Apr 042013

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ll have heard the phrase ‘carbon footprint’ bandied around a lot by politicians, councils, and even your family and friends. What exactly does this mean though and, perhaps more importantly, why should you care about it?

Carbon footprint explained

Simply put, a carbon footprint is the volume of carbon dioxide, or CO2, that a person uses up in their daily life. Often, the figure is worked out in tons per year and can apply to businesses or even whole countries. China, incidentally, had the biggest carbon footprint at the last estimate in 2010, consuming 9,700,000 tons of CO2.

While you may not have much control over what the world expends carbon wise, you do have the power to make small changes to your life that can drastically reduce your footprint. You’ll be benefitting the planet, your children (if you have any), and your pocket too. What’s more, many of the changes are very easy to make.

Your daily life

Another phrase you’re bound to have come across is the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra. In essence, this means to look closely at your daily life and work out how you can meet your needs without buying more than you require. So, if you have a lot of pets, try buying their food in bulk. This means less CO2 is produced for the packaging and you’ll often find bulk bags are much cheaper.

If you have small children, beg and borrow equipment and clothes from family and friends, and consider reusable nappies. Given that the average nappy bill from birth to potty is around $3,000, you will save a significant amount of money, especially if you reuse these nappies for subsequent children.

Whatever your lifestyle, don’t buy new unless you absolutely have to.

Switching off

Appliances – whether it’s a television, microwave or food blender – consume electricity as long as they’re plugged in at the wall. To avoid this waste of your money, switch them off at the wall, or better still, unplug them completely.

When you need to replace these items, consider an energy efficient model and better still, see if you can get this model second hand.

You could also consider getting an eco-shower head, which can help you save up to $134 on your water bill each year, if you’re on a meter.

Keeping warm inside

Very few people remain calm when you mention heating bills these days. In order to get your costs under control, make sure you keep your home snug. This means getting rid of any draughts (hold a lit candle near to your doors and windows to check for these – if the flame flickers, you’ve got a draught) and ensuring you have cavity wall and loft insulation and underlay. Fitting these types of insulation comes at a very low cost and in some areas may even be free. Check with your local authority or your energy provider to see whether they would insulate your home free of charge.

Check that your hot water tank has a jacket on, and consider the surrounding pipes too. Getting a jacket and pipe lagging should cost you less than $45 and they are incredibly easy to fit.

You could also take some of Grandma’s advice too and invest in a house coat – or, a nice fleece or cardigan that is easy for you to pull on if it’s chilly at home. Even turning your thermostat down a degree or two can save 300kg of carbon dioxide a year and, best of all, you won’t even notice.

Make sure that you have a snug fitting front door and windows as well. Modern windows are very energy efficient, so if your home has single-glazed windows, you could save up to $465 a year. Some local authorities offer incentives, so make sure you take advantage of these – just phone them and ask.

Let it shine – efficiently

Don’t have energy efficient light bulbs yet? Well, go and get some!

Just one efficient bulb can save you around $5 a year, so the average home could save $80 each year. As well as this, energy efficient bulbs last much, much longer than older filament bulbs – usually around 10 years.

Following your dad’s advice and switching the light off when you leave a room is sensible too. You can even have motion sensors fitted to your home that will automatically switch off your lights when you leave the room.

The possibilities of reducing your footprint really are endless, as new technologies emerge, so give it a try and see how far you go.

Remember, you only need to take baby steps to reduce your carbon footprint. Once these changes become routine, pick up another habit – soon enough you’ll be a proper eco-warrior!

Katherine Shields is a part-time journalist who lives in the United Kingdom and likes to think of herself as bit of an eco-warrior. She’s quite tech savvy and loves thinking up innovative ways of saving energy and stopping wastage around the home. When she’s not pottering around in her organic garden, she works for a local double glazing centre on the Wirral in Cheshire. For more information, visit http://www.linwoodwindows.co.uk/

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