Our Carbon Footprints

Calculating our own carbon footprint is something that we all can do. It will quickly increase awareness of how we personally compare with national & international averages and where our efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption are best made. It also enables monitoring of the effect of making such changes.

Measuring our ‘direct’ CO2 output (heating, electricity & transport) is relatively easy and there are many tools on the internet and elsewhere to do this. We favour the format used by the Carbon Reduction Action Group (CRAG) network because it is being used by many dedicated groups around the country to systematically set themselves annual reduction targets. You can download a slightly modified excel spreadsheet of the CRAG carbon footprint tool, click here to download.

Measuring and monitoring our ‘indirect’ carbon footprint is more difficult. This results from our consumption of food, goods and services and in this country is on average about half of our total footprint i.e. approximately the same as our direct footprint. Clearly the more we consume the more greenhouse gases produced but the type of consumption can make a huge difference. One crude example being that meat is a vastly more energy intensive food than vegetables and to the extent that the embedded energy in its production generally far outweighs any ‘food miles’ energy costs.

Reduction of our individual indirect footprint is clearly possible but it will be more difficult to be sure what difference your efforts are making in carbon terms. However lifestyle changes made with carbon in mind may well bring beneficial health and other side effects.

A number of members of Sustainable Bishopston have substantially (by more than half) reduced their direct carbon footprint over the course of a year with surprisingly little lifestyle change. What a difference it would make if most of us did the same!

Most informed commentators studying climate change and natural resource depletion have concluded that as well as needing to act quickly we cannot depend upon technology alone to help us and consumption will have to be reduced. For every watt of energy not used (a negawatt), a watt does not have to be generated and this is far cheaper than building extra generating capacity.

One of the aims of Sustainable Bishopston is to help each other in the local neighbourhood to find ways to reduce our personal carbon footprints. We would encourage anyone who has not tried to measure their own footprint to do so and those of us who have been doing this for a while can give advice where necessary.

It would be good to collect people’s stories about using energy more wisely or creatively and we will endeavour to use the website for this purpose. It would also be interesting to find some proxy measure of Bishopston’s total energy use and monitor this over time.

Comments, suggestions, stories, tips most welcome!!

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Let’s all find our tread-lightly boots.


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