In our fast-paced lives, it's easy to overlook the profound impact our daily choices have on the environment. The convenience of our routines often obscures the reality that each action, each decision, leaves a mark on our planet. This blog post aims to shine a light on a crucial aspect of every individual's life- the carbon footprint.
A carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are released as a result of our actions. These emissions, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), are one of the driving forces behind climate change, a global crisis demanding our immediate attention and action.
The average carbon footprint per person is about 750kg CO2 per person, per month. That's 9 tonnes every year!
Many of the daily things contributing to your footprint often go unnoticed, in this blog we will dissect the carbon footprints of your morning coffee, your daily commute, the food on your plate, the clothes you wear, and much more. Hopefully, this will provide a clearer understanding of how your choices impact the environment, and more importantly, how you can make informed decisions to reduce your carbon footprint.
Food is responsible for ¼ of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The food we choose to put on our plates has a far-reaching impact on our carbon footprint. While it may not be immediately obvious, our diets are intricately linked to the environment. The production, transportation, and disposal of food contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, with meat and dairy production being some of the most carbon-intensive processes.
Grazing animals have a substantial land requirement, often leading to deforestation, which contributes to approximately 15% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Furthermore, cows and sheep possess digestive systems that produce methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, with 80 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide during the initial 20 years after its release into the atmosphere.
On average beef has a carbon footprint of 36kg of CO2 per kg, this is nearly four times the amount of chicken which is around 6kg of CO2 per kg of meat. Similarly, cheese has a high carbon footprint of 13.4kg per kg of cheese and milk has a carbon footprint of around 2.4kg of CO2 per litre.
In contrast, plant-based diets tend to have a lower carbon footprint as they generally involve fewer emissions and less resource-intensive farming practices. For example, 1kg of wheat produces 2.5kg of GHG gasses making it almost 14 times less carbon intensive than meat.
Nonetheless, the environmental impact of plant-based foods can fluctuate, contingent on variables such as crop type and cultivation methods. Take avocados, for instance; their carbon footprint is greater, primarily because of the extensive transportation necessary to bring them to supermarkets, in contrast to locally grown vegetables.
If you choose to eat out regularly, a 3-course meal produces 8 kg of CO2 as factors such as the running of the venue, the preparation and cooking of the food and the distance that the ingredients have travelled have to be considered.
To summarize the carbon footprint of food and the highest carbon food emitters.
By making conscious choices about what we eat, such as reducing meat consumption and supporting local, sustainable agriculture, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprints while also contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly food system.
Transport is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, responsible for ⅕ of global CO2 emissions. Every time we hop in a vehicle, whether it's a car, a train, a bicycle, or even our own two feet, we're making a choice that affects the environment. The carbon footprint of transportation is a direct result of the fuels we use, the efficiency of our vehicles, and the distances we travel.
The impact of personal vehicles on greenhouse gas emission is astounding, with one single mile driven emitting around 300g of CO2. This equates to on average 4.6 metric tons (1 metric ton= 1,000kg) of CO2 per year. Despite a decrease in CO2 emissions from cars over the past two decades due to the adoption of electric vehicles and the expansion of public transportation networks, passenger cars continue to contribute to a significant portion, amounting to 41% of all transportation emissions.
Contrastingly, public transportation like the London Underground emits around 14g of CO2 per passenger, per mile, 20 times less than travelling by car.
Similarly, a study from Oxford University in 2021 found that switching just one trip per day to cycling can reduce your carbon footprint by about 0.5 tonnes over a year and can reduce your transport-related emissions by 67%. This is because cycling emits only 33g of CO2 per mile.
Whilst flying is not a daily occurrence and for some only happens a couple of times a year, the carbon emissions from flying have a huge impact on the environment.
A short-haul flight is on average over 2500 km, meaning that a huge amount of carbon is released into the atmosphere with every flight. The average short-haul return flight produces 155 kg of CO2 per mile a plane emits around 101g of CO2. For a long-haul flight of around 8000 km, it equates to 505 kg of CO2. These are huge numbers which is why it is so important to offset your flights.
To summarize the carbon footprint of transportation.
Energy consumption plays a pivotal role in our carbon footprint. It influenced the level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with our daily lives, and the levels are surprisingly high.
Electricity and energy constitute the primary sources of carbon emissions in households. A significant portion of our electricity and energy is derived from fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas, resulting in a notably higher carbon footprint when contrasted with energy harnessed from renewable sources like solar or wind.
Everyday consumption practices like cooling, heating, and lighting contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the United Nations, residential properties are accountable for approximately 21% of global carbon emissions associated with energy consumption.
As per findings from IdealHome, a staggering 4.7 million individuals in the UK keep their lights switched on needlessly during the night, resulting in a significant additional emission of 8.9 million kilograms of carbon dioxide.
Even the seemingly harmless act of streaming just 30 minutes of your beloved Netflix show contributes to the release of 18 grams of CO2. Residential living stands as one of the primary factors contributing to your daily higher carbon footprint, but it also presents one of the simplest opportunities for reduction.
The fashion industry is a significant contributor to carbon emissions due to various factors in its supply chain but largely due to fast fashion. According to Business Insider fast fashion accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and the industry contributes 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere
The manufacturing of clothing and textiles involves energy-intensive processes, including dyeing, weaving, and finishing. or example, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make just one cotton shirt which is enough water for one person for 2.5 years. It takes about 10,000 litres of water to produce enough cotton for a pair of jeans. Recycled fibers make up only 8.9% of all raw materials in 2021, up 8.4% from the previous year but this is still insufficient. Many clothing items are produced in countries with less stringent environmental regulations, leading to higher carbon emissions.
The clothing then often travels long distances from manufacturing facilities to retail stores, increasing its carbon footprint. Additionally, online shopping and global shipping contribute to emissions related to the transportation of garments.
Once received clothes are often thrown away as people follow trends which die just as fast as they arrived. They end up in landfills where they take over 200 years to decompose, releasing methane and carbon dioxide as they do so. Additionally, chemicals within the clothes can leach into the surrounding environment. The UK alone disposes of 350,000 tonnes (£140 million worth) of clothing in landfills each year.
Our collective actions, however small they may seem, hold the power to shape a sustainable future. We've uncovered the significant environmental impact of our daily routines, from the food on our plates to the way we commute, from the energy we consume to the goods we purchase.
Our journey towards a greener tomorrow begins with awareness and mindfulness. It's a journey where every effort counts, where every eco-friendly choice contributes to the greater good. At SKOOT, we offer easy solutions to counter your daily carbon emissions. Together, we can usher in a brighter, more sustainable future.
Be the first to know about our recent climate projects and the latest sustainability tips