I’ve recently finished my first module towards my degree and one of the assigned tasks was to work out our own carbon footprint. I won’t lie, I was really excited about doing this because I was curious about the level of my carbon footprint compared to the national average.
The calculator was user friendly, it asked about the number of people in your household, information about your home; insulation, windows, doors, heating, the energy rating for your appliances, individual travel habits, food and household income.
I honestly never realised how household income can affect your carbon footprint, but it does. If you have more disposable income, you have more money to spend (buying gifts, going on holiday etc), which isn’t always good for the environment. Makes sense when you think about it.
There were a few sections I had to make assumptions. For example, how long I spend in the shower? I can’t say I’ve never timed myself in the shower. I shower everyday so I decided to put 7 times a week for 7 minutes. Another assumption was my salary. If you’re self-employed, you will know that your ‘income’ fluctuates, so I worked out the monthly average instead.
According to the calculator, the UK average carbon footprint is 14.60 CO2 emissions annually and mine is well below the national average at 8.80 CO2 emissions annually. I assumed it would be low but I didn’t realise how low.
You will see that my travel habits are non-existent, I do travel and I do have a car but I rarely use it, generally only at the weekends. I live in close proximity of the town centre so most things are within walking distance for me. I don’t have any plans to travel on a plan anytime soon and the last time I flew on a plane was about 2 years ago. The only time I use public transport is to attend networking opportunities in London.
The OU calculator allows students to set their own personal reduction target, I set mine at 20%. In order to find areas where I could reduce my carbon footprint further, I had the ability to amend my answers; efficient loft insulation, using the dryer less, showers instead of baths (or quicker showers), changes to travel habits, buying second-hand instead of brand new and looking at changing your diet by eating less meat. By looking at these, it allowed me to identify areas I felt I could make changes in order to hit my target.
Areas where I have / will be looking at are as follows:
Room Heating – Loft insulation
It turns out my loft insulation is woefully inadequate. I wondered if that would explain why the rooms upstairs are noticeably colder during the winter periods. According to the National Insulation Association, the recommended depth for loft insulation is 270 millimetres for glass wool, 250 millimetres for rock wool or 220 millimetres for cellulose (https://www.nia-uk.org/understanding-insulation/loft-insulation/).
Next, I looked at the appliances I have in the kitchen. Most of them have a rating of A++ or A+++. The only one that I couldn’t find the energy rating was my tumble dryer. It’s second-hand and judging by the age, I’ll assume the energy rating is low on this appliance. When the weather is nice, I would always hang my clothes out in the garden, it’s free. However, during the winter, I do have to use my dryer. The dryer is quite big so I dry two wash loads at a time, and the clothes are dry when it stops.
This is where I focused on how often I replace things and my buying habits. Having the latest phone and following fashion trends isn’t something I’ve really been bothered with; I tend to wear my clothes until they fall apart and even then, I try to repair them. But one thing I could change is making an effort to buy certain items second-hand. I’ve never had an issue going into charity shops or buying furniture second-hand. My mum always turned her nose up at it which is why I don’t shop in them as much as I could.
When it comes to climate change and carbon footprints, food can be a contentious issue. I have no problem admitting that I’ve eaten meat all my live and I enjoy eating meat. Although, I don’t ever believe I could become a vegan, I am open to changing my habits and eat less meat and means changing a 40-year habit. Not always easy. I have started ‘meat free Mondays’; one day of the week where we make a conscious effort not to eat meat. What I did notice is that I don’t actually eat meat everyday anyway. Plus, as someone who isn’t a massive fan of vegetables, it’s allowing me to explore a varied diet of vegetables I’ve never tried.
My carbon footprint is constantly in the forefront of my mind and I am very aware of how my individual actions affect the planet. I want to make the changes and eventually becomes normal that I don’t think about it anymore.