Hello, my name is Uma Jacobsdottir, founder of The Race Is On, an environmental movement that is committed to helping people wean themselves off fossil fuels. We have to – our governments are not moving fast enough. They’re slaves to politics and corporate interests and unable to make the hard decisions that will move us into a carbon neutral society.
So it’s up to each and everyone of us to take action. If you’re feeling helpless, you’re not the only one. I feel like I’m both figuratively and literally suffocating in CO2 emissions. However it needs to start with each one of us changing our daily habits to reduce our own personal carbon footprint. Governments will follow, once the movement is big enough.
Here are ten actions you can take. TODAY. Each one will have a radical impact on your emissions and won’t cost you a penny – in fact each and every action listed below will save you money.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, fashion accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide output—more than international flights and shipping combined. That’s because modern textiles rely heavily on petrochemical products that come from many of the same oil and gas companies driving greenhouse gas emissions.
Stop buying new clothes. Instead shop vintage. You’ll save money and the planet and there are hundreds of sites out there that allow you to obtain great clothes at great prices. If you want new – get over it. Fast fashion is a disgusting waste of resources not to mention human lives.
Your food travels on average 1,500 miles before it reaches your dinner plate. Certain food groups are worse than others; pumpkins travel eight times farther, whilst broccoli travels a whopping 92 times farther than local produce to reach the store.
Buy your food from local suppliers. It’s a failsafe way to reduce your carbon footprint. Not only are you personally travelling less distance to buy your food but you’re also buying produce that has been grown in your area and has travelled less distance to get to the store.
Another benefit of buying food at local markets or stores is that a lot of the food is unpackaged which means less waste. This helps to reduce your impact on the environment even further.
The carbon cost of chicken is six times higher than soya, while beef is 73 times higher. To put this into perspective, one kilo of beef protein has a carbon opportunity cost of 1,250kg: that, incredibly, is roughly equal to driving a new car for a year, or to one passenger flying from London to New York and back.
Stop eating meat. It’ll save you money, is great for the environment and is arguably better for you.
If you can’t imagine a life without your steak, stop eating meat before 5 PM. In that way 2/3s of your meals will be plant based.
The average American has been estimated to throw away around 37kg of clothes every year. And globally, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year. That’s the equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ending up on landfill sites every second!
And that’s just the end. The fashion industry accounts for about 8-10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater. And while the environmental impact of flying is now well known, fashion sucks up more energy than both aviation and shipping combined!
We live in a throw away culture, particularly fashion. We are conditioned to buying super cheap clothes that last a week and then get chucked away when we’re done. Or worse still, fall apart.
So start buying less often and a better quality so they last longer. It’s great for your pocket and the environment. If you get bored, recycle them through the burgeoning clothes recycling industry. And buy second hand ones yourself. We all buy second hand cars. Why not clothes?
“Aggressive” driving – acceleration, speeding and braking can lower fuel economy by 33% on motorways and 5% in urban areas.
Ideally you shouldn’t drive a gas guzzler but I promised free tips, so my best advice is to change your driving habits. Here’s five ways:
Drive away immediately when starting from cold – idling to heat the engine wastes fuel and causes rapid engine wear.
The most efficient speed depends upon the car in question but is typically around 55 – 65mph. Faster speed will greatly increase your fuel consumption.
Check your tyre pressures regularly – under-inflated tyres are dangerous and can increase fuel consumption by up to 3%.
Accessories such as roof racks, bike carriers, and roof boxes significantly affect your car’s aerodynamics and reduce fuel efficiency, so remember to remove them when not in use.
The heavier the content of your car, the more fuel it requires to move it. Keep your boot clear of heavy objects where possible.
Residential energy use accounts for roughly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
Use less – below are five small actions you could take. Given there are upwards of 122 million households in the US, the cumulative impact of these tiny actions could have a drastic impact on greenhouse emissions:
Items left on standby can use up to 85% of the energy they would use if fully switched on. Turn them off at the wall – it doesn’t take long.
Electric tumble dryers use a huge amount of energy. If it’s a nice day, dry your clothes outside or even inside if it’s not so nice.
When using a washing machine ensure there is a full load and turn down the temperature. All washpowders are manufactured to operate at 40 degrees
If you have lights in your garden use solar powered lights that charge during the day and don’t require electricity.
Take your phone charger out of the wall. It uses energy even when it’s not charging your phone.
All of these tips will help you save money as well as the planet
Water consumption has a surprisingly big impact on carbon emissions both in its production and consumption:
The energy needed to move, treat, and use water in the US for both residential and commercial purposes produces nearly 290 million metric tonnes of CO2 annually – the equivalent of 5% of the nation’s overall carbon emissions.
In the US, about 19% of all energy delivered to households is used for heating water, while doing the laundry in each household in the country is estimated to release an average of 240kg of greenhouse gas emissions a year.
Below are five simple actions you can take to reduce this impact. Again, each action will have a tiny, barely noticeable impact on the environment but cumulatively they could make real dents:
If your heating system still has a tank, make sure it’s insulated with a thick jacket. It will save you lots of money, not to mention reducing emissions.
A dripping tap can be not only annoying but if it is a hot tap it can cost you in both water costs and water heating costs.
When making a cup of tea or coffee, only boil the amount of water that you need.
Turn off the tap while cleaning your teeth.
Have a shower instead of a bath, which uses far less energy and water. Although beware – power showers can use more water.
Commercial buildings account for 35 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S and generate 826 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions which is equivalent to 16 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.
Treat your office like your home. But if you are feeling adventurous, you can always have a go at persuading your boss to go green as well! It’ll save him or her money. Here are five actions you can take:
Only use the lights you need. Turn off lights in unused rooms. Better still; get your building to install occupancy sensors.
Turn off your computer monitor when you leave the office at the end of the day.
Do you really need those hard copies, or can you save it on your computer instead?
Think before you print – but if you have to print at all, print double-sided – you can even print multiple pages to a sheet.
Can you share a lift to get to work?
If food waste alone was a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of carbon emissions globally! It contributes hugely to our environmental footprint because so many resources go into growing it, processing it, packaging, storing, transporting, etc.
Nobody wastes food on purpose, but here are five easy actions you can take to use up as much food as possible. Not only will it be good for the environment but it will save you money too!
Check it – Always check your fridge and cupboards for what you’ve already got before you go food shopping. You might have forgotten tasty treats you already have, or you might spot ingredients that need to be finished, so you can plan your shop better to combine with those. Check labels too, so you know what needs to be used up first.
Plan it – Meal planning is a great way to help reduce food waste, as you’ll only buy the things you need and know what days you’re eating them. Remember to save some empty days in your plan for eating out, or sorting out leftovers and random ingredients.
Store it – Storing our food correctly can help it last longer, and give us a better chance of using it up.
Freeze it – Getting friendly with your freezer could save you a wad of cash, and save a lot of food from the bin! Did you know you can freeze almost anything safely, and without reducing the quality or nutritional value?
Share it – Going on holiday? Cooked too much? Sometimes we will have done all the meal prep and planning yet still have spare food that’s perfectly good. This food can be shared with your local Community Fridge or check out Olio app to share food with your neighbours – it could be odd ingredients or full blown meals!
One study estimates that having one fewer child is estimated to save as much as 58.6 tonnes of carbon emissions a year (if the potential future emissions of a descendant were calculated based on historical rates and heredity). The lifetime costs really bring the message home. For the average American:
man, assuming they live to 76, you would save a whopping 4,453.6 tonnes of carbon emissions.
woman, assuming they live to 81, you would save an incredible 4,745 tonnes of carbon emissions.
Agreed, this is not for everyone but I don’t have children. And I don’t intend to. It’s a conscious decision because having fewer children does in fact lower my overall carbon footprint. But if you really want a kid, adopt one. There are millions of children in this world without parents, living in abject poverty.