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6 Ways to Lower Your Carbon Emissions Fast

Many millions of people around the world participated on the 22nd of April Earth Day in support of environmental protection. Uppermost in the minds of many is climate change – and the need to rapidly cut global greenhouse gas emissions.

The theme of Earth Day 2023 has not changed and revives the concept expressed last year: investing in our planet. Given the great success of last year’s edition, in fact, the organization has decided to replicate it.

“In 2023 we must come together again in a partnership for the planet. Businesses, governments, and civil society have the same responsibility to act against the climate crisis and ignite the spark to accelerate change toward a green, prosperous and equitable future. We must unite in our fight for the green revolution and the health of future generations. Now is the time to invest in our planet,” explains Earthday.org President Kathleen Rogers.

This Earth Day, we want to examine some of the most impactful, immediate changes you can make today to help lower your emissions.

1. Fewer flights

Aviation contributes to about 2% of overall global emissions and this figure is increasing more than any other form of transport. Flying is also highly unequal: in the UK, 70% of all flights are taken by just 15% of the population.

While emissions from aviation overall are relatively small, each flight emits a lot of greenhouse gases. A return flight from London to New York, for example, emits almost a tonne of CO2, and the climate impact is even larger due to other non-CO2 emissions from aircraft.

Changing the way some aircraft are powered could also soon be within reach. Smaller planes could soon fly on electric engines. But making air travel more sustainable is not simple. Aircraft are some of the most complex vehicles out there, but the biggest problem for electrifying them is the battery weight.

If you tried to fully electrify a 737 with today’s batteries, you would have to take out all the passengers and cargo and fill that space with batteries just to fly for under an hour.

Jet fuel can hold about 50 times more energy compared to batteries per unit mass. So, you can have 1 pound of jet fuel or 50 pounds of batteries. To close that gap, we need to either make lithium-ion batteries lighter or develop new batteries that hold more energy. New batteries are being developed, but they aren’t yet ready for aircraft. Larger planes could switch to alternative fuels such as biofuels, synthetic fuels made from renewable energy, or, in the very long term, hydrogen.

We can still see the world taking fewer planes: flying abroad 15 to 20 times over a lifetime or traveling more slowly overland to different places. But we need to get realistic about the impact of weekend city breaks abroad. Why not visit all the incredible places we have closer to home?

2. Food

Changing our behaviors around food is the most impactful of all the shifts. And it’s not just about climate change; if you look at biodiversity loss, land use change, fertilizers in the ocean creating dead zones, and the massive extinction and loss of insects due to pesticides, these problems are all driven by food.

The study, published in online journal Nature Food, identified that up to 61 percent of greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by wealthy nations turning to plant-based diets. If everyone in the world shifted to a plant-based diet, it would free up 75% of the world’s agricultural land for other uses.  Findings, published in the journal Science, were expanded to reveal that without dietary change, global warming will be unstoppable. Sustainable food production systems will help, but widespread adoption of meat consumption reduction is key.


Another way to make big emissions savings is to avoid food waste, which amounts to 900 million tonnes a year (or 23 million large truckloads a year). Over 30% of food is lost or wasted each year. This number is even more striking, given the large number of hungry people in the world. Wasted food is not only inefficient, it’s a social justice issue.

 

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3. Transport

Many people have become accustomed to owning a car and for some, their vehicle is essential either for work or because they are disabled or live in a remote area.

But car ownership is driving huge emissions, the research shows. Globally, transport is responsible for about a quarter of overall greenhouse gas emissions, and more than two-thirds of this comes from the engines of road vehicles.

If you have a car, simply cutting down on how much you use it can be a great first step to reducing your emissions. In many places, the majority of car journeys are only for relatively short distances, and walking or biking (read also this article about multimodal mobility) are great alternatives that can also help keep you healthy.

An awesome idea is to get an electric skateboard to live the city with much more ease without harming the planet 😉

 

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4. Housing

Heating homes is one of the main sources of emissions, especially in countries where the predominant source of heating is burning fossil fuels. In the EU, heating accounts for 63% of household energy consumption.  In the US around half of homes are heated using gas. That needs to change drastically if we are to limit global warming.

Is your housing affecting the environment? This is a question every citizen should ask of their situation in the midst of joint crises.

Fortunately, the potential to innovate green homesteads is increasing all the time. With the integration of smart technology in cities, material and construction innovations, and the declining cost of renewable energies, the means to improve housing sustainability are rapidly expanding.

Of course, it is great to always turn off appliances, and be mindful about how we consume energy in our homes. The greenest (and cheapest) kWh is the one we don’t spend! But to make the most impact possible, focus should be on the changes that make a big difference, not on a lot of small actions that have low impact. It is better to hang dry your clothes than using the tumble dryer, but if you leave your phone charger plugged in it really won’t make a big difference.

To-do’s:

  • Switch to green electricity
  • If possible, electrify your heating or check what other renewable energy sources are available where you live (geothermal energy?)
  • Electrify your water boiler!

Wild cards:

  • Consider putting solar cells on your roof
  • Insulate the house
  • Get an air-pump (reduces energy consumption)

Housing is one of the biggest draws on resources and energy, especially within the US. Mitigating the effects of housing on the environment in these circumstances requires smart and ethical housing decisions. Start by assessing the carbon footprint of your home, then take these considerations into account when looking for a new place to live. We can get to a more sustainable world, but we will need to start one house at a time.

5. Finance

Despite more attention to the rapidly changing climate, many people still don’t think about how their financial decisions directly impact climate change. And why would you? It’s hard enough to earn money and determine how, when, and where to spend or invest it. Adding another variable into the mix can complicate that and make those decisions even more difficult. Nevertheless, it’s essential to understand how your financial decisions can affect climate change.

Many banks are well-documented financiers of the climate crisis, providing trillions of dollars to fossil fuel extraction. There are a rising number of alternative banks marketing themselves as ethical and funders of solutions, while alternatives to banks, such as credit unions or building societies, are also often less likely to be funding fossil fuels due to the way they invest.

6. Fashion

The clothing and textiles industry accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than international aviation and shipping combined and the rise of fast, disposable fashion is accelerating that trend.

Each year more than 100 billion items of clothing are produced globally, with 65% of these ending up in landfill within 12 months.

How can we make our wardrobe more sustainable? You could start by buying your clothes second-hand, in thrift shops, or restricting purchases to three items a year – ideally, ones that are durable and will last. These clothes might be more expensive, but it is worth considering the cost per wear. If it will last three times as long but is only double the price, that’s a financial saving over the lifetime of the item and better for the environment too.

 If you’ve made it this far, you’re likely to be serious about reducing your carbon footprint and making a positive change for the future of our planet. Climate change is an issue that requires urgent action and systemic changes to the way that society currently functions.

It is everyone’s responsibility, including individuals and the private sector, to make the world a cleaner and more environmentally sustainable place.

Do you have any sustainable tips you want to share? leave a comment below 👇

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