Wednesday 21 March 2018

What's your carbon number?

Did you know that the average European is responsible for emissions of almost 10 tons of carbon dioxide? Below we take a look at where Ireland ranks in terms of emissions and what you can do to lower your carbon footprint

Taking a detailed look at Ireland's total emissions may yield surprising results. Ireland ranks 69th in the world, and eight in Europe, in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide it emits.

What may not come as a surprise is that China is the world leader in total emissions, and has been for the past eight years. However, in reality, this tells you very little - just that China is a highly populated country.

A far more useful tool would be to look at the carbon emissions per capita or per person. This paints a completely different picture. Under this measurement, the average Chinese citizen emits 6.3 tons, whereas the average Irish person is responsible for emitting a whopping 8.8 tons.

Your carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse emissions you produce on a daily basis. In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that climate change is happening as a direct result of human activity. The way we heat our water, use electrical equipment and the way we drive our cars is all contributing to global warming.

It is estimated that the majority of people can reduce their carbon footprint by 20 per cent by changing their habits and being more environmentally mindful.

Are you guilty of emitting more emissions than necessary? We've compiled a list of easy ways you can reduce your carbon footprint.


nLeave the car at home - Cars are responsible for approximately 12 per cent of total EU emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). So where possible, walk or ride your bike as these activities do not produce any carbon emissions.

nUpgrade to a fuel efficient car - While electric cars still have a carbon footprint (because they're usually charged with electricity created by the burning of fossil fuels) their MPG equivalents are typically much higher than conventional and hybrid cars.

nReady, set, go - It may be tempting, but on cold mornings don't turn on the engine to heat the car. Not only does this waste fuel but it leads to rapid engine wear.

nTyre pressures - Under-inflated tyres can increase fuel consumption by as much as 3 per cent.

nTurn off the engine - Stuck in traffic? Switch off the engine to save fuel and reduce emissions.


nEat less meat - Compared to meat eaters vegetarians save approximately 3,000 pounds of CO2 per year. Increasing the number of non-meat dishes you eat by one or two a week can make a big difference.

nWaste not, want not - In Ireland, over one million tonnes of food waste is generated annually. This waste produces methane in landfills as well as carbon emissions from transporting the wasted food. By only buying what you will consume, you can make a big difference to the environment.

nStop draughts - An inadequately insulated home is liable to heat escaping through the roof, walls, ceilings and floors. Apart from increasing your bills, home heating can contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Insulating the attic, walls and upgrading windows is a good place to start. Another top tip is to place aluminium foil behind radiators. This will reflect the heat back into the room, instead of it escaping through the walls.

nPut the kettle on - Most Irish families love sitting down to a cuppa but overfilling the kettle can be bad for the environment. When making tea, be sure to only boil the amount of water you need.

nLocation, location, location - Did you know that where you put your fridge can impact your home's carbon footprint? Placing it against an outside wall will make the energy generated escape easier.

nSwitch off - Turn off the lights when you leave a room. It may sound simple but a study at Boston University discovered that if everyone at the university turned off one light for an hour a day over the course of a year, the energy equivalent of removing 97 cars from the road for a year could be saved.

nShop locally - Purchasing foods that are both in season and grown locally can drastically cut down the carbon emissions of the vehicles used to transport the food across the country.


nOnly print if it's absolutely necessary - A piece of paper releases 0.03 pounds of CO2. So consider saving a file on your computer, emailing it, or print on both sides of the paper.

nChoose a laptop - Did you know that laptops can be as much as 80 per cent more energy efficient than a desktop.

nDim your screen - Monitors account for approximately a third of the energy used by a computer so by dimming the brightness of your screen during the day you can save power.

nSay no to screensavers - They may look nice but when screensavers are triggered they can keep the monitor active.

nPower down - It's a myth that it takes more energy to turn a computer on and off than to keep it running. So shut it down when your work day is over.

nTake the stairs - If you take the lift four times a day - to and from work, and up and down to lunch - you are producing 0.3-0.6 CO2. Put simply, an elevator consumes electricity, you don't.

nAvoid the office completely - Getting to the office burns fuel. Your computer, the lights and your phone use precious resources. By letting your staff work from home one day a week you can save money on running costs and reduce your carbon footprint.

Irish Independent

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