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Top tips to reduce your carbon footprint

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Cutting our carbon footprints is a vital part of tackling climate change. In this guide, we’re going to explore exactly what your carbon footprint is and why it’s important for the planet. We’ll also look at some practical ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Article Contents:

  • Understanding carbon footprints
    • What is a carbon footprint?
    • Why are carbon footprints important?
    • How do I calculate my carbon footprint?
  • How to reduce your carbon footprint
    • Home
    • Travel
    • Food 
    • Shopping
  • Power NI - Go Green 
  • Further reading

Understanding carbon footprints

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon that’s released into the atmosphere as a result of how we live our lives. It includes all carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions. We each have a personal carbon footprint based on how we eat, consume and travel. A carbon footprint can also be calculated for a household, business, product or country.

Everyone’s individual carbon footprint includes both direct and indirect emissions created by our actions. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Direct Emissions - Also known as our primary footprint, these are the emissions that are created directly because of the things we do. This includes things like driving a car and using gas or oil central heating.
  • Indirect Emissions - Also known as our secondary footprint, these are the emissions created as a result of our consumption. This includes the carbon released by making and transporting products we use and the food we eat.

Why are carbon footprints important?

Carbon footprints are an important measure of how we’re each contributing to global warming. Global warming accelerates climate change, causing both temperatures and sea levels to rise and putting our planet at risk. 

Measuring our carbon footprint is perhaps the best way of understanding the environmental impact of each person, company and nation, and their contribution to climate change.

Northern Ireland's net greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be 20.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). This is 5.2% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, which means that Northern Ireland’s carbon footprint is higher per person than the UK as a whole. Both the UK and Northern Ireland have targets to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

How do I calculate my carbon footprint?

To calculate your carbon footprint you need to work out the greenhouse gas emissions created by every aspect of your life. This includes adding up all the carbon released as a result of what you eat, how you travel, where you live and a host of other factors. The easiest way to do this is to use one of the many free online tools and carbon footprint calculators.

Try this UN carbon footprint calculator to estimate your carbon footprint.

How to reduce your carbon footprint

Cutting your personal carbon footprint reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions you create and minimises your impact on climate change. There are four key areas in which you can make lifestyle changes to reduce your carbon footprint.

Home

The way you use energy at home can make a significant impact on your carbon footprint. There are some simple ways to reduce your household’s carbon emissions.

Prioritise energy efficiency at home - Introduce changes that make your home more energy efficient. You can achieve this by upgrading to energy efficient appliances, swapping traditional bulbs for LED lighting and using a smart meter or energy monitor to keep track of usage.

Switch to a renewable electricity tariff - Make sure the electricity you use at home comes from renewable sources. Power NI's Eco Energy Tariff cuts your carbon footprint by powering your home with 100% green electricity. This helps to limit the use of fossil fuels in our energy network as a whole, as well as lowering your household’s carbon emissions. 

Consider heating and water usage - Limiting how much you use your central heating and water will reduce your carbon footprint. You can do this by turning down your thermostat, improving insulation in your home, choosing showers instead of baths and turning taps off when washing dishes or brushing your teeth.

Travel

How we get from A to B can be a major factor in our carbon footprint. Transport is responsible for 16.2% of greenhouse gas emissions in Northern Ireland. Here are some things you can do to limit the impact of travel on your carbon footprint.

  • Switch to an electric vehicle - Electric cars release no tailpipe emissions, so making the switch ahead of the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will instantly reduce your carbon footprint. Combined with a Power NI home charger and one of our green EV tariffs, you’ll be able to charge your electric car with 100% renewable energy too.
  • Walk and cycle short distances - Bring your carbon emissions down to zero by walking or cycling when possible. This cuts out unnecessary fuel consumption and will have a knock-on effect of easing congestion on our roads.
  • Offset carbon travel emissions - For some forms of transport — especially air travel — there’s no way of reducing emissions apart from not travelling in the first place. For essential air travel, you can offset your carbon emissions. Offsetting involves investing in a carbon reduction programme, such as wind energy and forestation, to the value of the emissions created by your flight. 

Food

What you choose to eat has a significant impact on your carbon footprint. That’s because how your food is farmed and transported contributes to your indirect carbon emissions. There are some simple ways to reduce that contribution.

Buy local produce and seasonal foods - Buying locally grown and in-season food means it doesn’t have to be imported from further afield. This lowers the carbon emissions created when transporting produce from the farm to your fork. In Northern Ireland, that could be rhubarb, asparagus and spring onions in spring; berries, tomatoes and green beans in summer; apples, carrots and leeks in autumn; and potatoes, parsnips and cabbage in winter.

Limit meat consumption and switch to plant-based products - Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet, or just cutting down on the amount of meat you eat, will reduce your carbon footprint. Deforestation to clear land for farming and the large quantities of methane created by livestock are among the reasons that 14% of all emissions come from meat and dairy production.

Reduce overall food waste - Making conscious, sustainable choices when grocery shopping, batch-cooking meals to limit waste and composting unavoidable waste all reduce your emissions. Food that is farmed, transported but ultimately wasted creates an unnecessary increase in your carbon footprint.

Shopping

Changing your approach to shopping, consumerism and waste can help to reduce your carbon emissions. The products we buy, where and how they are made, and how much use we get out of them are all key factors. Let’s explore how you can shop in a way that’s better for the planet.

  • Avoid wasteful purchasing and be mindful when shopping - Cutting out purchases of things you don’t really need, buying from sustainable businesses and choosing reusable shopping bags are all examples of how you can be a more mindful shopper. Avoid single-use products and other unnecessary waste.

  • Buy second-hand clothes and avoid fast fashion brands - Shopping in charity shops and on second-hand clothing sites limits the amount of carbon released in making your clothes. This is in contrast to shopping with fast fashion brands, which generate large amounts of greenhouse gases to create cheap products that often don’t last. Donating or selling your old clothes will help others to cut their carbon footprints, too.
     

Power NI - Go Green

Ready to start reducing your carbon footprint? Take the first steps today by going green with Power NI. We'll source the equivalent of 100% of the energy you use from renewable sources. Choosing green energy cuts your use of fossil fuels, lowers emissions from your household and reduces your carbon footprint. 

Learn more about our Go Green tariffs and see how your choice of electricity plan can help to cut your carbon footprint. Power NI Go Green