In September 2019 4 million people around the world joined the Global Climate Strike. By the start of 2020, 1,400 local governments in 28 countries had declared a climate emergency and by October, 1,000 businesses had signed up to Science Based Targets.
What this highlights is that more and more people, companies and governments want to take action in order to avoid the worsening and accelerating climate crisis. Increasingly people also understand that cutting their personal carbon footprint is a key part of the role they have to play.
The first big question that many people therefore want answered is “What’s my carbon footprint?”. In this blog we’ll answer that question and show how people can start to cut it.
What is a carbon footprint?
A personal carbon footprint measures the greenhouse gases which are emitted as a result of the activities of an individual.
Typically it’s measured in kilograms or tonnes of carbon dioxide ‘equivalents’. This is because whilst carbon dioxide is the main greenhouses gas it also needs to include other gases such as methane and nitrous oxide which have much greater global warming potential.
The activities that a carbon footprint covers are broad, because so many of our day to day activities lead to greenhouse gas emissions. They can be split out into 5 main areas:
- Running a home which includes heating, electricity and waste.
- Transport because when we drive, fly or use other transport fossil fuels are often burnt.
- What we eat, drink and any food we waste.
- What we buy from clothes to electrical items to personal care.
- The services we use which includes how we invest, where we stay on holiday and our mobile and internet.
Adding these all up the average global carbon footprint for an individual is around 5 tonnes but it’s 9 tonnes in the UK, over 15 tonnes in the United States and under 2 tonnes in India. Whilst the majority of a carbon footprint is carbon dioxide the food we eat often adds methane (from livestock) and nitrous oxide (from fertilizer) to the total.
What’s my carbon footprint
Everyone’s carbon footprint is different. Sometimes a little bit but often a lot with the richest 10% having an average carbon footprint over 20 tonnes whilst the poorest 50% are under 1 tonne. The one thing we do know is that people with higher footprints needs to dramatically cut them over the next 10 years with an aim to hit 2.5 tonnes, or less, by 2030. Ideally people would reach Net Zero (where any emissions we do create are balanced by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) at the same time or as soon as possible after that.
The carbon footprint for an average UK person is shown in the chart. Normally our homes, what we eat and how we get around are the largest contributors making up roughly a quarter each. However, before decide how to reduce our carbon footprints it’s important to get a more personalised estimate to make sure we’re looking in the right places for the big cuts. This is where personal carbon footprint calculators come in.
Personal carbon footprint calculator
To calculate your own carbon footprint you can use Giki Zero. Our science based calculator (which is fun and easy to use!) covers all areas of your life and you can enter as much, or as little, information as you want to get a personalised estimate. Giki Zero will show you a breakdown of your carbon footprint by Home, Transport, Food, Purchases and Services and you can then find steps to help you reduce it.
With over 120 steps to choose from you’ll be sure to find something that works from you from the small, easy starters to the planet savers.
How to get started
Now you know what your carbon footprint is here are a few ideas of what you could do to get started.
Start by committing to “Cut a tonne in ‘21”. This will get you on the right track to Net Zero by 2030.
- In the home: Switch to renewable electricity, turn the heating down or just turn off the stuff you’re not using
- Getting around: Give up long haul flying or maybe even take a break from it all. Biking and walking more are always good carbon savers too.
- The food you eat: Try eating animal products once a day or even moving to a Plant Based diet. Going organic is also better for wildlife and soil quality.
- Purchases: Try to avoid any new clothes for 3 months and take old clothes to the charity shop. For an easy started why not switch to a shampoo bar and save some plastic at the same time.
- Services: don’t invest your ISA in fossil fuel companies and maybe ask your pension provider to commit to being Net Zero
We’ve got 10 years to dramatically cut our carbon footprints. Start today with your first step towards a lower carbon life.