best described as "overheads" sounds more impressive in corporate-speak!)

3/ You don't really need to have ALL the lights on ALL night - timer switches will do the job if you can't be bothered. You'll save on power bills and also on the life-time of light fittings. Advertising is just not going to be very effective between about midnight and 8 a.m. so turn it off!

4/ Office environments don't need to be frigid in the summer. If you need to put something on to stay warm when people outside are in t-shirts, then the air-conditioning dial is in the wrong place.


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