search-small user-small hamburger-menu close scroll-down star2 blog linkedin facebook twitter instagram plus Icon/lost-search/ic_lost-search_24

OVO's Top 10 New Year's resolutions for a greener 2021

By Celia Topping Wednesday 30 December 2020

Mother and Daughter happy apple tree embrace

The dawn of a new year is always exciting. It’s time to shake off the old and embrace the new. To reflect, as well as look forward with hope to what the new year might bring. Particularly after a year as challenging as 2020! 

Many of us use this annual turning-point as an opportunity to make promises to ourselves in the form of resolutions. Those promises often focus on self-improvement, and ways to make ourselves healthier and happier. But as global concern over the climate crisis grows, is it time to rethink our resolutions with the planet in mind? 

Read on to find out how making just a few small tweaks to your New Year’s resolutions could benefit our whole planet, as well as yourself. 

Making green resolutions a priority

Are you making any New Year’s Resolutions this time around? If so, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey conducted by OVO1, about 41% of Brits are planning on making resolutions for 2021. 

Some of the traditional self-improvement promises rank high on the list. They’re things like eating more healthily, giving up smoking, drinking less alcohol, and getting fit. But in fact, a heartening 47% of the UK adults we surveyed felt that protecting the environment is an important focus. 19% even said making green resolutions was a priority. 

We’re heartily glad to hear that! So let’s find out how choosing an eco-friendly New Year’s resolution can make a difference for the future of the planet. 

How do your resolutions impact the environment?

Making resolutions is an admirable process. It shows how we humans strive to be better… even if only 29% of those resolutions2 actually make it past the 21st January mark (also known as Quitters Day!). 

But while 57% of our respondents told us they thought their resolutions would be good for the planet, that may not always be the case. Sorry to say it, but what’s good for you might actually negatively impact the environment. 

Let’s look a bit more carefully at 10 of the UK's most popular New Year resolutions for 2021. And to help explore the impact each one might have on your footprint, our friends at the Carbon Trust have kindly supported us by researching the carbon impact attached to each one. 

Incidentally, we use ‘carbon’ as a catch-all phrase that includes carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. As you know, too much carbon in our atmosphere traps heat from the sun, and causes global warming – which in turn causes climate change. The ‘carbon impact’ is measured in gCO2e, kgCO2e or tCO2e – which are standard units for measuring carbon footprints. The higher the figure, the worse the impact on the environment. To give some context, 100kgCO2e is equivalent to driving 369 miles in a diesel car3. But to make the following statistics a little lighter on the eye (not to mention the brain!), we’ve simplified each figure to ‘kg of carbon’.

So let’s dive into some of the UK's most popular New Year resolutions for 2021...

1. Sign up for a gym membership14% of survey respondents

ADDS to your carbon footprint

Carbon created: 52 kg per member

Additional carbon created: 223 kg, if you drive to the gym twice a week

Total carbon created per year: 275 kg

It’s great to get active and work off those kilos – but if you work out at the gym and travel there by car, it could cost the environment 275 kg of carbon per year. If you choose to work out at home instead, you can not only save money on your membership, but you’ll help save the planet, too!

2. Start exercising at home or outside: 44% of survey respondents

LOWERS your carbon footprint

Total carbon avoided per year: over 272 kg (compared to going to the gym by car)

By avoiding the gym-based emissions above, you’re already reducing your carbon footprint. Even if you stream a one-hour online workout twice a week to sweat along to, it would only amount to 1.87 kg of carbon a year. And of course, a run from your front door to your local park is totally carbon-neutral! 

If you'd like to learn more about how you can reduce your carbon footprint using an e-bike, check out our blog!

3. Eat more fruit and vegetables: 43% of survey respondents

ADDS to your carbon footprint 

Carbon created per imported apple: 0.032 - 2.281 kg 

Carbon created per local apple: 0.002 - 0.004 kg

That 5-a-day recommendation4 may be good for your gut, but it’s not necessarily good for the planet. As you can see from the numbers above, the carbon footprint of any fresh produce is reduced massively if bought seasonally and locally. That imported apple-a-day may keep the doctor away – but it’s also equivalent to boiling a full kettle 98 times5

4. Eat less meat: 20% of survey respondents

LOWERS your carbon footprint 

Carbon avoided: 1.42 - 3.89 kg per week

Beef is the biggest culprit – but all meat creates huge emissions during farming, transportation and refrigeration. These calculations are based on eating 25% less meat a week. In fact, if this 20% of people planning to eat less meat next year completely ditched meat for just Veganuary alone, they could save up to 67.43kg of carbon each. That adds up to a collective 288 thousand tonnes - equal to over 271 thousand London to New York flights’ worth of carbon6. Not bad for a month’s work! Why not check out some zero-waste vegan recipe ideas? Try the no-waste broccoli stem pesto pasta that BBC Earth host Max La Manna cooked up for us.

5. Drink less alcohol: 23% of survey respondents

LOWERS your carbon footprint

Carbon avoided: 574 g a week for beer-drinkers, 528 g a week for wine-drinkers

High on the list of 2021 resolutions is drinking less alcohol. Relaxing at the end of the day with a glass of wine or beer can be a mighty fine thing – we’re not saying you have to go teetotal. But, just cutting down by 4 units a week (that’s only a couple of pints of beer) can make an impact on climate change. If the 23% (4,927,289 people) who pledged to do this opted for a Dry January free of wine, they’d collectively save around 39,000 tonnes of carbon – which equates to the emissions of 37,018 flights from London to New York7.

6. Drink more water: 36% of survey respondents

ADDS to your carbon footprint

Carbon created: 150 g for bottled water, and 0.17 g for tap water

Keeping your body hydrated is vital for your health – but do the environment a favour and drink tap water instead of bottled. After all, the UK’s tap water supply is among the safest and purest in the world8. And the carbon footprint of all those plastic bottles really does add up. Even just 150g of carbon per bottle is the equivalent of boiling a full kettle 6 times9

7. Reduce digital screen time: 22% of survey respondents

couple walking happy sunny hillside walk coast

LOWERS your carbon footprint 

Carbon avoided: 50 g per week

Total carbon avoided per year: 2.6 kg 

Did anyone ever tell you that watching too much telly would give you square eyes? Well, that might not be completely true – but cutting down your screen time by just 1.6 hours a week will definitely reduce your carbon footprint. Of that, you can be sure! 

In fact, reducing your time spent streaming online videos by 25% could result in a carbon emission reduction of 50 g per week10. And if the 22% who placed this on their resolution list watched one less film a week, over the course of a year they could save over 12,000 tonnes of carbon – which equates to 6,715 flights from London to Tokyo11. Not to mention the hours they’d gain, to put towards more planet and mind-friendly resolutions – such as spending time in nature (which 32% said they were keen to do), practicing mindfulness (21%) or cooking from scratch (13%).

8. Buy new clothes: 16% of survey respondents

ADDS to your carbon footprint 

Carbon created: 101.8 kg

Replacing old clothes with new ones will, of course, create carbon emissions due to manufacture and transportation. The above figure is based on the emissions created from a shopping spree to buy 3 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 dresses and 2 jackets. If these items were bought online and delivered, it would increase the carbon footprint even more. Of course, we all need new clothes from time to time – but it’s important to be aware that every new item you buy adds to your footprint. Wherever you can, think about using a clothes-swapping service – or just have a good old-fashioned rummage at a charity shop!

9. Redecorate my house: 22% of survey respondents

ADDS to your carbon footprint

Carbon created: 200 kg12 (the same as driving 738 miles in a diesel car13!)

Sure, a fresh lick of paint can do wonders for a tired old living room. But the carbon emissions released in the manufacture of the paint can really make an impact. And what about all those nasty chemicals being washed down the drain when you clean your brushes? Why not try to find some eco-friendly paints instead? 

10. Reduce my carbon footprint: 22% of survey respondents

LOWERS your carbon footprint – of course!

Carbon avoided: 290 kg per person, if their carbon footprint is reduced by 5%

Total carbon avoided: 4 million tonnes (if everyone in the UK reduced their footprint by 5%)14

A cracking 22% of those surveyed wanted to reduce their carbon footprint. That’s great news! If they all reduced it by just by 5%, that would be a whopping 290 kg of carbon per year. A little goes a long way – particularly if we all managed to cut our carbon emissions by 5%. Imagine that! 

And the best thing is that it’s easy to cut your carbon footprint from the comfort of your own home. This is something that OVO’s sustainability expert, Kate Weinberg, finds particularly interesting. She said, “So many actions that are good for the planet are also good for us all as individuals.  It’s useful for everyone to know that making even one easy adjustment to your everyday activity can help to reduce your carbon footprint - if we all make small adjustments they add up and have a meaningful impact.  And there’s a feel-good factor from knowing you’re doing something that benefits the world we live in.” 

10 New Year's resolutions for a more sustainable lifestyle

As we’ve seen, well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions don’t necessarily have a positive impact on the environment. 25% of our survey respondents said they would be more likely to stick to their resolutions if they understood how doing so could benefit the environment. And 48% said they’d be more likely to stick to their resolutions if they were simple and easy to do. 

With that in mind, we put our heads together with the Carbon Trust to create 10 New Year’s resolutions that put the planet first. Adding just one of these green alternatives to your resolutions list can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. 

Plus, these low-carbon-life ideas are all achievable, without even leaving the comfort of home!

1. Turn off the lights and embrace natural light

It really is the simplest of actions that can make a difference. Do you sometimes switch on lights out of habit, even when it’s not really dark? Try keeping the lights off until you really need them. After all, natural light is so much gentler than the artificial light from bulbs. Plus, making the most of natural light can actually cut between 14 and 84g of carbon per year15. Of course, we all need the lights on sometimes though – so find out how energy-saving bulbs can help cut carbon emissions, and your electricity bill. 

2. Turn your thermostat down by 1 degree

It’s lovely to be snug on chilly evenings – but some homes are kept way too warm through winter. Turning your thermostat down by just one degree can reduce your carbon footprint by an incredible 310 kg of carbon a year – the same as travelling 1,144 miles in a diesel car16.

3. Plant a tree in your garden or local community

kids trees gardening planting children

The environmental benefits of trees shouldn’t be underestimated! Planting trees is one of the most effective ways of taking carbon out of the atmosphere. Just one tree can absorb 60 kg of carbon over 10 years of growth, and keep it locked away for decades17. That’s why we’ve planted a million already, in partnership with the Woodland Trust and I Dig Trees. And we plan to plant another 900,000 over the coming year18

 

Getting out into nature is something we all love to do. So why not go one step further and plant a tree yourself? And because trees are so important in the fight against climate change, we’ve started a petition to ask the government to set a legally binding tree-planting target. You can sign it here, anytime. (And don’t forget to share it with your planet-loving friends too!).

If you want to learn even more about our leafy friends, why not check out the benefits of planting trees, as well as the best trees to plant at home, with our handy guides.

4. Do one less hair-wash a week

We’re not suggesting you let your standards drop! But it's worth noting that washing your hair just once less a week could save you 7.5 kg of carbon a year19. Just sayin’! 

In fact, if a quarter of the population skipped one hair wash a week, it could lead to a potential annual saving of 98,000 tonnes of carbon. That’s the same as planting over 16 million trees20.

5. Unplug your laptops and mobile phones

Gadgets like laptops and smartphones have become very energy-efficient over the past few years – but it still pays to unplug them when they don’t need to be charged. Just leaving your phone on charge continuously could result in carbon emissions of 1.2 kg a year.

6. Use your washing machine or dishwasher in the middle of the night instead of the early evening

It may sound a bit bonkers, but using a high-energy appliance like a dishwasher in off-peak hours can reduce carbon emissions. That’s because the national electricity grid is in highest demand between the hours of 4pm and 7pm – meaning carbon intensity is high at that time. The period of lowest demand is around midnight – so if you have a timer on your dishwasher (or you’re a night owl), set it to run at midnight, and you could cut 15.88 kg of carbon a year. And a washing machine running at midnight instead of 7pm saves just under 9 kg of carbon a year21.

7. Turn it off at the wall 

Instead of leaving appliances on standby, turn them off at the wall. By doing this, UK households could avoid 50 kg of carbon a year. And it’d also save you £35 on your bill22. We found that if we all stopped leaving our TVs on standby, it could reduce the nation’s carbon footprint by 1.34 million tonnes. That equates to the emissions from over 734,000 flights from London to Tokyo23. That’s a lot of carbon right there!

8. Get a smart meter installed

Smart meters by themselves don’t save energy. But they do give you the information you need about your home energy use to make changes. These changes can cut your bills as well as your carbon footprint. 

Installing an electricity smart meter can reduce emissions by up to 64 kg of carbon (through behavioural changes). And using a programmer, thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves can cut emissions by 320 kg of carbon a year. That’s the equivalent of driving over 1,000 miles in a diesel car24

Join OVO today and we’ll install a smart meter for free with our Better Smart Energy plan. 

9. Only boil the amount of water you need

It might sound obvious – but if you’re boiling water in an electric kettle for your morning cuppa, there’s no need to completely fill it. Carbon emissions can be cut by up to 5.82 kg of carbon a year per household25 by making this one simple change. Plus, you get your cuppa quicker if you boil less water! 

10. Switch to 100% renewable electricity

By switching to a 100% renewable electricity26 tariff with OVO Energy, you could reduce your carbon footprint by up to 1 tonne per year27. Not only that, but you can have a carbon-busting tree planted every year in your name28. And when your account is in credit, you can also earn 3-5% Interest Rewards29

That’s great news for the 37% of our respondents who want their resolutions to help them feel happier. At the end of the day, doing good makes us feel good. 

Read more about climate change and how to calculate your carbon footprint in our blogs. And if you, like 53% of our survey respondents, want to make your home more energy-efficient, look no further:

And if you’re still on the hunt for more tips, here are 120 ways to save energy. That should keep you going until the next new year! 

Make climate action your New Year's Resolution

For all of you who find sticking to resolutions a bit tricky, it might be comforting to know that 19% of our respondents felt the same way. And 26% even fibbed about how long they kept up their resolutions. We’re not resolution-shaming here! 

We just hope that our alternative green list has given you some ideas for easy-to-keep climate action resolutions you can include in your daily life. Enjoy some feel-good knowledge that this year you’re going to help save the planet, one green resolution at a time. 

And don’t forget, just by joining OVO you’re doing something good for the planet every day, by using only renewable electricity. 

Wishing you a very happy green New Year from all of us at OVO.

 

 

1  -   OVO Energy commissioned the online survey, conducted by Atomik Research among 2,003 UK adults aged 18+. The research fieldwork took place on 11 - 14 December 2020. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code.

2 - https://www.energylivenews.com/2020/01/24/more-than-a-third-of-new-years-resolutions-for-2020-were-green/ 

3 - The carbon emissions per mile in an average diesel car is 0.27108 kgCO2e. So 100/0.27108 = 369 miles. Source: BEIS 2020 emission factors: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conversion-factors-2020

4 - https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/why-5-a-day/

5 - The energy used by the kettle in 1 minute = 0.05 kWh

The average estimate time to boil a full kettle = 2mins

SO - the energy used to boil a full kettle = 0.1 kWh

The amount of CO2 per kWh at UK grid average (location based UK electricity factor, not including transmission and distribution losses) = 0.231040 kg CO2 / kWh

For boiling a full kettle of water = 0.023104 kgCO2

SO 2.281kg / 0.023104 = 98.72749307

6 - Depending on the type of meat, reducing consumption by 25% could reduce emissions by 1.42 kgCO2e/week to 3.89 kgCO2e/week with reducing beef consumption having the biggest impact (Source: the Carbon Trust)

100% reduced consumption (3.89 x 4) = 15.56 kgCO2e/week

15.56 kgCO2e x52 /12 = 67.43 kgCO2e/month

UK population of 52,351,213 adults 18 and over ​(Source​: ONS) 

Population who are making resolutions (41%) = 21,422,997

20% have made a resolution to eat less meat = 4,284,599

4,284,599 x 67.43 kgCO2e = 288,896,256 kgCO2e or 288 thousand tonnes

The flight distance of London to New York = 5,585 km

The carbon emitted per passenger per kilometre flown by an average long-haul passenger (using BEIS emission factors). = 0.19085 kgCO2e per passenger/km

5,585 x 0.19085 = 1,066 kgCO2e per passenger flown from London to New York = 1.066t

288,896,256 / 1,066 = carbon saving of 271,036 flights from London to New York (Source: BEIS 2020 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conversion-factors-2020)

7 - For a beer drinker, reducing consumption by four units a week would reduce emissions by 574 gCO2e/week, a wine drinker would reduce their carbon footprint by 528 gCO2e/week, and a gin drinker would save 246 gCO2e/week. (Source: the Carbon Trust)

Average person advised not to consume more than 14 units of alcohol per week (Source: Drink Aware)

14 wine units = 528 gCO2e x 3.5 = 1.8 kgCO2e a week

1.8 kgCO2e x 52 / 12 = 8 kgCO2e a month

UK population of 52,351,213 adults 18 and over (​Source​: ONS) 

Population who are making resolutions (41%) = 21,422,997

23% have made a resolution to drink less alcohol = 4,927,289

4,927,289 x 8 kgCO2e = 39,457,733 kgCO2e or 39 thousand tCO2e per month

The flight distance of London to New York = 5,585 km

The carbon emitted per passenger per kilometre flown by an average long-haul passenger (using BEIS emission factors). = 0.19085 kgCO2e per passenger/km

5,585 x 0.19085 = 1,066 kgCO2e per passenger flown from London to New York = 1.066t

39,457,733 / 1,066

= carbon saving of 37,018 flights from London to New York (Source: BEIS 2020 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conversion-factors-2020)

8 - https://www.aquacure.co.uk/knowledge-base/truth-about-uks-water-supply

9 - The energy used by the kettle in 1 minute = 0.05 kWh

The average estimate time to boil a full kettle = 2mins

So the energy used to boil a full kettle = 0.1 kWh

The amount of CO2 per kWh at UK grid average (location-based UK electricity factor, not including transmission and distribution losses) = 0.231040 kg CO2 / kWh

for boiling a full kettle of water = 0.023104 kgCO2 

150 g = 0.15kg

SO: 0.15 / 0.023104 = 6.492382271

10 -  Screen time has been defined as time spent using online streaming platforms. Assumed a 25% reduction in screen time per week (1.61 hrs) based on an average viewing time of 6.45 hrs/week. The emission factor was a weighted average for viewing device.

11 - Reducing streaming of online videos by 1.61 hrs (the average length of one film) = carbon emission saving of 50 gCO2e per week (Source: the Carbon Trust)

Over a year: 52 x 50 gCO2e = 2.6 kgCO2e

UK population of 52,351,213 adults 18 and over ​(Source​: ONS) 

Population who are making resolutions (41%) = 21,422,997

22% have made a resolution to reduce digital screen time = 4,713,059

4,713,059 x 2.6k gCO2e = 12,253,954 kgCO2e or 12 thousand tonnes

The flight distance of London to Tokyo = 9,562 km

The carbon emitted per passenger per kilometre flown by an average long-haul passenger (using BEIS emission factors). = 0.19085 kgCO2e per passenger/km

9,562 x 0.19085 = 1825 kgCO2e per passenger flown from London to Tokyo = 1.825 tCO2e

12,253,954 / 1,825 = carbon saving of 6,715 flights from London to Tokyo (Source: BEIS 2020 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conversion-factors-2020)

12 -  These figures are based on an average 17m2 living room with walls of 2.5m high being given a double coat of paint. 

13 -  The carbon emissions per mile in an average diesel car is 0.27108 kgCO2e. So 200/0.27108 = 738 miles. Source: BEIS 2020 emission factors: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conversion-factors-2020

14 -  Based on analysis carried out by the Carbon Trust for OVO Group (2020), the average individual’s carbon footprint in the UK is approximately 5.8 tCO2e. In this analysis, the carbon footprint includes the following lifestyle categories: energy, transport, shopping, food and drink and holidays. See table below for each category. This carbon footprint data has been calculated using BEIS 2020 emission factors. This excludes emissions from things that the average person cannot directly control such as supporting the NHS, defence, government bodies, etc. Please note these figures are not reflective of potential changes to your habits during the coronavirus pandemic.

15 -  Based on the average lounge (17.09m2) that requires 4,270lm, equivalent to 6 x 10W LED bulbs or 6 x 60W incandescent bulbs.

16 -  The carbon emissions per mile in an average diesel car is 0.27108 kgCO2e. So 310/0.27108 = 1,144 miles. Source: BEIS 2020 emission factors: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conversion-factors-2020

17 -  Trees sequester 60kg of carbon as they grow according to the US EPA [https://www.epa.gov/energy/

18 -  https://www.ovoenergy.com/blog/green/renewable-power-and-tree-planting.html

19 -  Assumed an electric power shower of 7.5kW is used and a washing time of 5 mins

20 -  Annual carbon saving of skipping on hair wash a week = 7.5kg CO2 (Source: Carbon Trust)

UK population of 52,351,213 adults (18 and over. Source: ONS)

A quarter of population = 13,087,803

The average grown tree absorbs 6 kg CO2 per year (Source: Carbon Trust)

13,087,803 population x 7.5 kgCO2 = 98158524 kgCO2

13,087,803 population x 7.5 kgCO2 / 6kgCO2 = 16,359,754 trees

21 -  Figures based on the average consumption rate of appliance (dishwasher/washing machine) for a household for a year and the hourly carbon intensity of the grid based on the average over 12 months. Based on the average grid emissions, midnight was the least carbon intense time to run an appliance whereas 7pm was the most intense time.

22 -  Based on the average household spend of £35 for all appliances left on stand-by mode at the average electricity price

23 -  In 2019, there were nearly 26.8 million households in the UK that had televisions (source Statista Research Department, 31 Aug 2020)

By turning all appliances off stand-by the average household could avoid 50 kgCO2e per year (source the Carbon Trust)

26.8 million households with televisions x 50 kgCO2e = 1.34 million tCO2e

The flight distance of London to Tokyo = 9,562 km

The carbon emitted per passenger per kilometre flown by an average long-haul passenger (using BEIS emission factors). = 0.19085 kgCO2e per passenger/km

9,562 x 0.19085 = 1825 kgCO2e per passenger flown from London to Tokyo = 1.825t

1.34 million / 1.825 = carbon saving of 734,284 flights from London to Tokyo (Source: BEIS 2020 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conversion-factors-2020)

24 -  The carbon emissions per mile in an average diesel car is 0.27108 kgCO2e. So 320/0.27108 = 1,180.46 miles. Source: BEIS 2020 emission factors: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conversion-factors-2020

25 -  Assuming they are using an electric kettle the average energy saved from boiling the required amount of water is 24.95 kWh per year per household

26 -  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.

27 -  This is based on the carbon emissions caused in the production and consumption of the 100% renewable electricity OVO provides as standard, compared to the emissions caused by the production and consumption of UK grid average electricity. Average UK household energy consumption figures were sourced from BEIS (2019) [https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/energy-consumption-in-the-uk]. The carbon emissions factors were calculated by the Carbon Trust. 

28 -  Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.

29 - Interest Rewards are paid on credit balances of customers paying by monthly Direct Debit. It is calculated at 3% in your first year, 4% in your second year and 5% in your third year (and every year thereafter) if you pay by Direct Debit. Interest Rewards are paid monthly based on the number of days you’re in credit and the amount left in your account after you’ve paid your bill. Full terms apply

 

 

 

 

  

Like most websites OVO Energy uses cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on this site. Accept and Close