How green are you, anyway?

A friend of mine (the great deodorant co-experimenter) told me about this WWF personal carbon footprint calculator, so I thought I would have a go at it and share my thoughts with you.

The methodology section is a bit confusing, but essentially it measures your personal footprint in tonnes of CO2 equivalent carbon emissions. This is based on questions on four categories: Food – diet, food waste and buying habits, Home – energy type and usage in the house and presence of energy-saving measures, Travel – personal and public transport usage for leisure and work, and flights, and Stuff – purchase of consumable items.

It then gives you a percentage score – 100% is the average required for every citizen to meet the UK’s 2020 carbon emissions target. Less than 100%, you’re doing well. More than 100%, you’re contributing more than your fair share and could/should do more.

The “target” is the 2008 Climate Act’s goal to reduce emissions by 80% from the 1990 total by 2050 – to remain on track, we have to be 35% of the way there by 2020. More info here.

So I ran the questionnaire and came out initially with 98%. All good. Then I realised I had probably filled out the question about car travel wrong. We hardly ever use the car – literally one trip to the shops every 7-10 days or so, maybe a less than 50 mile trip once a month and longer trip every few months. So I initially answered the first car question saying “I walk/cycle/use public transport for all journeys”. When I went back and redid it, and answered the questions about the type of car we have (terrible huge diesel estate), even saying that I use it less than 2 hours per week made the answer came back at 112%… 11.2 tonnes. Still less than the UK average of 13.56 tonnes, but above target. Hmm…

Just as an experiment, to see how the weighting works, I ran it again with all the same answers but changed the food answer to “vegan”, and it came out at 109%. So the impact of car use seems to have a very high weighting. It would be really interesting to re-run it a few times playing with the other categories like recycling, flights taken etc. and see how that impacts the score.

The tips the calculator gives me are as follows:

Travel:

  • Cycle more – no, not going to. People would die. Probably me.
  • Use public transport more – I do this for everything except supermarket and visiting family, not sure how we can reduce this as I’m not really up for long train journeys with a toddler.
  • Drive smarter – remove excess weight to maximise petrol efficiency. Hmmm… 10 day camping trip with roof box coming up. Also, it tells me that “having the correct air pressure in your tyres results in better petrol mileage, better handling of the car, cheaper maintenance costs and a smaller environmental impact. This simple step can make a big difference.” This is my husband’s department (sorry, feminists), and I’m pretty sure he’s on it. And finally, my favourite: by slowing your travel speed by 10km/h, you could improve your car’s fuel consumption by 25%. Dear husband, please read this! (Cause of a few tiffs, this one)

Stuff tips – buy one expensive thing rather than lots of fast fashion, buy second hand. On it – see impending eBay post and my thoughts about fast fashion.

Food – eat in season, less meat and dairy.

Home – this was my highest score: switch energy supplier to a renewable energy company, switch to energy efficient bulbs (already doing this) and “embrace new technology” – this seems to be something about using apps to monitor energy use, or maybe installing a smart meter? More research required.

There’s a couple of non-negotiables in here which I’m sure have an impact (e.g. cat food spend, and we would really be sad if we cut down on our takeaways and the odd restaurant date night), but I re-ran it with the following changes:

No flights (won’t be flying anywhere next year anyway), changed meat from “some meals” to rarely, changed food to “a lot locally sourced” rather than just some, 100% renewable energy tariff, house temperature changed from “warm” to “cool” (grrrr….), no new household items (we bought new laptops last year with wedding present money, no plans to make anymore big purchases). I kept clothing spend at £0-£50 rather than zero, as I do have to buy the odd thing new despite my best efforts.

Drumroll please….. this takes me down to 11.4 tonnes, which is 93%. And this is with what I consider to be quite modest changes really, that we are heading towards anyway. More radical stuff could take it lower, and the methodology section says we should be aiming for 1.05 tonnes each by 2050. The global average is 5.28 tonnes and that feels like a good long-term aim.

Interesting stuff. I would love to hear what yours comes out as and whether it triggers any thoughts towards lifestyle changes.

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4 Comments

  1. Ahem… 253% here, which is 24 tonnes. Apparently having a bloke in Luxembourg, and visiting his kids in the States, has somewhat pushed me into the danger zone! Out of interest, I added the 9615 km trip to Japan later this year, and it only pushed it up by 4 tonnes – 294%. So while travel is 60% of my carbon footprint, air travel isn’t as much of a factor as I thought it would be. Would anyone like to offset me?!

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