Greenhouse gases are the result of burning fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas.
This happens for three reasons: at home to produce heat, in large power stations to produce electricity and in engines, like cars and planes, to make them move. When these greenhouse gases are burned, they emit carbon and therefore, they have a carbon footprint.
Therefore, reducing carbon footprint will mean reducing the need to burn fossil fuels. As we explained in this Net Zero strategy blog, we need to cut or at least reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect life on Earth.
But what’s a carbon footprint anyway?
You can imagine it like the footprints in the sand someone will leave after walking in it. To use a more proper definition — carbon footprint measures the amount of greenhouse gas released due to the activities of a particular individual, organisation, or community.
But let’s be a bit more specific. When we say greenhouse gases, we mean all the gases that cause the greenhouse effect, like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), counted in equivalent tonnes of CO2. The type of activities also varies depending who or what you are examining:
- To calculate carbon footprint for an individual, you need to consider their personal actions (transportation, household, clothing, food)
- For a product, consider all the processes involved in the product’s life cycle (raw materials, production, use, disposal/recycling)
- For a company, carbon footprint will account for all company-wide operations (power generation, the type of industrial activities, machinery and equipment)
- And for a country, carbon footprint is calculated by looking at the total energy consumption, material utilisation, plant life, or other forms of carbon reduction methods, as well as import and export processes.
How bad is your carbon footprint?
It depends on how high it is. For example, the average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tonnes a year, whereas, in the UK, it’s 10-13 tonnes. This means that, on average, a person in the UK is responsible for producing 10-13 tonnes of carbon per year. If we compare it to the global average of 4 tonnes, it’s understandable that things need to change.
Are you interested in finding out how much yours is? If so, you can check out this carbon footprint calculator.
Why should we reduce our carbon footprint?
Even though a regular person’s carbon footprint is much smaller than that of fossil fuel companies, households still account for 26% of the emissions in the UK. Also, reducing our own emissions on an individual scale will reduce the amount of carbon needed to be removed from the atmosphere. Lastly, a change in our mindset and behaviour can act as a catalyst for bringing an even bigger change in regulations.
How exactly you choose to do that is up to you. Are you interested in a quick fix or a long-term swap?
Here are some ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint through low-energy lights, while also helping you to save money on your electricity bill.
Here, it might be good to keep in mind that electricity for lighting accounts for approximately 15% of global power consumption and 5% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
How to reduce your carbon footprint at home
Lights use energy to work. The point is to reduce the amount of that energy used.
Remind yourself to turn off the lights when you leave any room. Or, even while you are still in it, ask yourself, do I need all these lights on right now, or can I turn some off?
Some people tend to leave one light on purposefully when they leave the house to make sure they can find their way back inside easily when they return. But actually, there is no need for that. Most houses have a light switch by the main door for the exact same reason. So, there’s no need to worry; you can turn all the lights off before you go.
You could also consider installing motion sensors in your exterior spaces, so you won’t need to leave those on, either, or worry that you might leave them on by accident. You can have a look at your options for outdoor lighting here.
You can even upgrade your lamps to more energy-efficient ones. Class A LED bulbs are the new, improved version of LED that uses 60% less energy. This way, it reduces the greenhouse gas emissions it causes by also 60%. With that said, the carbon footprint of the product itself is already much smaller. This is because A Class LED light bulbs have the longest lifespan—27+ years—meaning they help reduce emissions by being produced, distributed and disposed less often.
How to reduce carbon footprint at work
Compared to your house, if you think about how much bigger the space you need to light is at work, everything should be optimised to ensure energy efficiency.
All the above practices can make your workspace greener. Maximising natural light is the obvious thing to do, so taking out the lining of the office curtains might do the trick. Motion detectors in the bathroom or kitchen are a smart move to save energy, too.
If you are in a place where you can invest more for a sustainable workspace, you can hit the source of the problem and push for installing a renewable energy system that would emit little to no greenhouse gases altogether.
If you prefer to upgrade your light system while you are working on your long-term and more invasive plan, keep in mind that the A Class LEDs are grouped in a 40Watt and 60Watt equivalent. Even though they need less energy (and therefore, watts) to work, this classification aims to match the specifications of the older LEDs, to help you find the right replacement for your lights.