7 BIG ways to reduce your carbon footprint

by Tracy Stokes on September 11, 2007

in Activism, Climate Change, Sustainable Lifestyle


We’ve featured a number of blog posts detailing the simple things you can do to help reduce your impact on the planet, the little things that are easy to incorporate into your lifestyle or your daily routine. Now we’re going to be taking a look at the big things that you can do. The things that may take a bit more effort, that may even take a complete shift in lifestyle. But things that will make the biggest impact in reducing your impact. Do you want to have a tiny little carbon footprint and live as if we only have one planet between all 6,602,224,175 of us? You do? Read on.

1. Become a vegan
This is one of the biggest lifestyle changes on this list, and the one that will take the most getting used to. It is also the change that will make the most impact on the size of your carbon footprint. If you can’t bear the idea of making such a huge change overnight, at least make the change to being a vegetarian, and you may eventually feel ready to switch to a vegan lifestyle. While there are various arguments against meat eating, emotional, physical and environmental, we’re going to stick with the environmental issues here. Back in November of 2006 the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization made public their findings that “the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport.” Henning Steinfeld, Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch went on to say that ““Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.” Before then the University of Chicago had already produced research showing how diet impacts the environment, and that a vegetarian or vegan diet can have more effect on your carbon footprint than switching from a gas-guzzler to a hybrid car.

There is lots of help available to ease you into a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. These links will provide you with confirmation of the reasons why you should be giving up meat, as well as suggestions of how to live as a vegetarian/vegan and recipes to get you started.
Vegetarian Society
Vegan Society
Post Punk Kitchen – online TV vegan cookery show and recipe archive
Acti-Veg – veggie inspiration, support and networking
Vegan Village – lots of vegan resources

The EcoStreet bookshop has a number of our recommended vegan cookbooks. Just click on the cookbooks link on the right-hand navigation bar once you’re in the bookshop to see them.

2. Switch to green electricity

Making the switch to green electricity is so easy and it makes a really big difference. Reduce your household’s carbon footprint by up to 2 tonnes a year when you making this change. It’s simple to switch to renewable energy with the Green Energy Helpline. They guarantee that all tariffs shown on their website are truly green by checking the environmental credentials of every tariff and supplier. When you switch to green energy with the Green Energy Helpline, you can be sure that your tariff draws its energy directly from renewable sources. There’s more good news about switching to a green tariff with Green Energy Helpline, and that is the difference it will make to your pocket. You could save up to £145 per year by switching. What are you waiting for? Click here to start reducing your carbon footprint.

3. Get rid of your tumble dryer
Yes, you did read that right. Tumble dryers are energy gobbling monsters. If you use a tumble dryer, it’s one the most energy hungry appliances in your home. There’s not much else to say on this subject, other than save the planet, save your money, get a washing line and use it. If you don’t have outdoor space, there are some great options for indoor washing lines. Have a look at Eco Washing Lines for some inspiration. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to getting your clothes dry. People have managed it for centuries in all weathers without having tumble dryers.

4. Insulate your home properly
By insulating your home you can cut your energy use dramatically. It follows that you’ll save yourself lots of money too. There is an initial outlay with this step. You’ll need to pay for the insulation. But the good news is that it probably won’t cost you as much as you think. Grants are available to homeowners and sometimes to tenants too to get this important insulation installed. In many cases you will recoup money spent within the first year in reduced fuel bills.

To help you get on with getting properly insulated, here is where you can find out about grants:
The HEAT Project
Energy Saving Trust – energy saving grants and offers

5. Park your car
If you are a 4×4 driver, well, just stop it! If you’re a rural 4×4 driver who needs their vehicle for access or their livelihood, it’s time to switch to biodiesel. If you don’t have a real reason for driving a 4×4, you should be ashamed of yourself. I suggest you park that gas-guzzler right now and get on your bicycle, a bus, the train, or use those dangly things hanging from the bottom half of your body. There are plenty of other options. There’s no excuse.

Even if you drive a fuel efficient vehicle, you can still reduce carbon emissions and possibly even get fit if you choose cycling or walking. Save driving for long distances and liftshare when you do. Choose another way to get to work, to the shops, to get your kids to school, to visit friends.

6. Stop flying
Flying is the fastest growing cause of climate change. And if that’s not enough to convince you, look at it this way:
“We could close every factory, lock away every car and turn off every light in the country, but it won’t halt global warming if we carry on taking planes as often as we do.” Plane Stupid
No, you don’t need to spend the rest of your life rooted to the spot, and family holidays are by no means a thing of the past. All we have to do is change the way we think. There are some fantastic holiday spots just a train ride away, there’s a ferry to Europe and ships may be slow, but they’re a far more comfortable way to travel. If there’s anyone who can show you how to do it, it’s The Man in Seat 61. Explore the options, I’m sure you’ll be surprised at what’s possible.

7. Be an eco-activist
Don’t just stand there on the sidelines. Get involved! Make a difference. Spread the word. There’s so much you can do. Stanley Campbell has written a great list of 12 steps on how to be an activist:

If you have a yearning in your heart to make life better on this planet, to right some wrong or support some effort large or small, then you are an activist. Instead of feeling frustrated in front of the television set, here’s some ways that I’ve learned to get things done.
1. Speak out about an issue. Don’t remain silent, but don’t scare people away. Try to express your concern in a positive manner. The world doesn’t want you to act, and the rich want you to shop, so God bless the social justice activist! But if you are concerned about the environment, pollution, war, poverty, or the high price of living (or anything else), then speak your mind! Teddy Roosevelt said “do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”
2. Find like-minded friends. These won’t be your real friends (in fact, your real friends will think you’re crazy). Pass a petition and sign people up. Folks who give their name and address may give time, energy and money
3. Find the official(s) in charge. Everything’s got somebody in charge, often a chain of command, and you have to find out to whom to address your concerns. Don’t demonize them, for often they are as concerned as you. It’s not a conspiracy that the world is the way it is. It’s just the way it is and it can be changed.
4. A good organizer keeps track of supporters’ names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and whatever else comes down the pike. Build that list. Share the work, by sharing your concern. Delegation of work means you trust people to help. That trust will help you get things done.
5. Find people who are working on the same issue. And there’s always people working on the same issue who’ve probably won a few battles, and can tell you a few stories. It’s nice not having to reinvent the wheel.
6. Use resources like libraries and the Internet to educate yourself and find national organizations that will support you.
7. Bring in speakers-outside agitators and experts who will enlighten and educate the community as well as the officials. This is a good organizing tool, but don’t bust the bank. Find experts who won’t demand high fees, but who can share information.
8. Use the media. Make a list of every outlet and try to get personal with the reporters. They are all overworked and appreciate it when someone writes an articulate story for them to use. Don’t be afraid of radio talk shows and television cameras. Find spokespeople.
9. Money is no object, but you have to ask for it. Really, this is the richest country in the world, and people will give to a cause if they trust you. So learn how to beg. Find folks who will keep track of the cash. If you need more than $8,000 a year, find a lawyer and set up a tax-exempt organization, or find an existing group that will take on your cause.
10. Get a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order and learn its spirit. Your meetings will devolve into squabbles or be driven off track unless you learn how to conduct them. Share responsibilities.
11. Celebrate your victories. Use any excuse to have a party, sing some songs, listen to poetry and reflect; all the while, charge admission or pass the hat. Try not to treat people on the other side as “the enemy.”
12. Never say no to somebody else’s issue. In fact, encourage people to get up from their television sets and make the world a better place.
There’s lots of issues. No one thing will bring about redemption, but a whole lot of little steps get us closer to paradise. Good luck!

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin September 11, 2007 at 1:58 pm

Wonderful post!

Regarding your item #1 — I created a great, short reference for people who are interested in supporting local CSA’s / Local Food Producers on my website at 21st Century Citizen.

Thanks for another great post!


half pint pixie September 11, 2007 at 3:02 pm

we’ve just spent 40 minutes on a 20 minute bus journey because of parents picking their kids up from the local schools so I couldn’t agree more with the “dump your car” point!

as for long distance travel, seat61 is my fav site, you’d never want to fly again after reading it, he makes overland travel so easy. we’ve used his site when travelling and it’s amazingly accurate!

Also, yay for vegans!!!


Mel Rimmer September 12, 2007 at 11:49 am

Great list. People need to know what things actually make a big difference and what is just “fiddling round the edges”.

You’re right to say that “Go vegan” is probably the toughest thing for most people to do. If people don’t want to give up meat completely, they could try having a vegan (or veggie) day once a week. That’s 1/7 better than eating meat all week long. Once they build a repertoire of vegan meals they like, they could add a second vegan day a week. Some people may gradually want to go 100% vegan, or some people might want to keep one “meat day” per week, or other people might find that one meat-free day per week is enough for them. Everyone will have their own happy balance point, and that’s just fine. Imagine if everyone had one meat-free day per week, that would make a big difference.

It’s the same with flying. If you feel you can give it up completely, that’s really helpful. But if you cut back from three flights per year to just one, that’s also really helpful. Or cut back from twelve flights a year to just three.

Thne important thing is – don’t do nothing. Do something. You don’t have to do it all, but do somthing.


Crafty Green Poet September 16, 2007 at 3:26 pm

Good list – we have never had a car or a tumble drier, very rarely fly, are veggie (almost vegan)activists, bank ethically. It’s time to get green electricity, thanks for the useful link on that one!


Louise Fisher September 21, 2007 at 2:59 pm

Too many people have too many cars, great site and content, thanks.


Devilish Daz September 24, 2007 at 9:18 pm

I’ve been looking at ways of reducing my carbon footprint and stumbled across the following website http://www.pegog.com

I have to send gifts to Australia each year from the UK and unless I said them surface mail (the cut off is 1st October each year) they end up being sent by air. I can now use pegog to order my gifts as late as I want, (within reason) as the retailers are Australian and they gift wrap and send the gifts locally, not only reducing my carbon footprint but also saving me money.

The site also allows my family to do the same ordering from UK retailers.

It’s only a small thing but the more people who use it the bigger impact you would think it would have.


danny from gy January 4, 2008 at 4:50 pm

what a load of shite!!! get a grip


RalphInAfrica January 6, 2008 at 9:20 am

While flying is a fast-growing emitter of GHG’s it is responsible for less than 2% of global emissions (Stern Report). Less flying is good, but there may be a counter argument to consider. As highlighted in Bali, deforestation in the poor South is responsible for 30% of global GHG emissions! Most of these forests and woodlands’ are located in the South, and their survival, in Africa at least, are dependent on ecotourism – visits from you guys in the rich North. And there are few practical ways of visiting these longhaul destinations other than flying. Ships? Yes, if you have the time. Hopefully carbon offsetting schemes will include “avoided deforestation” projects in the not-too-distant-future. Some reflections on the dilemma:
Carbon Offsets: should you buy absolution.


Danita March 28, 2008 at 7:11 pm

As Prius (25 dollars a month for gas) driving Vegan that compost most of what i consume, i think i’m not doing bad:) GREAT ARTICLE!


Danita March 28, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Oh, and i haven’t flown in 13 years!


Danita March 28, 2008 at 7:23 pm

There is no such thing as “vegan day” no more than there is such a thing as a “gay day” or “non pedophile day”?? Being Vegan is an ethical way of life towards all Sentient Beings, all the time, not on a special day. You can’t just one day be a Vegan no more than you could say you are not going to molest children or enslave people or have sex with the same sex on any given day because its the best thing not to do. Its not a diet or fad! Its about NOT abusing living Beings EVER again for our taste buds, fashion sense, and etc… ok:)?! get it??!


Corey Tournet October 17, 2008 at 7:24 am

Regarding tip#3, another solution is to use a spin dryer. Spin dryers use a small fraction of the energy that a tumble dryer does and are gentler on the clothes (so they will last longer). Not everybody can or is willing to line dry, and this gives people another alternative to the tumble dryer. More information is available at http://www.laundry-alternative.com/drying.htm


bob October 6, 2009 at 2:56 pm

i havent flyed in 14 years so go meat eaters


Matt January 19, 2010 at 2:25 am

How does becoming a vegan reduce CO2. Just because we don’t eat meat doesn’t stop livestock from producing CO2. Besides we need vitamins and minerals that we receave from meat.


Khym May 16, 2010 at 4:04 am

Hmm… I disagree with option 6. Unlike the us, i live in a small island called singapore so its extremely hard to go anywhere without planes…


Jack March 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I am replying to your suggestion of becoming a vegan.
What tends to happen to a person who becomes vegetarian or vegan is that they feel that their diet is more superior to others. Whether it’s because of its acclaimed nutritional value or because of the compassion it shows to animals, vegans often develop a prejudice against meat-eaters. This in turn leads to social isolation or the tendency to befriend only vegans. In a way it is similar to the ethnic separation seen in metropolitan areas. People with similar lifestyles are drawn to each other.

The major problem in this scenario, is that vegans may miss out on many opportunities to make social ties to people because they are different. They may go so far as to avoid social events at which animal products are served. This shows that they have very little tolerance of diets different than their own, and furthermore, they may believe that befriending a non-vegan is akin to promoting a non-vegan diet.

As ‘healthy’ as a vegan diet sounds, Most vegans/ Vegetarians diets lack protein:
Cutting out meat eliminates a huge protein source. A former “meat and potatoes” person cuts out meat and is left, with say, potatoes, which don’t have much protein.

Iron–Cutting all that blood out of your diet removes a huge source of iron for your own blood.

Although we are all here to help improve the climate I find trying to get people to become vegans and vegetarians quite controlling as we are all natural meat eaters.


James September 1, 2011 at 7:45 am

That is ridiculous. It seems like you put a lot of thought into that, but it sounds very misinformed. There is no tendency of social isolation within vegans and if there is it is not because of their diet, it is because of their own personality and choices.
Also, it is true that some vegans do not have the best diets, but that is not because they don’t eat meat. The problem is that they do not eat the foods that would provide them with the protein they need.
Finally, people are not natural carnivores. The first people were hunter gatherers. They did eat meat, but they also scavenged for food from nature, which made up the greater part of their diet.

By reducing a demand for meat we reduce the production. As one person there may be little impact, but collectively vegans and vegetarians make a huge difference.


nora December 10, 2011 at 4:50 am

Great, and many thanks for acknowledging one’s diet as number one.

In addition, I hope you will add a number 8 or incorporate this into your ‘lifestyle’ choice about using tumble dryers: Lawns — which use clean water (which costs energy to be cleaned) and usually are mowed using more toxic smog lawnmowers than I can imagine — and the late 20th century’s replacement for the RAKE, the energy-eating and smog creating LEAFBLOWER.

Although, as a studio apartment dweller who has walked my laundry 5 blocks to a laundromat, I cannot imagine carrying it home sopping wet, I KNOW my carbon footprint i reduced because I don’t require a lawn, lawnmower or leafblower.

Again, thanks for this fine advice, and putting diet choices first.


Lisa May 3, 2013 at 8:54 pm

I can’t believe that it’ so politically incorrect to talk about it, that NOT REPRODUCING isn’t listed as THE biggest thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint!


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