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How I Plan to Have an Impact on My Environmental Footprint

23/02/2021 – by Linda Hough

I got a shock today. Wow! My environmental footprint just got smaller! But how? Well, first of all I re-did the World Wildlife Fund Footprint Calculator to compare it to the one I did in January 2020. What a difference a year’s made, almost 25% reduction! But then with the Covid-19 situation I’m not travelling much by car or air for holidays. I decided to see what the major changes were.

As a retired person, the main thing I noticed was that in an average year, I will go on three holidays to Europe by air and take other breaks in the UK of varying length, by car, often towing our touring caravan. In 2019 this resulted in 39% of my footprint being due to travel compared to 2020 when it was only 6%!

But it was those three return flights that mainly pushed up my carbon footprint. So I’ve decided when things get back to normal, maybe to do two return flightsand stay longer at my destination to make the most of it. The same with the short holidays in the UK. Stay longer in one place and explore the local area more on foot, and as I’ve taken up cycling,bike rather than car, to help reduce my carbon footprint.

When I did the home section, my carbon footprint had now increased from 28% to 50% because my travel percentage had gone down. The increase was also likely because I had spent a lot more time at home. With two lockdowns in 2020 and other limitations put on travel, this is not surprising. This led to more home consumption of electricity, gas and water. I decided to look at ways to lower my home carbon footprint, which will benefit the environment (and save money) even when the pandemic is over.

The obvious one islowering the heating by 1°, which I’ve done, and I don’t feel I’ve noticed that much apart from sometimes wearing a bit more clothing. I’ve already converted to low energy LED lights where possible, which only use around 10% electricity compared to old fashioned bulbs. Apparently, if we all did that we could cut our power needs by the equivalent of two or more new nuclear power stations. I’ve also started turning off my appliances like the TV and other devices which have a standby mode. It’s not just that little red light that’s using electricity – the whole appliance is using energy. Hopefully it will also help reduce my energy bills.

When it comes to food I’ve been planning my meals, shopping locally, once or twice a week. I get good quality food and I’m not travelling far in the car. Sometimes I walk to my local shops with a backpack if I’m buying just a few items. This three mile walk also helps keep me fit!

I’ve also been preparing a few more vegetarian dishes instead of having meat and fish most of the time. Less beef consumption would mean less animals generating climate changing methane gas! It’s amazing how many vegetarian ‘meat’ recipes are really nice. Nothing is wasted. Leftovers are frozen, made into soup or used as a basis for another meal. It’ssurprising how inventive you can get with a little help from the Internet when you’re bored at home! I’ve also purchased a slow cooker which hardly uses any energy at all. So most of my casseroles are now slow cooked. A big saving in energy and monetary cost on using the main oven.

Being stuck at home means less socialising so I don’t wear that many clothes. It’s made me realise that I don’t need a lot of clothes. In future I’m just going to buy something a bit more expensive that will last longer, rather than buying a lot of clothes which are hardly worn before they go out of fashion. It will help cut a waste in resources, manufacturing and transport costs, and reduce carbon emissions.

Next January I’ll do the carbon calculator again, and hopefully it will be lower than 2019 with all these changes. Why don’t you use the WWF Footprint Calculator, then challenge yourself to tweak your life style and behaviour? You’ve got everything to gain, and little to lose. Every little helps.

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