How to increase your quality of life while doing your bit to reduce climate change

What’s the problem?

David Attenborough, Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg have all brought to public attention the United Nations’ warning that we have until just 2030 to cut global CO2 emissions. If we don’t do it, we risk the ability of future generations to be able to survive on our beautiful planet.

CO2 warms the Earth like a blanket; after 2030 there will be so much that we’ll be unable to prevent run-away global warming. A series of climate feedback loops will push Earth towards becoming like the Sahara Desert. David Attenborough has called this ‘the collapse of human civilisation’.

Why is it happening?

Nations don’t produce much CO2 in their own right and nor do governments. Almost all CO2 emissions are produced by the products and services bought by us as individuals.

It differs across the world of course: in China and India, annual CO2 emissions per person are around 5 and 2 tonnes respectively, compared to 15 in the UK and 30 in the US, when taking into account foreign production for our use. We need to reduce this by 80% by 2030.

What can we do?

Legislation plays a part but the real power is in us cutting our own personal carbon footprint. Just like voting, the cumulative effect is powerful.

How can we do it?

To work out your carbon footprint, use an online calculator (find one here). Then read on to see how you can reduce it by 8% per year (it’s easier than might you think).

If your annual carbon footprint is the UK average of 15 tonnes, an 8% reduction equates to 1.2 tonnes. You’d then aim to save an additional 1.2 tonnes the year after, and so on.

Happily, this is not about taking away benefits and pleasures from life; most of the lifestyle changes required to reduce our personal carbon footprint also improve health and wellbeing, as well as saving money in the long run.

The happiness factor

We all know that modern life can be frantic; time and money seem to be ever-decreasing resources.  What would happen if we slowed down, did things a little differently, connected with others in more meaningful ways, enjoyed better quality food and well-made products? These are just a few of the benefits that come with lifestyle choices that reduce our carbon footprint. Now that’s really smart.

Ready to take action?

These are the most effective things that you can do to increase your quality of life while reducing your carbon footprint.

Woman in fields walking towards a recycling bin
  • Insulate your home. Be warmer, save money on fuel bills, feel good about your home and get a high return on your investment. Save 2 tonnes

  • Save a seven-hour economy return flight. Visit a closer destination and save time and money, or fly half as often and stay twice as long for a more satisfying travel experience. Save 3 tonnes

  • Downsize your car. Go from large to medium or medium to small and you’ll save money on fuel and insurance – plus parking will be easier. Save 1 tonne

  • Travel to work differently. Lift sharing on a 40-minute daily commute, using public transport or going by bike will do more than save money and carbon. Lift sharing is social time, cycling provides in-built exercise and public transport gives you time to rest or catch up on a good book so you arrive refreshed. Save 2 tonnes

  • Purchase high quality, long lasting products. Saves shopping time and money (in the long run), plus you’ll have the pleasure of using top-quality products. Save 15 tonnes

  • Ditch one two-hour premium return flight and take a fast international train instead. Avoid airport stress and time tied up in checking-in early. You’ll also get to enjoy the beauty of the landscape en route. Save 1 tonne

  • Reduce meat and dairy consumption by half. This can improve health, make you a more creative cook and saves you a lot of money. Save 0.5 tonnes

  • Switch to a renewable electricity company. Feel good about your electricity use and enjoy the benefits of what can be better customer service and more transparent billing. Save 1 tonne

  • Buy seasonal food from small scale, local and organic farms. Enjoy eating quality food without pesticides for improved flavour and long term health. When you do this you’re also supporting our beautiful landscape with its hedgerows of birds, bees and butterflies. Local food keeps jobs in the local economy and often results in an enhanced shopping experience. Why not consider finding a local bulk buying group? Save 1 tonne

  • Repair, re-use and buy half your products second hand. Save money, afford higher quality products and enhance community spirit. Save 0.5 tonnes