Reduce your carbon footprint: at least 10% per year

People living in developed countries who want to be part of the solution to climate change should aim to reduce their carbon footprint by at least 10% per year.

The basis for this is

In practice, this means:


People voluntarily cutting their carbon budget

The evidence is that the purchasing decisions of a group of individuals can have a large effect. Fair Trade is one example. It has expanded enormously in the last few decades, all down to the personal purchasing decisions of individuals.

The author's experience

We started measuring our carbon footprint in 2006 for the year 2005: it was 11.9 tonnes equivalent CO2, i.e. not much less than the UK average of 13.4 tonnes - and we thought we were pretty environmentally aware!

We settled on a plan of a reduction of 10% per year - we considered more, but 20% per year seemed difficult and would probably not be something that we could advocate to others. A smaller reduction e.g. 5% seemed half-hearted. So we settled on a 10% reduction per year i.e. to 90% of the previous year's target.

Initially we were on track:

YearTarget (tonnes equivalent CO2)Actual CO2 footprint
200610.7 (i.e. 90% of 11.9) 9.6
20079.6 (i.e. 90% of 10.7)9.1
20088.6 (i.e. 90% of 9.6)7.9
20097.7 (i.e. 90% of 8.6)7.7
20106.9 (i.e. 90% of 7.7)6.8
20116.2 (i.e. 90% of 6.9)6.0
20126.0 (i.e. 96% of 6.2)5.9
20135.8 (i.e. 96% of 6.0)6.0
20145.6 (i.e. 96% of 5.8)5.9
20155.4 (i.e. 96% of 5.6)6.2
20165.2 (i.e. 96% of 5.4)6.0
20175.0 (i.e. 96% of 5.2)5.7
20184.8 (i.e. 96% of 5.0)6.0
20194.6 (i.e. 96% of 4.8)5.9
20204.4 (i.e. 96% of 4.6)4.8
20214.2 (i.e. 96% of 4.4)5.3
20224.0 (i.e. 96% of 4.2)5.4

After 2011, we reached half of our initial carbon footprint (and less than half of the average UK value). This was achieved via the changes of
None of this felt difficult.

From 2011, our plan was to reduce at a rate of 4% per year, so that our footprint stayed at less than half of the per person value needed to meet the UK Government's then 2020 and 2050 targets.

We have found even this to be difficult, partly because of government inaction, in particular


[1] Passivhous home heating standards

First published: 2009
Last updated: 12 Jan 2023