Ten top tips for reducing your carbon footprint

Energy conservation is important - and don’t forget food choices. And keep your clothes on

“Burn less turf. As broadcaster Duncan Stewart says, it does not just cause biodiversity damage, but is more carbon-intensive than coal. It has the highest level of carbon in fuels.” File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

“Burn less turf. As broadcaster Duncan Stewart says, it does not just cause biodiversity damage, but is more carbon-intensive than coal. It has the highest level of carbon in fuels.” File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

As COP21 draws to a conclusion in Paris, what are the top 10 moves ordinary folk can do to reduce their climate impact?

According to environmental campaigner and broadcaster Duncan Stewart, currently in Paris for COP21 and filming there for a new series of Eco Eye, one of the most important things people could do is “stop burning turf”.

Mr Stewart said peat has the highest level of carbon in fuels and is being burnt in power plants at 30 per cent efficiency.

Eat less meat

Charles Stanley Smith of An Taisce is of the view that we should eat less meat, because of the high level of greenhouse gases from agriculture.

And in what may be another difficult issue for farmers, currently deluged by floods, Mr Stanley Smith says water conservation has to be a part of any energy efficiency plan. “There is a large amount of energy going into water treatment plants,” he explained.

However, both men - along with most proponents for action on climate change - are clear on the main actions that can be taken by ordinary citizens in terms of energy efficiency and reduction in energy use.

While rankings may differ, most strategies would include the following:

1. Green your commute.

Transport still consumes more energy than that used for either heat (space and process) or electricity generation and it is almost exclusively dependent on imported oil.

The transport sector is responsible for the largest share of energy-related CO2 emissions of any sector of the economy, accounting for 35 per cent (12.6 MtCO2 - metric tonnes of carbon dioxide) in 2013. Cut out unneeded journeys, take public transport and walk more - the health benefit of walking is a bonus.

2. Be energy efficient.

Switch to CFL bulbs or LED lights, which use far less electricity. Turn off electrical items at night - if 1.7 million homes did so, the estimated reduction in emissions would equate to taking 24,000 cars off the roads. Switch off office computers, which use 65 per cent of their energy when in idle mode.

3. Insulate your home, school, office and business.

Have an audit carried out by an agency such as the Tipperary Energy Agency which carries out a package from assessment to grant information and installation.

4. Burn less turf.

As Mr Stewart says, it does not just cause biodiversity damage, but is more carbon-intensive than coal. It has the highest level of carbon in fuels.

5. Choose renewable power.

Ask your utility how much of their power comes from renewable resources such as wind farms. Switch if you can improve your performance.

6. Eat wisely.

Mr Stanley Smith may not have the wholehearted support of Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, as the latter wants to increase agricultural output. But considering your diet is a worthwhile activity. Do you really need to eat strawberries, flown in from the other side of the world in December? Go for less meat, eat locally produced food in season and lobby for supermarkets not to dump “wonky-shaped” vegetables.

7. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose and upcycle.

Call it what you will, but be resource conscious. Make compost from vegetable kitchen scraps and garden trimmings, and recycle paper, plastic, metal and glass. Let store managers and manufacturers know you want products with minimal or recyclable packaging.

8. Fly less.

To combat the huge carbon footprint of air travel, try videoconferencing, which saves time as well as travel and accommodation costs.

9. Wear a sweater.

Do we really need to have the heating so high we have to peel off layers of clothing to relax? Turn the temperature down, and keep your clothes on.

10. As a final option, get involved.

Prof John Sweeney of Maynooth said the political and administrative appetite to seriously address Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions is not evident in the implementation of past or present policies. Take a few minutes to contact your political representatives and the media to tell them you want immediate action on climate change.