Size up your carbon footprint, and take steps to shrink it

Estimating your household emissions, can help reduce their impact, says David Prosser

Would you cut your carbon dioxide emissions by almost two thirds? And what would it cost to do it? Environment secretary David Miliband has unveiled plans to cut Britain's carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. A very large part of the reduction will have to come from the business sector, particularly the worst polluters, but individuals will have to do their bit too - it may even be that people will be given their own personal carbon allowances.

While increasing numbers of people are much more aware of their impact on the environment, very few know exactly what they are responsible for in terms of emissions. But it is possible to calculate your carbon footprint quite precisely - and doing so enables you to identify how to reduce its size.

Our survey will help: click here to take the test ). It is based on work done by Quaker Green Action, a group set up to promote sustainable living. Once you've completed the survey, you should have a much more accurate picture of how different parts of your life contribute to your total carbon emissions - and be in a much better position to reduce your impact.

Start by assessing how you compare with the average person in the UK, who emits around 13,000kg of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gases during the course of a year. This is an individual total, so if you base some of your answers in the survey on your household consumption patterns, you will need to divide these figures by the number of members of your household.

Don't be too smug if you find that your carbon footprint is smaller than the average. For one thing, the global average is just 5,800kg. In developing countries such as India, the figure is closer to 1,300kg.

Moreover, however low your current figure, you will almost certainly need to cut it further in order to contribute to the 60 per cent reduction we need by 2050. For individuals, the cut would imply getting your total carbon emissions figure down to around 5,200kg.

Some areas of your life are easier to target than others. For example, one part of the survey requires you to add to your total figure if you live in a house built less than 50 years ago. This is because the provision of materials to build housing is a major contribution to carbon emissions.

On the other hand, fitting energy-saving light bulbs in your home could not be simpler. Stepping up your recycling efforts should also be relatively easy. And many people will not find it too challenging to reduce the amount of time they spend driving large, polluting cars.

The story on costs is similarly mixed. As the story below explains, there are all sorts of simple steps you can take around the home that will not only have a dramatic effect on your carbon emissions total, but will also save you hundreds of pounds each year.

Moving on to the next step, however, may prove expensive. While installing renewable energy systems, such as solar panels or wind turbines, will bring down your carbon emissions further, this sort of kit can be expensive. Even with limited government grants available, it may be some years before lower energy bills repay your initial investment.

Similarly, while organic food reduces your carbon emissions, it is generally more expensive. If you live on a tight budget, it may not always be practical.

That said, it's worth remembering that there are also costs involved in not reducing your emissions. Drivers of larger cars, for example, already pay higher road taxes. Air passenger duty on flights was increased sharply last year and may rise again soon. And in time, there may be taxation penalties for people who exceed their personal carbon allowances.

Simple ways to reduce your footprint and save money

* Turning your thermostat down by 1C could cut your heating bills by up to 10 per cent, saving you about £40 per year.

* Is your water too hot? Your cylinder thermostat shouldn't need to be set higher than 60C/140F.

* Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through your windows.

* Always turn off the lights when you leave a room.

* Don't leave appliances on standby and remember not to leave appliances on charge for an unnecessary time.

* If you're not completely filling up the washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher, use the appliance's half-load or economy programme.

* Only boil as much water as you need (but remember to cover the elements if you're using an electric kettle).

* A dripping hot water tap wastes energy and in one week wastes enough hot water to fill half a bath, so fix leaking taps and make sure they're fully turned off.

* Replace your light bulbs with energy-saving recommended ones: just one can reduce your lighting costs by up to £100 over the lifetime of the bulb - and they last up to 12 times longer than ordinary, old-style light bulbs.

* Do a home energy check. The online test at, asks you simple questions about your home and promises you a free report telling you how you can save up to £300 a year on your household energy bills.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Mickey Rourke celebrates his victory against opponent Elliot Seymour
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
Actor Burt Reynolds last year

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

    Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

    Citifocus Ltd: German Speaking Client Specialist

    £Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...

    Citifocus Ltd: Performance & Risk Oversight

    £Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Director - SaaS (SME/Channel) - £140,000 OTE

    £90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game