The UK is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. The government is trying to achieve this by moving to a more energy efficient, low-carbon economy, with the goal of helping the UK become less reliant on imported fossil fuels and less exposed to higher energy prices in the future.
It is not just the government that is aware of the need to improve our energy guzzling ways, research from the Rexel Foundation found that 88% of British consumers say political tensions will rise as we become more dependent on other countries to provide our energy if nothing is done to improve energy efficiency in the future, and 83% agree that irreversible damage will be made to the environment.
The Energy Saving Trust states that in 2010 the UK produced 496 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Some of this is produced by business and industry - but around 30% comes directly from household energy use. Energy use in the home accounts for around 3.2 tonnes per household.
We are moving to an Energy 3.0 future where technological innovations in the digital age will allow consumers to become masters of their own energy. However, in the mean time to help achieve the UK targets there are a number of easy and unusual ways consumers can reduce their carbon footprint:
1. Switch off standby
Appliances left on standby like mobile phones, laptops and iPod chargers still use energy to keep them powered down. Simply switching off and unplugging items on standby is a great way to be more energy efficient. According to The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the average household wastes around £40 a year simply by leaving appliances on standby.
2. Take showers instead of baths
According to the European Environment Agency, taking a bath consumes an estimated 80 litres of water compared to showers which consume a much more economical 35 litres for every use. If a family of four replaces one bath a week with a five minute shower, they could save up to £18 a year on gas bills and up to £21 on water bills (if a water meter is installed).
3. Go online
One tonne of everyday white, un-recycled paper creates the equivalent of 2 tonnes of carbon emissions, consumes 22,000 gallons of water, and puts a little under a tonne of waste into our landfills. Switch to paperless billing by going online to manage your money and access your monthly bank statements. As most UK newspapers and magazines are now based online too, so you can save money and paper by catching up with the news online.
4. Buy energy-efficient appliances
When replacing household appliances choose energy-efficient replacements. You can check their Energy Star ratings for a quick reference.
5. Flexible working
If your company allows 'working from home' this is a fantastic way to cut personal carbon emissions. According to Telework Exchange, an employee who works three days a week from home can save £3,775 a year on commuting costs and spare the environment 4000 KG of Carbon and other pollutants.
6. Change your diet
This is potentially one of the more drastic lifestyle changes; however, a meat-free diet can have a huge impact on your carbon footprint. A vegetarian diet generates only half the carbon dioxide in comparison to a diet which consists of 30% meat, dairy and poultry. If going meat-free is too big a step, cutting down to one meat portion every other day would help too.
If the meat-free suggestion didn't faze you, how about replacing meat with insects. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are more than 1400 species of edible insects. The FAO also suggest that grazing livestock (cows especially) are one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems. Insects require significantly less energy to produce and therefore are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
7. Switch to 30°C
Washing clothes at 30C and by doing 2 washes per week at 30C could save £19 and 80Kg of CO2. Make sure to fully load each wash too, same goes with the dishwasher.
8. Say no to plastic bags
The production of plastic bags contributes to air pollution and a huge amount of energy consumption. One plastic bag can take an astonishing 1,000 years to decompose. A study from the Environment Agency found that reusable bags have a much lower carbon footprint than single-use plastic bags, but only if they are consistently reused.
9. BYOM (Bring Your Own Mug)
Paper cups are not always recycled and taking your own mug/carrier to your favourite coffee shop can be an easy way to reduce your footprint. So next time you head off for your daily cappuccino treat, take a travel mug with you - simple!
Maybe not one for the squeamish, but, worms are an effective and eco-friendly way of composting hundreds of pounds of kitchen waste every year. They are said to be much faster than normal methods of composting. When green waste is properly composted at home, it doesn't give off methane, a gas which contributes to climate change. The leftover compost can then be used in gardens and to plant houseplants which in turn create oxygen.