How to reduce your carbon footprint
Some simple actions you can take that will help keep the planet healthy for generations to come.
71% of the world's emissions are produced by 100 fossil fuel companies including ExxonMobil, Shell, BHP Billiton and Gazprom.
It's important to keep that in mind when thinking about your own personal contribution to the climate crisis. Individual actions, especially when they inspire collective actions, are important. They contribute proportionately to tackling climate change, they embed climate awareness and they might save you money. However, without intergovernmental action to reduce emissions from the fossil fuel industry we will not keep global warming below 1.5oC.
When reducing your carbon footprint, the easiest way of starting out is thinking of the three 'R's: reduce, reuse, recycle. Prevention is always the best solution for reducing your emissions, therefore reduce is always the most important step, only after that should you reuse items and then recycling is only the last step if you cannot reuse the item.
- Reduce - not buying new clothes
- Reuse - repairing or altering clothes, swapping or buying clothes second hand
- Recycle - turning clothes into cleaning rags, rag rugs and putting them in a recycling bin
Another thing to keep in mind is recyclability. Avoid anything that can only be used once like single use plastic straws and avoid items that cannot be recycled like plastic coated paper or polystyrene, you can see a comprehensive list of what can and can't be recycled in West Lothian here.
Change your light bulbs
An easy fix you can make that will help the planet every day is to switch all of the lights in your house to energy efficient LED bulbs. Not only could you save up to £35 a year on your energy bills, replacing these inefficient bulbs could make a real impact on our national energy consumption.
Unplug your gadgets
Completely powering off your gadgets isn't just good for your devices, it's good for the planet. What's even better is unplugging your chargers when they're not in use and pulling the plug instead of leaving devices on standby.
Choose a laptop over a desktop
Laptops, unlike desktop computers, are designed to be energy-efficient, because battery life is a major factor to laptop design. According to EU Energy Star, a laptop can be up to 80% more energy-efficient than a desktop. Energy-efficient LCD screens, hard drives, CPUs and adaptors all factor into making laptops much better tools for the planet.
Adjust your thermostat and your curtains
Simple adjustments to moderate the temperature in your house can make a big difference for the planet. If you keep your house one or two degrees cooler in the winter you can make big savings on your energy bills. Similarly, closing your curtains at night keeps in warmth. There are several energy-efficient curtains on the market that use insulation to help maintain the temperature of your home. The Energy Saving Trust provides many tips for reducing heating bills.
Buy local food
Purchasing foods that are both in season and grown locally can drastically cut down the carbon emissions of the vehicles used to transport out of season fruit and veg across the world. Big Barn is a tool that can help find local food producers. According to the Worldwatch Institute, food travels 1,500 miles on average between the farm and the supermarket. West Lothian has local food co-ops which sell fresh locally grown produce.
Choose energy-efficient kitchen appliances
Microwaves are faster and often use less energy than the oven. The real task at which microwaves excel is bringing water to a boil. If using the oven the most energy efficient type is an induction hob. If you are using the oven, your food will cook faster on the upper shelf because heat rises.
Reduce your travel
With the range of video conferencing, home working, online shopping and networking on offer, you don't always need to leave the comfort of your own four walls. During the past year, many people have swapped the daily commute for working at home, so consider whether you can make use of the wide range of digital communication options available before making a journey.
Walking and wheeling are classed as active travel methods. The only resource required to get from A to B is your own energy. Travelling on foot or wheels doesn't create any carbon emissions, so this is a sustainable and green way to make a journey. Each mile you walk rather than drive saves 276g of carbon dioxide (CO2). You can find detailed maps and descriptions of West Lothian's core path network and National Cycle Network routes here and here.
Take public transport
There may be times when active travel isn't a suitable option, for example you may be travelling a long distance or have luggage. This is where public and shared transport can be helpful. Getting the bus or train instead of taking the car can help you reduce your carbon footprint while you travel. Shared and public transport also reduces traffic congestion and improves local air quality. It can also be a better use of your time, allowing you to check messages, read a book or chat with friends and family while you travel. There are many resources available for planning public transport journeys: bustimes.org provides real time tracking information, traveline allows you to plan journeys across transport types and Lothian Buses provides information on West Lothian buses.
If you feel that you really need to use a car for a journey, why not look into joining a car club? The average club car produces 26.5% less greenhouse gas emissions than the average private car, and each car club vehicle takes up to 18.5 cars off the road, reducing congestion. Check out CoMoUK's map to find your local car club.
Switch to an Electric Vehicle
Sometimes a private vehicle is necessary and on these occasions you should consider the greenest type of vehicle - this is where electric cars come in. With the electricity we use getting greener all the time as we get more of our energy from renewable sources, electric cars produce far fewer carbon emissions than their petrol and diesel equivalents - and there are zero tailpipe emissions. The Scottish Government has set a target to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032. When will you make the switch? Grants up to £250 are available from the Energy Saving Trust towards the cost of installing an electric charge point at your home. Charge points are also available across West Lothian.
If you have outdoor space where you live you can do a lot to make a difference. The worst type of garden for the environment is one that is covered up by slabs, monoblocks, decking, Astroturf (a harmful by-product of petrol) and other types of impermeable surfaces. These surfaces don't allow rainwater to drain away and therefore contribute to increasing the likelihood of local flooding. If you need a low maintenance surface explore lawn alternatives such as: gravel, woodchips, sedum, thyme, moss or wildflower meadows. Many of the lawn alternatives are beautiful and easier to maintain even than slabs or monoblocks.
The next least environmentally friendly type of garden is one that is just grass. Lawns are monocultures, areas that provide no food for pollinating insects. Consider trying your hand at growing flowers it will brighten up the space and help the planet. If you really aren't gifted with a green thumb then allow the flowers that grow in your lawn naturally to bloom - the weeds! A lawn with daisies, clover and dandelions is helping the planet, so leave the lawn mower in the shed. Growing flowers for pollinators is something you can do even in a small space like a windowsill or balcony.
Pesticides & Herbicides
Pesticides (chemicals that kill insects and other garden pests) and herbicides (chemicals that kill weeds) are not good for the environment and should be used sparingly if ever. Prevention is always better, you can: choose plant species that are pest and disease resistant, use companion planting, plant flowers tightly leaving no room for weeds to grow, use mulch to suppress weeds, manually remove pests, or try natural alternatives like washing plants with soapy water or neem oil. If a plant or vegetable you're growing is continually plagued with a pest or disease it might be a sign that the plant is stressed and just isn't suited to your garden. It might be better to swap it with something better suited than to repeatedly use pesticides and fungicides.
Home composting turns your garden and kitchen waste into a useful soil enhancer for your garden and reduces the volume of waste in your household bins. West Lothian Council has produced handy advice for getting started with composting.
Grow Your Own
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is a fun and fulfilling pastime but it also helps the planet by reducing food miles. It could be something small like growing salad in a window box, something big like starting a vegetable garden, or something shared like an allotment or community garden.