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Climate change and carbon reduction
There is lots of information about climate change on the Eco Watch web pages and some things that you can do to stay informed and make a difference are shown below:
Being aware of your carbon footprint is a good place to start. There are lots of calculators online but these are two that we like:
Flying can account for a huge proportion of your annual carbon footprint – particularly if fly often or take long flights. Research from The Guardian has found that one long-haul flight can produce more carbon emissions than the average citizen produces in a year in a number of countries!
If you do have to fly, make sure to pick economy class, because the carbon burden is shared among more passengers. Flying first class is associated with carbon emissions nine times more than economy.
Improve your home
Most important is making sure your home is well insulated. Trapping heat effectively is the best way to trim down your energy usage – the biggest producer of carbon emissions in the
Make sure heat drains like gusty lofts and window frames are fully stoppered up. Beyond this you can make additional efforts to draught proof your house – by blocking the edges of doors and windows for example. Replacing an inefficient gas boiler can yield important energy gains, and another tip is replacing halogen bulbs with more energy efficient LED bulbs.
Drive less – or switch to electric
While for people based in more rural areas, or those underserved by public transport, a car might be the most sensible option, for city dwellers, there is generally always a better, more carbon friendly alternative. Weigh up your options: can you take a bus or train? Walk? Cycle? Or at the very least, car share? If you are in ownership of a car, you can also spread your carbon burden by inviting people to share your commute. Herefordshire Council recommend the Lift Share app.
If you are a frequent car user, then switching to an electric car is the greener option. Although the electricity you feed into your vehicle will be partly produced by non-renewable energy.
However, the embedded carbon of a new electric vehicle has to be taken into account. The CO2 produced in manufacturing the car might be higher than the lifetime emissions of the vehicle depending on how often you use it. It might be better to instead maintain your current vehicle and aim to cut down your usage.
Eat local, in season and cut down on waste
Buying food that has travelled fewer air miles is one way to reduce the impact of your food. But there are some surprisingly low carbon things such as bananas imported from the Dominican Republic, apples from New Zealand and oranges from Brazil. The amount of carbon used to grow and process our food is an important issue alongside air miles. Foods from nearby countries that don’t do so well on this might be grown with artificial heat – in energy intensive poly tunnels for example – rather than shipping in unprocessed, seasonal products by boat from further away.
The most deadly combination is a food which requires an intensive production process as well as air freight to reach shelves. For example, a 100g box of blueberries imported by ship will produce around 100g of CO2. If it’s flown in instead, this can increase by ten times, to 1kg. Each kilo of a Peruvian asparagus produces a carbon equivalent of 8.9kg due to its transportation by air. This is practically seven times more than bananas or avocado which can be ferried by sea.
BUT, following all these rules is pretty much redundant if you then go on to waste food. Research from 2017 found that food waste accounted for eight per cent of greenhouse gas emissions!
“Around the world, and in the UK, we waste over a quarter of the food that’s produced and all of that food has a carbon footprint. Things like milk for instance, which we waste huge volumes of, have a pretty high carbon footprint,” says Reay. “By not overbuying, and not over serving at mealtimes, and keeping to use by dates, we can reduce that food waste and start having a really significant impact on our carbon footprint.”
Buy second hand clothes
Fast fashion is hugely harmful to the planet. Aside from the production process (which is higher carbon than the aviation and shipping industries combined) – a wear-once-then-toss attitude means that racks of flimsy clothes are quickly transformed into one million tonnes of waste a year, much of will be incinerated or added to landfill.
This doesn’t even take into account the vast number of microplastics contained in artificial materials, which are released into the water supply each time it’s washed. A huge amount of fresh water is consumed each year by the fast fashion industry, and more water used to make 3 pairs of jeans than we drink in a lifetime!
Reuse and reduce
Beyond clothing, any new purchase comes with an embedded carbon price tag. “The embodied carbon in everything we buy, particularly single use or throw away stuff, has a real, big impact on our climate,” says Reay. This is especially pertinent for items we only use sporadically, for example lawnmowers or power drills.
Apple has released figures showing that 80 per cent of a product’s carbon footprint is wrapped up in its production process, rather than the energy it consumes once it’s completed. Planned obsolescence means that we’re cycling through new handsets faster than ever before, with many of the discards simply being thrown in the bin.
To combat this, neighbourhood collectives that share rarely used items are on the rise. For example, Oxford’s Library of Things offers a range of items that are only occasionally needed – ladders, saws, and of course, disco balls. Reuse and reduce should form the pillars of your sustainable ideology. Recycling can only go so far, it’s tempering our voracious consumerism that can make the biggest impact.
There are several Repair Café’s around Herefordshire. Sign up for the Herefordshire Green Network newsletter to find out where they are happening near you.
Action at the individual level can only go so far and we need powerful industries to curb pollution and governments to take urgent and radical action on cutting our reliance on fossil fuels. Signing petitions, joining an activist group or writing to your local politician are good ways that you can support positive change.
Some content adapted from https://www.wired.co.uk/article/reduce-carbon-footprint
Please note that the SFC is not able to give advice about the suitability of any specific services or products