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Reduce your carbon footprint: 10% per year

You've calculated your carbon footprint,
You've compared it with the national average,
You want to reduce it,
What next?

Reduce by 10%

We suggest:
  • estimate your footprint for the last 12 months (or the last calendar year)
  • set a target for a 10% reduction next year, and then a further 10% reduction each subsequent year

Why bother?

  • you switch from being part of the problem to being part of the solution - less guilt!
  • it makes it easier to advocate to others (individuals, businesses, etc) that they cut their carbon footprint - otherwise you risk being accused of hypocrisy
  • it encourages the development of a low-carbon economy
  • you increase the number of people living a lower-carbon lifestyle, which adds to the pressure on reluctant politicians to make the right decisions.

If you need encouragement that personal lifestyle changes can add up to a major force, think of fair trade which has expanded enormously in the last few decades, all down to the personal purchasing decisions of individuals.

Our 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 seems 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

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
  • stopping flying
  • 55% reduction in car miles
  • 72% reduction in electricity use (via energy efficiency and installation of solar pv panels)
  • 30% reduction in gas use
  • switching to organic food, and local food where possible
  • buying stuff only when needed.

None of this felt difficult.

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

We are finding this difficult, partly because of government inaction, in particular
  • failure to make Passiv Haus (home energy) technology readily available and affordable
  • failure to make walking and cycling easier and safer
  • failure to improve public transport
  • failure to support local organic food
  • inadequate support for renewable electricity generation.

First published: 2009
Last updated: 25 Nov 2018