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You will have most likely heard of the Government target for all UK carbon emissions to reach net zero by 2050, and while that may seem quite far off in the distance, there are some easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint, fight climate change and improve energy efficiency in the home.
There are lots of easy steps that can be taken which can have an immediate impact on reducing carbon footprint, including in the home, while travelling and even with the food we eat. Here is our handy guide to some of these steps, and a look at how they help to combat climate change.
A ‘carbon footprint’ is something that you will often see mentioned, so it’s important to understand what is meant by this.
A carbon footprint is how our impact on the environment is measured and is the total amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) released into the atmosphere because of our day-to-day activities. It is measured in equivalent tonnes of CO2 per year.
A carbon footprint can be looked at for an individual, or more broadly for an entire town or nation. Most things done during day-to-day life will have some form of contribution to the carbon footprint such as the mode of transport used for a daily commute to the amount of energy used in the home. These all have a different impact and contribute to a person's yearly total of carbon emissions in varying degrees.
To give you an idea, the average carbon footprint per person in the UK is 12.7 tonnes. That’s the equivalent of driving 23,000 miles in an average car - once around the world.1
It can be quite challenging to pinpoint an exact figure for your carbon footprint, however our recommendation and a great first place to start is to use one of the useful calculators available online that will give you an initial understanding of how much carbon emissions you produce each year in tonnes. The WWF has a great carbon footprint calculator which asks some simple questions about your lifestyle and takes just a few minutes to complete.
The calculator gives you a rough idea of what your current carbon footprint is and allows you to see which of your daily activities contribute the most to it. This will give you an initial understanding, which you can take as a starting point and then combine with our tips to start reducing your carbon footprint.
Helping make homes more efficient and cost less to run is something we’re passionate about. With the home being one of the places we spend most of our time, it makes sense to start here. It’s also one of the best places to cut carbon footprint with lots of quick wins and changes that can be made. You may even find that by following some of our advice you could save money on your energy bills too!
Increasing energy efficiency when heating the home
Increasing energy efficiency is a key part of reducing your carbon footprint and ensures that energy, and heat in particular, isn’t wasted unnecessarily. Actions such as bleeding your radiators can take just a few minutes and result in greater efficiency when heating the home. Making sure that your heating controls are optimised with efficiency in mind is another great place to start. For example, it is estimated that a typical household could save 310kg of carbon emissions per year, just by turning down the thermostat by 1 degree. It goes without saying that this will also have a notable impact on your heating bills.
Blocking out draughts with a towel can be a quick, cost effective way of draught proofing during the coldest weather to keep heat in. Look out for gaps in skirting boards, windows or doors. Alternatively, search the web for a proper draught or draft excluder.
Switching off radiators for rooms not in use is a simple way to reduce your energy usage when heating the home – only turn them on when needed.
Make sure to avoid placing thick curtains or bulky items such as a sofa in front of radiators, this will stop heat from being trapped before it can fill up the room.
If you want to take further action, Government grants are available to help improve the energy efficiency of the home, with funding being given towards home improvements which reduce carbon emissions such as renewable heating with air source heat pumps or insulation measures (more on this below).
- We touched on this earlier but it’s worth repeating. You should always turn off the lights when leaving the room and swapping to energy saving LED lightbulbs could reduce carbon emissions in the home by up to 65kg.2
Renewable heating solutions
Switching to a renewable heating solution such as an air source heat pump is a great way to cut our reliance on fossil fuels, reduce energy bills and lower carbon footprint in the home. In fact, switching from an old oil boiler to an air source heat pump could save up to 7 tonnes per year in household carbon emissions. That’s the equivalent of driving 17,000 miles in an average size car. As well as the reduction in carbon emissions, you could also save money on your heating bills, which is always a welcome bonus.
Hybrid heating is another renewable heating option. It combines a highly efficient air source heat pump with your existing boiler unit. Intelligent controls automatically decide whether the boiler or heat pump is engaged for heating, with the boiler only being engaged when absolutely needed. Hybrid heating will help you to reduce carbon emissions and can save money on bills at the same time.
- Government grants such as the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) are available for these heating systems and worth your consideration, as an average home switching to an air source heat pump can expect to receive just over £11,000 in payments over a 7-year period.3
Improving home insulation is another great and relatively simple area to explore when trying to reduce carbon footprint and save on your bills. It all starts with your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). An EPC is a report which rates properties based on how energy efficient it is. The rating is on a simple A-G scale with A-rated home’s being the most efficient. An EPC is a great snapshot on the current efficiency of your home and includes recommended improvements to a home's rating. It's also worth noting that an up-to-date EPC is essential when installing an air source heat pump to receive your Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments.
How well insulated a home is plays a big part in how much heat the home loses through the roof and walls, and the overall energy efficiency. A well-insulated home will mean that a heating system will heat the home much quicker, and retain heat longer, resulting in lower carbon emissions from running the heating system for less time each day.
The three most common types of home insulation are loft insulation, cavity wall insulation and solid wall insulation, and the age of your property will typically determine which form of insulation you have installed. For example, if you have an older property, it is likely you will have solid wall insulation.
- There are also great financial benefits, with a well-insulated home saving between £215 and £415 per year.4
Energy efficient appliances
The average home has many appliances, which produce varying levels of carbon emissions, so it’s important to understand some of the biggest culprits and score some quick wins.
The tumble dryer is one of the worst producers of carbon emissions in the home, so you should avoid using it where possible despite how convenient it may be. You will also find it is one of the most expensive home appliances to run, so you could save some money as well. Air drying using a washing line or on a coat hanger near a window (if you live in a flat) are two obvious alternatives.
Most modern washing machines and dishwashers will come with an Eco mode to use less energy and water while running. Running your washing machine on 30°C will ensure your clothes are clean but use less energy to heat the water. You should also consider washing dishes by hand in a bowl of water.
It’s worth noting that home appliances feature efficiency ratings from the most efficient A, down to G, the least efficient. The A category is split even further into three subcategories – A+, A++ and A+++. These ratings allow you to identify the most efficient appliances to purchase and to check how your current appliances stack up.
Switching to a green energy supplier can take just a few clicks, and once the simple switching process is complete you will be able to benefit from 100% renewable energy, immediately reducing your carbon footprint and impact on the environment.
Once the switch is complete, you will be able to benefit from renewable energy immediately. At Igloo, we offer 100% renewable electricity. This means our electricity comes from green sources exclusively instead of harmful fossil fuels.
Green tariffs are typically accounted for using a scheme called the Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin or REGO’s. They allow suppliers to prove that a certain amount of green electricity has been produced for the grid. It’s worth highlighting that we help customers to reduce energy consumption, so even with a green tariff we still believe the greenest unit of energy is the one not used in the first place.
- In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, you may find that a green tariff is actually cheaper than your existing tariff and can save you money. For example, if you join Igloo Energy you could save £170 per year and reduce your carbon footprint at the same time.5
Travel is another key contributor to carbon emissions and accounts for a large portion of a typical carbon footprint. The method of transport you use to commute to the number of times you jet off abroad each year, all have an impact on your carbon footprint.
There are a number of different ways to change the way you travel and to reduce carbon footprint at the same time. You may even find that you can save some money as well.
Consider how often you drive to work and look at the different public transport options available. Better yet, if you live nearby to the office, consider walking or cycling to work. Many employers offer a cycle-to-work scheme, so it’s worth checking with yours.
Consider carpooling and sharing the drive to work. If you’re all going to the same place, why use multiple vehicles when you can use just one and reduce collective carbon emissions?
Make sure your vehicle is regularly serviced and working efficiently.
- Electric vehicles are a great way to save money and reduce carbon footprint by getting rid of reliance on fossil fuels. A battery powered electric car is estimated to output 66% less greenhouse gas emissions than a petrol car.6 Igloo offer an EV Smart Charging App and tariff, which allows you to charge your EV using the least amount of carbon possible, and you’ll even get 100 free miles per month for doing so.
Long distance & holidays
There’s no avoiding the fact that flying is one of the biggest producers of carbon emissions, accounting for 2.5% of the global total. So, flying less is one way of immediately reducing your carbon footprint. If visiting destinations in Europe, you could consider other methods of transport such as the train or ferry.
Flight websites such as Skyscanner have a feature which will suggest flights which are greener and show you how much less carbon emissions they produce compared to the average for that route. More efficient planes can produce as much as 20% less carbon emissions.
Carbon offsetting through your airline is another great way to reduce carbon footprint. Carbon offsets are schemes where people can pay to ‘offset’ the emissions that are used during a flight. Offsetting is where you choose to invest in a carbon reduction project, such as the planting of trees, and usually starts from around £10 to offset a short hop to Europe. The emissions are of course still produced during the flight, but offsetting allows an equal amount to be given back to the environment through these projects.
Consider staycations and taking public transport to get to your destination.
The food we choose to eat and where we buy it from also has a big impact on our carbon footprint. You can make some simple changes to reduce this.
You could consider buying food from local sources, such as a farmers' market or sellers in your town or city. The food for sale will have been transported from the local area so will have used less carbon emissions to reach your plate.
If you have space, you could look at growing your own fruit and vegetables.
Reducing food wastage is also key to cutting carbon footprint. Make a weekly plan for your meals and don’t buy food that you won’t be able to eat. Food that ends up in the bin has still produced carbon emissions in the process of reaching your home. You can always freeze food before it reaches the use by date to extend its life.
- Meat and dairy accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so your diet can play a big part in carbon footprint.7 Consider reducing the amount of meat and dairy you eat each week and swap a couple of meat-based meals for vegetable-based food. If you wanted to go one step further and switch to a vegetarian diet, you could save 5.95 tonnes of CO2 per year.
How we dress and where we choose to buy our clothes from can also have a big impact on carbon footprint. The rise of ‘fast fashion’ has meant that we are buying more clothes than ever, without necessarily thinking of the environmental impact. In fact, the fashion industry is responsible for producing 10% of all global carbon emissions.8
Consider looking at thrift and vintage stores for your clothes. You’ll likely find some great quality, pre-loved items for a great price as well.
Donating unwanted clothes to charity or to recycling schemes is another great option. You’ll likely find located near your home a clothing bank where you can donate your unwanted items. This extends the life of an item and avoids contributing to landfill, a producer of methane gas.
Sewing and fixing small holes in garments can take just a few minutes and takes away the need to replace them. If it’s a hole you can’t fix, consider using a local sewing shop.
Consider spending slightly more on a higher quality item that will last longer. Fast fashion items may be cheap but if you have to keep replacing them, this will have a bigger impact on carbon footprint.
As you’ve seen from our guide, our carbon footprint is determined by pretty much everything we do in our daily lives, and we all have a part to play in reducing our carbon emissions to meet our 2050 obligations. If you’d like to act now with Igloo, you could consider switching to a low-carbon air source heat pump or switch your energy supply to us. We offer 100% renewable electricity, which could save you up to £170 a year.9
1 Source: PawPrint
2 Source: Energy Saving Trust
3 This calculation assumes an annual energy consumption of 20,000 kWh, 14,751kWh of which are eligible for RHI payments, which could result in a potential funding amount of £12,813.15. The calculation of the total potential funding figure is broken down into RHI payments of £1,600.45/year over 7 years (= £11,203.15) plus additional MMSP payments of £1,610.00, bringing the total combined amount to £12,813.15 (= £11,203.15 + £1,610.00). The calculation does not consider any additional fuel savings, which may be achieved with an air source heat pump instead of a traditional boiler.
4 Source: Which?
5 Average savings calculation based on all customers who signed up in the last three months
6 Source: Energy Saving Trust
7 Source: CarbonBrief
8 Source: The World Bank
9 Average savings calculation based on all customers who signed up in the last three months