17th Feb 2019

How to cut your own CO2 emissions without changing your life

While new measures and commitments on fighting global warming are taken at the political level and while scientists and innovators are researching new technology to lower greenhouse gas emissions, Europeans as individuals also have an important role to play.

By changing our habits a little and becoming more conscious of how much energy we use, each and every individual can successfully limit their own carbon footprint and – as an extra bonus – save a little money on energy bills.

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"It does not have to be a life altering change," says Karim Harris from Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe - a group that works to prevent climate change and promote sustainable energy and environment policy in Europe - "it's just a question of changing bad habits."

She added that it is clear that individuals also have a role to play, particularly in Europe where people have for decades been living well while emitting carbon dioxide without a thought.

At home

The practical steps can begin at home. Europe's buildings currently account for about 40 percent of all energy used in the EU - with private households using two-thirds of this.

Some of the more simple but also very constructive things that can be done to save energy is turning off unnecessary lights, hanging clothes outside to dry instead of using the tumble dryer, using the washing machine or dishwasher only when they are full and washing at a lower temperature.

Lowering the thermostat on the water heater in your home to a maximum 50 degrees Celsius and putting a timer on your heating system that will automatically lower the heat at night and when no one is home also helps.

On top of this, one should use the "on/off" function on a given machine itself instead of leaving it on standby. A TV set that is switched on for 3 hours a day – which is the average time Europeans spend watching TV - and in standby mode during the remaining 21 hours uses about 40 percent of its energy in standby mode.

Alternatively, you can plug your TV and related equipment, like DVDs and video players as well as the set top box, into an auto power saver plug bank which powers down all the other equipment when you switch off your TV.

Covering your pots while cooking can save a lot of the energy needed for preparing the dish, while pressure cookers and steamers are even better - they can save around 70 percent of energy.

Your diet

It is not the most obvious thing, but eating less meat could help limit global warming. Methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas and cows are one of the greatest methane emitters as their grassy diet and multiple stomachs cause them to produce methane - not by flatulence, as is the common myth, but through burping.

Livestock like cattle, pigs and chicken produces 37 percent of all human-induced methane.

By using a reusable bag when shopping instead of accepting a disposable one in each shop, you can save a little waste, which discharges greenhouse gas emissions.

Buy locally grown and produced foods – it will save fuel and keep money in your community. The Swedish food consumer organisation KRAV and the UK food store chain Tesco, for example, have both said they will "climate label" so that consumers can choose food according to the impact its production and transport have on the climate.

Recycle bio waste in your garden and consider planting an extra tree or two that can absorb some CO2 emissions.

Choose energy efficient appliances when making new purchases. If you are looking for white goods – such as a washing machine or refrigerator – look out for the EU Energy Label rated from A to G, with A being the most energy efficient, G the least efficient.

One of the biggest forms of energy waste in the household is heat escaping due to poor insulation and windows – double glazing and good insulation will cut energy bills.

At work

These greener ways can also be brought into the work place.

If you use your car to get to work, you can reduce CO2 emissions by readjusting your driving style and making it smoother with less abuse of the gas pedal, which raises emissions. Alternatively, car-pooling, cycling or walking where possible are the greener options.

In the office, print less, use recycled paper - it takes 70-90 percent less energy to make recycled paper – and set up a recycling system to limit office waste and recycle as much paper as possible.

Use less energy by switching off all office equipment overnight and at weekends and turn off your computer monitor at lunchtime or for breaks longer than 30 minutes.

The traditional office coffee can be made greener too. Instead of leaving the coffee machine on stand-by, keep coffee in a flask.

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