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Change Our own Personal Behaviour and Attitudes

It is not simply a decision of politicians or of a government; it is in our own interest to introduce fundamental changes in our attitude and behaviour. We do not need to wait for others to change, we must change ourselves.

Positive action on the part of individuals is equally as important to counter global warming as that of governments, NGOs and corporations. It is really about our personal behaviour - we can start to change our consciousness immediately. Simple changes to our lifestyle can make a change a difference.

The following is a selection of small lifestyle changes that are easy to make but will have a positive and long term affect on the environment:

  • Cut out short car trips. Cars release the most emissions when cold. Plan your shopping so you can make fewer shopping trips each week.
  • Remove unnecessary weight from your vehicle; this will cut down fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
  • One of the greatest fuel guzzling issues is caused by improper tyre inflations.
  • Use public transport wherever possible.
  • If you don't need it, switch it off at the wall. Appliances running on standby power consume a great deal of energy, unnecessarily.
  • Take shorter showers and use the shower instead of the bath.
  • Turn down the heat or air-conditioning a fraction.
  • Recycle whatever you can. While recycling glass, paper, and cans does require energy to reform new products, it's far less than having to mine, drill or harvest the raw resources.
  • See if you can work from home a day a week. This will save energy, time and money and will also help your employer save on energy.
  • Switch off lights, when not in use.
  • Don't burn leaf litter, mulch or compost it instead - burning vegetation spews great volumes of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping pollutants into the atmosphere.
  • Try to source locally, organically grown fruits and vegetables. Some green produce is shipped thousands of miles in refrigerated trucks before it hits your supermarket.
  • Cut down a little on red meat - the livestock industry is responsible for millions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas, entering our atmosphere each year.


The carbon footprint of doing the dishes

Almost zero CO2e: by hand in cold water (but the plates aren't clean)
540g CO2e: by hand, using water sparingly and not too hot
770g CO2e: in a dishwasher at 55°C
990g CO2e: in a dishwasher at 65°C
8000g CO2e: by hand, with extravagant use of water

As the numbers above show, the most careful hot-water hand washing just about beats a fully loaded dishwasher. This is partly because most people do their manual washing up using hot water heated by a gas-fired boiler, whereas dishwashers heat water from cold using electricity. A modern boiler can capture more than 90% of the energy in the gas, whereas most of the energy in the fuel used to generate electricity is wasted in generation and transmission, which gives hand washing an obvious head start.

The carbon footprint of a cup of tea or coffee

21g CO2e: black tea or coffee, boiling only the water you need
53g CO2e: white tea or coffee, boiling only the water you need
71g CO2e: white tea or coffee, boiling double the water you need
235g CO2e: a large cappuccino
340g CO2e: a large latte

These small initiatives may not be as crucial as the homes we heat and the cars we drive but – depending on how we take them – hot drinks can make up a surprisingly large slice of our carbon footprints. If you drink four mugs of black tea per day, boiling only as much water as you need, that works out as just 30kg of CO2 each year – the same as a 40-mile drive in an average car. Three large lattes per day, by contrast, and you're looking at almost twenty times as much carbon, equivalent to flying half way across Europe.

Further examples of living a “light carbon footprint” can be viewed here.