How to reduce your carbon footprint: steps to fight climate change
24 November 2021 | OVO Energy
Fighting the climate crisis can seem like a daunting task. But there are loads of ways we can all reduce our collective carbon footprints.
Before we get going though, you might be wondering what exactly we mean by ‘carbon footprint’.
A carbon footprint is a way of measuring something’s impact on global warming. It’s based on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) released into the atmosphere.
How to reduce your carbon footprint at home
From daily habits to big improvements, let’s take a look.
Energy in the home
Here are some ways to save energy and cut carbon:
- We’re big on energy efficiency – because saving energy means cutting carbon. From checking your boiler to insulating your roof, read our helpful guide to making your home more energy efficient.
- Getting a green energy supplier and using renewables to power your home will lower your carbon footprint. All our home energy plans come with 100% renewable electricity as standard1. And you can supercharge your journey to a lower carbon life with OVO Beyond too.
- Switching off lights, appliances, and chargers instead of leaving them on standby helps save power.
- Swapping to energy-saving bulbs when your old ones wear out will help save electricity.
If you’re thinking about upgrading your heating system, there are some lower carbon options. Updating can be costly up front, but if you’re able to, it could help you save energy and money in the long run.
- If you've got older storage heaters, it might be worth upgrading them if you’re able to. Older models can release heat when it's not needed, so they can be inefficient. Learn more with our ultimate guide to storage heaters.
- Renewable-based heating systems make use of unlimited natural resources. Air source heat pumps run on electricity. They’re expensive at the moment, but as the technology becomes more popular they should start dropping in price – watch this space.
- If you’re interested in getting renewable heating tech in your home, it’s worth knowing the Renewable Heat Incentive will stop taking on new applicants on 31 March 2022. It’ll be replaced by the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. This is a new government scheme to help with the costs of installing a heat pump in your home.
- Modern washing machines do a great job at 30C. Washing at lower temperatures is also better for your clothes – higher temperatures break down fibres faster.
- Try the paper test on your fridge. If the door can’t hold a piece of paper when you shut it, the seal could be broken, meaning it needs to use more energy to stay cold. But most fridge seals are replaceable – contact your manufacturer for advice.
- Slow cookers tend to use less energy to heat your dinner than using the stove top or oven. They use around the same energy as leaving on a 60-watt light bulb.
- See if there’s a Repair Café nearby to help you – it might be possible to fix your broken appliances rather than chucking them.
To find out how much electricity an average UK home uses read our guide.
Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle
Applying these 4 Rs wherever possible is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Take plastics as an example:
- Refuse straws and polystyrene containers
- Reduce the amount of plastic you buy, by opting for unpackaged food where you can
- Swap to cups, flasks and bottles you can reuse
- When you’re out of options, it’s time to recycle – some plastics can be recycled, like a pot for paint
How to reduce your carbon footprint when traveling
The way we get from A to B can have a big effect on our carbon footprint.
- You can find UK cycling, wheeling, and walking routes along the National Cycle Network through Sustrans.
- If you need to use a car, it helps if it’s running efficiently – the harder your car has to work to run properly, the more fuel it’ll use.
- Sharing car rides with another person is another great option – a problem shared is emissions halved.
- If you can, consider an electric car. As well as having low emissions or even none at all, EVs can be more cost effective to run. Plus, the UK government offers grants to help with upfront costs, as part of a national move towards ultra-low emission vehicles. Thinking of joining the revolution? See how our OVO Drive plan could help save you money – and carbon.
Holidays and long distance trips
- Train travel produces way less carbon emissions – skipping the plane and taking the train from London to Paris, for example, produces 90% less carbon emissions
- If you’re planning a trip by rail, The Man in Seat Sixty-One has the inside track on all the best routes and how to travel comfortably
- If you can afford to, you can also offset your carbon emissions – you can do this through a non-profit organisation, such as Atmosfair
How to reduce the carbon footprint of your food
From minimising waste to making choices about what lands on our plates, here are a few things to try when it comes to all things edible:
Buying food that’s grown locally means less carbon is produced – because the distance the food has travelled to get to you is shorter.
- Try signing up for a local veg box
- Look out for food grown in the UK at the supermarket
- If you’ve got the time (and the green fingers), you could try growing your own veg
From growing to transport, by the time food arrives on your plate, it’s already generated greenhouse gases. UK homes bin a colossal 4.5m tonnes of food a year, which could’ve been eaten, according to Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). But luckily, there are ways to reduce food waste:
- Pickle: if you’ve got some left over veg and spare time, you can pickle almost any of it – it’ll keep in the fridge for ages. Basic recipes start with just vinegar and salt. Save some glass jars from the recycling and go for it!
- Preserve: take a similar (but sweeter) route with jams and cordials.
- Freeze: you can freeze more things than you think – from bananas to butter.
- Compost: if you’re recycling your food waste, great work! But if you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space, those vegetable peels could also go towards a compost. Use it to grow more veg, and the win-win cycle continues.
Less meat, more veg. That old chestnut.
You might have heard this one before: farming animals creates a lot of emissions. Even if you don’t go veggie, just reducing meat consumption will still help to cut carbon.
- Why not put vegetables centre stage? Take a leaf out of Elly Pear and Anna Jones’ recipe books, and make delicious mostly-plant-based meals at home.
- You could try going meat-free one day a week to explore new recipes and see how you get on.
How to reduce the carbon footprint of your wardrobe
We all need clothes, but the fashion industry accounts for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions per year. The good news is there are some steps we can all take to buck that trend.
The clothes we already own
- Around 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill every year. Not only does landfill take up space, but it also releases methane – a nasty greenhouse gas. To avoid this you could try a clothes swap with friends, or give unwanted clothes to charity.
- If your unwanted pieces are beyond that, head to your nearest clothes recycling point. Some shops now take garments to recycle too.
- You can sew loose buttons and rips with just a needle and thread. Fixing something is often quicker and easier than you’d think.
- And there’s always your local tailor or dry cleaner, if a long hem or a broken zip is stopping you from wearing something.
- It’s worth considering that you can re-dye natural fibres like linen and cotton fairly easily (as long as they’re not blended with elastane or polyester). So you can give faded pieces a new lease of life, rather than binning them.
- Try vintage or second-hand. Loads of sellers on sites like Etsy offer handpicked pieces in excellent condition.
- When you need to buy new, look out for styles that you’ll get the most wear out of.
Want to know more about reducing carbon emissions and energy efficiency? Or want to get your head around even more carbon jargon?
Sources and references
1100% of your electricity comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro. The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.