Reduce your carbon footprint

Are you trying to reduce your carbon footprint, without knowing quite what that means? Here's a brief explanation...

What do we mean by carbon?

What is a carbon footprint?

Why do we use carbon footprints?

How to measure your carbon footprint

How to reduce your carbon footprint

We each affect our environment in many different ways - driving, flying, heating our homes, even the type of food we eat makes a difference. With all these different things to think about, it's hard to work out your overall impact.

The answer? Your carbon footprint - a single figure that gives you a quick idea of your impact on carbon change. Carbon footprints are easy to calculate, compare and understand - here we explain the basics to get you started.


What do we mean by carbon?  

When people talk about carbon emissions and carbon footprints, they usually mean carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Carbon dioxide is released when we burn carbon-based fuels. Almost all fuels are carbon-based, including:

  • petrol and diesel in our cars
  • gas, oil and coal in our homes and power stations
  • jet fuel in aeroplanes.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas - it traps the sun's heat and keeps the earth warm. Too much CO2 in the air leads to climate change, also known as global warming.

Other greenhouse gases, such as methane, also contribute to climate change. Countries and organisations count these as part of their carbon emissions. But for individuals the most important carbon emission is carbon dioxide.

Find out more about the science of climate change


What is a carbon footprint?  

Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere because of the electricity and fuel you use. It's measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Your carbon footprint mostly depends on:

  • how much energy you use to heat your home
  • the electronics and appliances you use
  • what kind of transport you use day-to-day
  • how often you fly.

Why do we use carbon footprints?  

Knowing your carbon footprint helps you understand your impact on the environment - and, more importantly, find easy ways to reduce that impact.

In 2011 the UK produced 456 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Some of this is produced by business and industry - but around 27% comes directly from household energy use. Energy use in the home accounts for around 4.5 tonnes per household, and that’s not even including emissions from transport usage,

By making UK households more energy efficient and by reducing our transport energy consumption we can make big reductions in the UK's carbon dioxide emissions.


How can you measure your carbon footprint?  

You can estimate your carbon footprint using the online calculator at the DirectGov website.

  • You enter details about your home, your travel and your appliances.
  • The calculator estimates how many tonnes of carbon dioxide you produce each year.

How to reduce your carbon footprint

You'll find throughout this site many ways to reduce your carbon footprint. You might do things like:

  • insulating your home
  • buying energy-efficient appliances
  • switching off electronics at the wall
  • walking, cycling or using public transport
  • holidaying closer to home.

The UK aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. To help make that happen, we should all aim to achieve a low carbon footprint.

Pushed for time? Check our money-saving tips for quick and easy ways to save energy and money.


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