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Graph of the Day: Your carbon footprint – and how to shrink it

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Shrink That Footprint

personalcarbonbudgets

Every person in the world has a carbon footprint.

But our carbon footprints vary greatly depending on where we live, how wealthy we are, our lifestyle and what energy we have access to.

Personal spending on housing, travel, food, products and services pays for two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. And people have the power to drastically reduce their own personal footprint if they choose to.

Here are some ideas to do just that from our new eBook ‘Emit This‘:

1. Get some perspective

Half the average American’s personal footprint results from just four things: driving, electricity, natural gas and red meat. Calculating your own carbon footprint will help you prioritize the easiest ways to improve your footprint.

2. Stuff your face

In wealthier countries consumer food waste is around 100kg a year per person, or about 20% of total food supply. If we simply eat more of the food we buy we cut our foodprint, our grocery bills and our trash production.

3. Eat the earth

A serving of red meat or cheese can have a carbon intensity more than ten times higher than a low carbon grain or fruit.  Eating more low carbon foods can slash your foodprint and improve your diet.

4. Make yourself comfortable

A super insulated Passivhaus uses just one tenth of the heating energy of a modern house.  Improving insulation and air-tightness in your home will lower emissions, cut heating bills and improve comfort.

5. Let your home chill out

If you drop your thermostat by 1ºC (1.8ºF) in winter you’ll use about 10% less heat.  By heating the rooms you need at the times you need them you can reduce your heating emissions and bills.

6. Get on your bike

Electrified public transport, full buses and bicycles are typically the lowest carbon forms of transport.   For cars, using a hybrid or electric car with low carbon electricity can more than halve driving emissions.

7. Love your local

Flying can rack up huge carbon footprints in a hurry.  Any avoided flight will take a chunk out of your carbon footprint.   Quitting flying altogether is tough, but flying less frequently is often easier to achieve.

8. Buy great stuff

A low carbon product can be second hand, use low carbon materials, be extremely efficient or just so damn good that it lasts ages. Choosing quality over quantity is a good place to start cutting product emissions.

9. Do more with less

Low carbon electricity is central to living well on a small carbon budget.  If your grid mix is quite carbon intensive then producing or buying it is a great way to reduce your footprint.

10. Watch your watts

The average American, Australian or Canadian consumes about ten times more electricity in their home than a Chinese or Indian does.  If you really watch your watts you may be able to take chunks off your usage and its footprint.

11. Pay the man

Services are the least carbon intensive way to spend money.  By paying people more and spending less on fuel, power or food you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

12. Pick other fruit

Carbon offsets are controversial with good reason.  But if they are correctly motivated and well researched they can be a cost effective way to reduce emissions, over and above your own footprint.

13. Tap your talent

Mankind produces greenhouse gas emissions in a great diversity of ways, so the solutions must also be diverse.  We each have unique talents we can bring to the climate challenge, so what are you waiting for?

These 13 steps are a short summary of our new eBook ‘Emit This‘.

If you enjoyed this post you will simply love it, so go grab your copy.

This article was originally published on Shrink That Footprint. Reproduced with permission  

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  • Bob_Wallace

    Today’s graph uses numbers from almost a decade ago.

    As of 2009 the US had fallen from 2004’s 21.2 metric tons of CO2e/capita to 17.2.

    Below Australia’s 18.3.

    • Lindsay Wilson

      The data is old sadly, hopefully will have 2007 soon. However the comparison you are talking about is chalk and cheese I’m afraid. This is a consumption footprint which excludes emissions from construction and government, you are talking about production emissions (and carbon only).

      On a total consumption basis an American’s footprint is still up around 24t CO2e/cap, down from about 27t in 2004. This is because the US is a net outsourcer of emissions (much to China), Australia is the reverse

      • Bob_Wallace

        The people who put the Wiki page together seem to think it includes construction and government emissions…

        “The data only considers carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and cement manufacture, but not emissions from land use such as deforestation.”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions_per_capita

        Australia produces 6.3% of the world’s coal and consumes only 1.3%. Seems to me that Australia is helping with emissions outside its boundaries.

        http://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/pdf/statistical-review/statistical_review_of_world_energy_2013.pdf

        Australia is a net exporter of intermediate goods and services, and a net importer of final goods, service, and food.

        • Lindsay Wilson

          Sorry Bob, I meant the consumption footprints in my graph exclude government and construction expenditure emissions. Not referring to your numbers.

          On a consumption basis the US is a net importer of carbon (embodied in goods) and Australia a net exporter. So the US outsources manufacturing emissions.

          As you said, if you consider extraction emissions Australia does indeed look pretty bad due to coal, LNG . . . similar to the middle east

      • MikeSmith866

        We could reduce the food footprint considerably by eating less meat. That would be a good thing for our health as well.

        But it would also help if we had a non-food competitive bio fuel made from grass, algae or sewage. This would allow farmers to operate their tractors for grains, fruits and vegetables with GHGs. Also food causes carbon emissions as it is shipped thousands of miles to grocery stores. Bio fuels would reduce this footprint as well.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You might want to include duckweed in your list of possible biofuel sources –

          “duckweed, an aquatic plant that floats on or near the surface of still or slow-moving freshwater, is ideal as a raw material for biofuel production. It grows fast, thrives in wastewater that has no other use, does not impact the food supply and can be harvested more easily than algae and other aquatic plants.”

          http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/8713/researchers-look-to-duckweed-as-biofuel-feedstock/

          Also canola/rapeseed can be grown between crops of wheat. That puts land which would otherwise lie fallow into use, reducing fertilizer pollution of surface water and lowering soil erosion. Extra profit for the farmers as well as Zero-desquestered carbon fuel.


          “with GHGs”

          I suspect you mean without producing GHGs.

          • MikeSmith866

            Thanks for the link on duck weed, I had not heard of this before.
            Yes, I should have said “without producing GHGs”