Individual CO2 footprint – do my actions really matter?
What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
This saying by a famous primatologist Jane Goodall perfectly describes the need to pay closer attention to our individual daily actions and their collective impact on the world. With regards to climate change, there is even more of a pressing need for each and every one of us lower our lifestyle-associated carbon emissions: a recent report on 1.5 Degree lifestyles clearly shows that there is a need for reductions of over 80% in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2050 from today’s intensity of lifestyles. The authors looked at the current average carbon footprints of Finland and Japan, as well as Brazil, India and China, were estimated based on the levels of physical consumption in order to be both comparable to global targets and compatible with household-level solutions.
What are the potential “areas of improvement” for us to reduce our lifestyle carbon footprints, and tools to help us to get to the desired lifestyle carbon footprint target of 2.5 (tCO2e) in 2030?
The report outlines the so-called “hotspots” in our lifestyles where introducing changes would yield the most benefits: meat and dairy consumption, fossil-fuel-based energy, car use, and air travel. These domains tend to have the largest impact (approximately 75%) on total lifestyle carbon footprints. However, in order to know how much changes does one needs to make, it’s important to know what’s the current “state-of-play” for your own CO2e levels or carbon footprint of your household. “What gets measured gets managed”.
Here, Klimato and Kora joined forces to bring the best measurement tools closer to you!
Which tools are currently available?
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) developed a calculator to measure individual lifestyle footprint. Based on a simple questionnaire and available in several languages, the calculator shows an estimate of your carbon footprint in tonnes per year, compares it with the country’s average, and suggests the areas which require the most attention from the person’s side.
Conservation International, another NGO with a global reach, also offers a carbon footprint calculator that you can make a calculation for yourself, your entire household, or for the event or a single trip. In addition, the organization offers the possibility to offset your carbon footprint by investing in reforestation projects. Both the WWF’s as well as Conservation’s calculators ask some general questions about your lifestyle and thus rely on your (often limited) knowledge of your household energy supply sources or estimated number of km driven in a car/number of meat meals per week. The question here remains though How to go beyond estimations and know with precision the carbon footprints of each of the “life activities”? Now that you know your carbon footprint, how to reduce it?
In Europe, transportation makes up about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in most cities. (Europa) According to 2017 study from researchers at Lund University and the University of British Columbia, you could save about 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide by avoiding driving a car for one year. Although transportation is an essential part of our lives, there are many ways to reduce emissions by using alternative modes of transportation including public transit, biking, or walking. Each km driven using a car emits about 200g of CO2e. Which means that you could significantly reduce your carbon footprint, if you choose to walk or bike for short trips and use public transportation or carpool for longer distances instead of driving.
But sometimes you need an extra push to help you decide to use alternative forms of transportation which is why Kora tracks and rewards you for reducing your carbon footprint by rewarding you with 1 Kora for every kg of CO2 you reduce. Currently, you can earn Koras from choosing to walk or bike instead of driving, and other types of sustainable actions will be added in the future!
A small case study: even in a country with ambitious climate targets, the average Swede’s emissions of about 2 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents per dinner is far too high. According to WWF’s One Planet Plate, the figure should be below 0.5 kg CO2e in order to be classified as climate-friendly. Most of the vegetarian and vegan meals fall below the “planetary healthy plate” of 0.5 kg CO2e, whereas a meal with just a piece of red meat could easily account for 3-4 kg of CO2e. Here, data visualization is key: Klimato allows restaurants to label the climate impact of their food and communicate the meal impacts on the customers. For individuals, the golden rule is less dairy & meat, more veg & beans. Another very important goal is not to waste food: planning meals ahead, being creative in the kitchen by using up the leftovers & freezing whatever is still unused are the ways to go. Raising awareness about the issue also counts: educating yourself and other consumers about food waste could prevent 2.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Reducing energy usage and switching to renewable sources is another way to significantly reduce your individual carbon footprint. As the renewable energy revolution has grown, the costs of renewable energy have been decreasing which is key to accelerating the shift to clean energy. According to the Climate Tracker Initiative, a climate finance thinktank, renewable power is now a cheaper option than building new coal plants and it will be cheaper than energy from existing coal plants by the latest 2030.
You may think that you have no power over where your energy comes from, but you can actually decide to switch to renewable energy. For example, you can choose to switch your energy source by installing solar panels. Sonnen is a solar company that can help you install solar panels and an intelligent solar system that enables you to supply yourself with clean energy. Bulb is an energy provider in the UK that provides its members with 100% renewable energy.
We can also reduce emissions from energy by reducing our energy consumption by unplugging appliances that are not in use, turning off lights that are not in use, reducing the usage of air conditioning and heating, and using smart thermostats, such as Nest, that can adjust temperatures for optimal conditions, helping you save on average 10-15% on heating and cooling bills.
Finally, you can also decide to invest in renewable energy to support the growth of this industry. Investing in renewable energy projects will help to accelerate the development of technology so that renewable power can become more affordable and accessible worldwide. For example, CoPower is a Canadian company that offers impact investments in the form of green bonds that support community-scale clean energy projects.
How to reduce your individual impact?
Quick recap from the latest science! 1.5 Degrees lifestyle report states: “The options with large emission reduction potentials include:
Mobility: car-free private travel and commuting, electric and hybrid cars, vehicle fuel efficiency improvement, ride-sharing, living nearer workplaces and in smaller living spaces;
Energy: renewable grid electricity and off-grid energy, heat pumps for temperature control;
Food: vegetarian-vegan diets and substitute dairy products and red meat.
Small changes in the way we eat, live and travel can have a major impact on the planet as a whole. Be the change you want to see in the world! Don’t think that person cannot make a difference. After all, we are 7 billion people on Planet Earth.
1 small action x 7million people = BIG change.
P.S. Looking for ways to make your individual carbon footprint reduction easier?