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What can I do?

Written by Richard Docwra

We all need to significantly reduce our CO2 emissions if we are to reduce the effects of climate change.

Most of us want to reduce our impact on climate change, and any steps we can take to ‘do our bit’ are useful. If we are to achieve the goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% however, we will need to make sure that the steps we’re taking are those that have the most impact and that really make a difference. It can be difficult to identify these steps though, as much of the advice we get on ethical living doesn’t tell us the most important actions to take or the likely impact of each action.

The list in this guide is different. It shows some of the most important steps you can take to reduce your CO2 emissions, and the possible impact each could have on your emissions. So, if you only take a few steps you can be sure that they are the ones that will make a real difference.

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What can I do?

1. Fly one less long haul trip    
Take one less intercontinental return flight, and this will really help you save CO2.        
CO2 saving = 1 tonne

2. Fly three less short haul trips    
Our short haul trips (for example, within Europe) also have a major impact.  Cut down on these and the savings will be substantial.        
CO2 saving = up to 1 tonne

3. Get a better car            
If you have to own a car, get a more fuel efficient model – it can make a big difference.  For example, get a 40mpg car instead of a 30mpg one.    
CO2 saving = up to 1 tonne

4. Drive 3000 fewer miles per year        
Reduce your driving to a minimum.  Even driving 3,000 fewer miles per year can reduce your emissions significantly.
CO2 saving = 1 tonne

5. Buy local and seasonal
Just buying locally may not save much CO2 – it also depends on how the food has been grown, stored and cooked.  So, ensure that 75% of your food is both UK-grown and seasonal.  This saves emissions from shipping, air freighting, greenhouse heating, refrigeration and packaging.    
CO2 saving = up to 1 tonne per year

6. Reduce your meat and dairy consumption by 75%    
This saves emissions from fertilisers, methane and nitrous oxide – all adding up to a substantial impact.    
CO2 saving = 1 tonne per year

7. Give your house a Thermal Makeover    
Insulate your roof to 27cm (CO2 saving = 0.9 tonnes per year) or top up your existing insulation to this level (saves 0.3 tonnes).  Replace an old F rated boiler with an A rated one (saves 0.9 tonnes).  Swap appliances older than 10 years with A rated ones (saves 0.3 tonnes).  Install solar hot water panels (saves 0.3 tonnes).      

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8. Reduce your thermostat setting by 3°C
Reducing your heating to the lowest comfortable temperature can make a real difference to your emissions.  Each degree reduction saves around 0.3 tonnes of CO2 per year.
CO2 saving = nearly 1 tonne per year

9. Shift £2,000 of your spending to low carbon goods and services    
Some of the physical goods we buy (like electronics, building materials and short life products) have a high carbon impact.  Move some of your spending from these to lower impact goods and services such as durable products, second hand goods, repairs, live entertainment, education and experiences.
CO2 saving = 1 tonne per year

10. Share your house with an additional person
It may not be for everyone, but bringing a friend, relative or lodger to stay in your house shares your resources and has a significant impact.  If you live alone, it could nearly halve your CO2 emissions!
CO2 saving = 1 – 2 tonnes per year

The CO2 savings outlined here are broad estimates. For more information, visit and   

Source: Edwin Datschefski and Katharine Robinson at  Thanks also to Jamie Beevor at the Energy Saving Trust.

© Life Squared 2010

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