8: A day in the life of carbon reduction
Today’s entry sets out what you could do to contribute towards reaching net zero during an average day.
The alarm goes off, you wake up. You switch on the light – have you got a green energy provider or have you switched to a green tariff offered by your existing energy provider? Find out more here.
You get in the shower. How is your water being heated? If you are feeling ambitious and have some money hanging around you could switch from gas heating to electric via an air source or ground source heat pump, but I can’t see this post prompting that level of investment. The government’s incentive scheme is being relaunched in April (The Boiler Upgrade Scheme replaces the Renewable Heat Incentive) with up to £5,000 available for air source heat pumps and £6,000 for ground source heat pumps: which may tempt you. Some gas suppliers offer ‘green gas’ that has come from anaerobic digestion or other renewable sources, so that although it still emits CO2 when burnt this is offset by the carbon sequestered during its creation. Ecotricity have a page on it, for example (this is not an endorsement of any particular company!). Other options for switching from gas powered boilers are: infrared heating panels, solar thermal panels, solar-powered electric heating, biomass boilers or perhaps wait a little longer for a 100% hydrogen boiler!
Of course it’s all very well having green energy sources, but it would be even better if you minimised energy consumption altogether by having a well-insulated home. For more details, check this site. It may also be possible to vary your times of greater energy use to avoid the peaks (6pm on weekdays is the time of highest consumption) and save money, by using a smart meter and an off-peak tariff.
You get dressed. The clothing industry contributes anything from 2-10% of global CO2 emissions, depending on who you believe. ‘Fast fashion’ of cheaply-made single use clothes is one of the main contributors to this. But you’re going to work, so you’re not going to be wearing fast fashion, are you? You will be wearing your stylish, yet long-lasting, work clothes instead. When you are done with clothes, putting them in a clothes bank or giving them to a charity shop is one way to lessen their carbon footprint.
Generally, being choosy about where you buy things and prioritising those companies that have made some sort of climate pledge (some being more meaningful than others) will mean that you limit your personal ‘Scope 3’ emissions (ie those from your suppliers). If you are feeling more proactive you can ask companies whether they have a pledge and say that your spending decisions will depend on their answer, to give them a bit more of an incentive.
You eat breakfast. How were your groceries delivered? If you used an online company that is likely to be greener as deliveries are more efficient than everyone driving to a supermarket separately, plus the vehicles used are rapidly transitioning to hybrid / electric vehicles. How were your groceries packaged? You should be able to avoid carrier bags altogether (but be ready if your shopping comes to your door loose) and can choose items that avoid plastic packaging. Where did your groceries originate? You can try to reduce food miles by buying locally-grown things in season. This BBC page discusses food miles in more detail – there are some traps for the unwary, e.g. tomatoes in greenhouses in the UK could have a higher carbon footprint than ones flown in from overseas that don’t need to be heated.
The biggest way to contribute to achieving net zero through what you eat is, however, to eat less (or no) meat and dairy. I am feeling a bit more virtuous having turned vegetarian last year but I really don’t want to give up cheese. Going vegetarian is much easier to do than it was even a few years ago. Even the Climate Change Committee says that for the UK to reach net zero, meat consumption will need to reduce by 20% and dairy by 25%.
You go to work (assuming it’s not a WFH day). How do you get there? By ‘active travel’ (walking or cycling) is the best, but not many people live within walking or cycling distance from work. Trains are electric on many commuter routes, as are the London Underground and other urban transit systems, and many buses are becoming greener. If you must drive, then using a hybrid or electric car is clearly best, as long as the electricity used to charge it was on a green tariff. Sharing the ride with a colleague or friend halves the impact.
When you have a spare moment at work you can inquire what your own employer’s climate goals are; there is quite likely to be an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance – the new name for Corporate Social Responsibility) committee or identified individual responsible for them. Perhaps you could even join the committee and influence your company’s environmental / carbon reduction policies. If you go out to lunch add how green your lunch provider is to your decision-making.
You return home and have your locally-sourced, vegetarian evening meal. If there’s nothing on TV you could review your financial arrangements, doesn’t that sound fun? As well as switching your utilities to greener tariffs or greener providers, you can do the same with your savings and investments. Pension investments, for example, can often be moved to sustainable funds upon request, they are usually available – and if not, asking will at least encourage them to become available. Your bank may have a more sustainable account option where funds are either positively invested in green things or at least polluting investments are avoided.
What an exhausting day! You can at least sleep well knowing that you’re doing your bit towards reaching ‘net zero’.