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Taking The First Steps Towards a Zero-Carbon Lifestyle

Written by on April 30, 2021

This is a guest post by Zero-Carbon Harrogate who we have invited to Blog every month, so I will let them say their part: As we start to see light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel our thoughts are naturally turning to the things we have missed over the last year or so, and whilst uncertainty still exists you are probably planning your return to those ‘halcyon’ pre-coronavirus days. But stop just for a minute before you do anything and ask yourself this question, ‘what did I really miss and is there anything I can do differently now to help reduce my carbon emissions”?

During lockdown in 2020 greenhouse gas emissions saw a record drop, with emissions from transport accounting for the largest share of the global decrease. So, we have shown that emissions can be reduced when we change our way of life but how do we maintain this drop and reduce emissions even further, as we return to life after lockdown?

One way, that some may find appealing, is to adopt a lifestyle that eliminates all those actions that produce carbon emissions, such as driving, flying and not eating meat, but for many this is neither a desirable nor viable option, which means that most of us need to strike a balance between reducing the level of those actions and adopting low-carbon alternatives, with the help of technology.

Thankfully we do still have choices in the way we live our lives but unless we start to act quickly, as individuals and households, to eliminate our emissions, those choices will rapidly be replaced by a new form of lockdown, where actions to limit carbon emissions will need to be enforced rather than chosen. The sooner we act and the greater changes we make the more choice we will retain.

The first step on a zero-carbon journey is to find out how big your carbon footprint is today, and where most of your emissions come from. There are plenty of online calculators to help. Take a look at the WWF, Pawprint or Carbon Footprint websites. You might be surprised how big it actually is! An average household in the Harrogate District emits around 19 tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, with travel, home energy use and food contributing roughly equal amounts but perhaps surprisingly it is the emissions linked to the goods and services we buy that make up the highest proportion.

Averages can of course be misleading; we are all starting from different places because of where and how we live; some will have much lower emissions than others but eventually we all have to reach zero-carbon. That means some will need to make greater changes than others and the actions needed will differ but once we know where most of our emissions come from, we can all make a start.
Thanks to the growth in renewable energy supply emissions from the generation of electricity have more than halved in the district over the last ten years and there is no reason why we shouldn’t all now be on ‘green’ energy tariffs. This good news is however tempered by the fact that much smaller reductions have been made in emissions from heating our buildings and almost none from transport. Also, the emissions linked to the goods and services we buy continue to grow, as our wardrobes, fridges and yes even email inboxes swell. It is estimated that the internet is now responsible for more carbon emissions than air travel.

Whilst it may be difficult to know how to address some of the big emissions in our lives, we can all start by firstly being aware of where our emissions come from and then taking responsibility for dealing with them – even if it’s only in small steps. Plan everything you do with emission reductions in mind, particularly when it comes to those decisions with a longer-term impact, such as buying a new house, boiler, car or even just your next mobile phone. The quicker we make the small changes the longer we will have to fix the bigger ones.

The journey to a zero-carbon lifestyle may be a short hop for some but will be a long haul for others, depending on where you are starting from, but ultimately it is a journey we all have to take.

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