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Calculate and track your carbon footprint with OVO Greenlight

16 November 2020 | Matt Mostyn

OVO Greenlight is a clever way to calculate the impact of your habits on the planet. From the things you do at home, to your actions while you’re out and about, we’ve made it even easier to keep tabs on how they affect your carbon footprint.

This nifty tool is available to all OVO members, offering handy tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint and care for the environment. With OVO Greenlight on hand, it’s bad news for carbon, great news for our planet!

Carbon emissions are a major problem for our planet. We're releasing more carbon to the earth's atmosphere than ever before, which is speeding up global warming. But as they say, ‘knowledge is power’ – and when we properly understand it, we can better address our impact. And that’s where tools like OVO Greenlight come in.

First up, what is a carbon footprint? 

Good question! Incidentally, we use ‘carbon’ as a catch-all phrase that includes carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It’s the carbon in our atmosphere that traps heat from the sun, and makes our planet warm enough to live on – so it’s not all bad. It’s just that right now, we’re all emitting too much, and that’s causing global warming. 

The average UK person’s carbon footprint weighs in at 5.8 tonnes per year1. That’s enough to melt over 17 square meters of Arctic sea ice cover2. And the more carbon we’re responsible for individually, the bigger our collective carbon footprint.

So, what is a carbon footprint? Put simply, it’s a way of measuring our impact on global warming, based on the total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) released into the atmosphere as a result of the way we live our daily lives. 

A carbon footprint encompasses everything – from the food we eat to the clothes we wear, the holidays we take, and hotels we stay in.

how to calculate your carbon footprint

Take driving a car as an example. We all know it’s bad, because of the emissions it releases (unless you’re rocking out in your electric vehicle, in which case, nice work). But we often forget about the emissions created in the manufacturing process of that car, or the production of its fuel. These all contribute to your carbon footprint.

The good news is that there’s still time to turn things around, reduce our collective carbon footprint, and help save the planet. For us, our kids, and our grandkids. 

We know that the science and willpower exists to halt the climate crisis, but the real key to making it happen is bigger than big business, individual countries, and even world leaders. It’s about human collaboration on a mass scale, with everyone, from every corner of the globe coming together to reduce our collective impact. 

You can even work out ways to reduce the carbon pawprint of your pet

OVO Greenlight

How a carbon footprint is calculated

Quite simply, by adding up the carbon produced by absolutely everything you do. 

One person’s average carbon footprint weighs in at a troubling 5.8 tonnes per year. That figure can be broken down further, to help you understand exactly where it comes from. Here’s a list of the main culprits3:

  • 28% comes from how you power and heat your home with gas and electricity. But remember, by choosing 100% renewable electricity and carbon-neutral gas you can take a big chunk out of your carbon footprint pretty easily. 
  • 23% comes from the transport you use regularly. You’ll have a bigger carbon footprint if you drive a petrol-guzzling car, compared to cycling or taking the bus. But this doesn’t cover things like business trips – which fall under your company’s carbon footprint, not yours.
  • 21% comes from the stuff you buy, such as shopping – whether for new clothes or things for your home.
  • 17% comes from what you eat and drink. You’ll have a smaller carbon footprint if you buy a lot of locally-grown produce. Or if you cut down on eating meat
  • 11% comes from your holidays. We know it’s hard to hear, but the more you fly, the bigger your footprint will be. Time to take the train to your next holiday hotspot?

Little changes in any of these areas will start to shrink your footprint. And if we all take the necessary steps, imagine how much carbon we could save.

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Why it’s so important to calculate your carbon footprint

We don’t want to labour the point – but right now we’re at a critical state in the climate crisis, and we can all play a role in fighting it. This means that calculating your carbon footprint is really important. Because you can’t find ways to reduce your contribution to global warming unless you understand it first. 

It’s just as important for companies to do that, too. That’s because consumers like us are increasingly interested in transparency around the environmental impacts of the brands we buy from – and products we use. A 2019 YouGov Survey of more than 9,000 consumers around the world found that two-thirds (67%) of us support the idea of a recognisable label showing that products have been made with a commitment to reducing their carbon footprint.

OVO Greenlight has been designed to help you learn more about the carbon footprint created through your home energy and some of your travel habits, and discover new ways to lighten it. Which makes it a great first step on your journey to zero carbon.

We’ve made it really easy to use – and it’s free for all OVO members, both new and existing.

Here are some more easy and practical ways to reduce your carbon footprint. And if you’re not sure about the difference between ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’, read our helpful guide to these terms.

What else is OVO doing to reduce our carbon footprint?

benefits of tree planting

OVO Beyond

OVO Beyond is our green upgrade that cuts carbon and restores nature. Join OVO Beyond and you’ll get:

  • 100% carbon-neutral gas, with 15% green gas and the rest offset
  • 5 trees planted for you each year in UK schools and communities, to absorb 300kg of carbon as they grow
  • Carbon-offsetting projects that protect natural habitats around the world

Find out more about OVO Beyond

Our net zero carbon mission

In September 2019 we launched our mission to make net zero carbon living a reality – which means becoming a net zero carbon business and helping our members become more sustainable, too.

By the way, ‘net zero carbon’ means that we'll reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible (in line with what scientists say is needed to avoid dangerous climate change). And then we balance out anything left over by removing that carbon from the atmosphere.

We’ve committed to net zero emissions, and halving our members total carbon footprint (and totally eradicating their household emissions) by 2030. These are just a couple of our targets and aims. Find out more about our net zero carbon mission here.

Tree-planting

We know that planting trees is one of the most effective ways of taking carbon out of the atmosphere. So we’ll plant a tree for every new and existing OVO Energy member, for every year they’re with us4.

Together with our partners the Woodland Trust and I Dig Trees, we plan to plant over 900,000 trees over the coming year. That's over 54,000 tonnes of carbon being taken out of the atmosphere every decade as they grow5. Which is about the equivalent of the carbon footprint created by 49,000 people flying from London to New York6!

Ready to cut your carbon? Simply log in to use OVO Greenlight, and start reducing the impact of your home energy and travel habits today.

Not yet an OVO member? Get a quote and switch to OVO today, so you can start using OVO Greenlight!

See your impact


Sources and references

1.  How we worked out what makes up an average person’s carbon footprint: we commissioned analysis to be carried out by the Carbon Trust for OVO Group (2020) to look at the GHG emissions of the average UK person. In this analysis, the carbon footprint includes the following lifestyle categories: energy, transport, shopping, food and drink and holidays. This excludes emissions from things that the average person cannot directly control, such as supporting the NHS, defence and government bodies etc.

2.  The average UK person’s annual carbon footprint (5.8 tCO2e) was multiplied by 3 square meters (i.e. the amount of sea ice that disappears per tonne of carbon dioxide). How do we know that? In 2016, two climatologists published a paper in the prestigious journal Science showing a direct relationship between carbon emissions and the melting of Arctic sea ice. Every metric tonne of carbon dioxide or its equivalent shrinks the ice cover by 3 square meters. You can read the study here.

3.  How we worked out what makes up an average person’s carbon footprint: we commissioned analysis to be carried out by the Carbon Trust for OVO Group (2020) to look at the GHG emissions of the average UK person. In this analysis, the carbon footprint includes the following lifestyle categories: energy, transport, shopping, food and drink and holidays. This excludes emissions from things that the average person cannot directly control, such as supporting the NHS, defence and government bodies etc.

4.  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. And we plant an extra 5 trees through our I Dig Trees programme for every member that joins our OVO Beyond upgrade. Since 2015, we have planted over 1 million trees through our I Dig Trees programme.

5.  The average tree planted absorbs 60kg of carbon over a 10-year period while it grows.

6.  Flight distance of London to New York is 5,585km. 0.19562kg of carbon is emitted per passenger per kilometre flown by an average long-haul passenger (BEIS 2019 emission factors). So multiplying 0.19562kg by 5,585km = 1,092.5kg per passenger to New York.

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