IS a climate-neutral lifestyle possible? Experts say that it is, but we’ve a very long way to go before we get close to it. The average consumer around the world is well over the emissions target of two tonnes a head – meaning big savings will have to be found.
The first question to making everyday changes is finding somewhere to start.
“First, you have to accept that paying a little attention is not enough,” says Michael Bilharz of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency.
“The majority of people think environmental protection is good, but in everyday life, many are trapped by habits and structures that have developed over years.”
These include our cars, apartments, and the huge range of consumer goods on offer around us. According to Bilharz, there’ll have to be action on both national and international levels – but each consumer can help by changing well established behaviour patterns.
Online CO2 consumption calculators can give a good overview of how your lifestyle choices affect your personal carbon footprint. Anyone can enter their data on the most important adjustable factors such as housing, transport, nutrition and consumer consumption.
The result is a personal CO2 reading that shows which areas could be addressed.
In the home the primary concerns are electricity and heating. “Everyone can easily switch to a green electricity provider – a one-off action that doesn’t necessarily cost more,” says Seraja Bock of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and indeed green electricity tariffs are sometimes even cheaper.
“At the same time, even with green electricity you should turn off the lights and all electrical items when they’re not in use,” she adds.
Reducing heating levels can make a big impact – and this will also save you money. “For each degree you reduce room temperature, you can save up to 6% of your heating energy,” says Jens Groeger from Germany’s environmental research institute Oeko-Institut.
Household electrical appliances are big energy guzzlers. “We often buy fridges that are too large for the number of people in the household,” says Groeger, adding that even those with a good efficiency rating consume a lot of energy. “With washing machines and dishwashers it’s important to fully load them and to select lower temperatures,” he says.
“Watching television via a streaming service causes 100 kilogrammes of CO2 per year in the network alone,” continues Groeger, “and flat screen televisions consume more electricity than old tube monitors despite their efficiency advantages.”
Be sure to turn off lights not in use, as well. “Because LED lamps require so little energy, there are no more savings to be found there,” says Groeger, “but rooms are often stuffed with many light sources that are rarely turned off. All in all, that leads to more consumption.”
A significant impact can be made by choosing not to fly. “A European Flight directly causes one to two tonnes of CO2, intercontinental flights three to five tonnes,” explains Bilharz. So, if possible, travel by train instead, or at least off-set the emissions from your journey.
Climate organisations such as Atmosfair and MyClimate provide options to do this.
In order to establish a new lifestyle on a long-term basis, it helps to set priorities. First change one habit, then change another. Groeger sums it up: “I go shopping on my bike, but I still whip my cream with an electric whisk.” – dpa