Carbon Management - Our wee bit we can do at home

By Phil Beaumomnt TechIOSH

member of IEMA (Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment)

I have recently added Carbon Management for businesses to my portfolio of services I provide on top of my Health and Safety Services. I published an article about the service and why carbon management was required. It then occurred to me that there are lots of you, like me, interested in doing our wee bit to help save our planet, hence this article. First, I will give you some definitions and a brief description of what is happening to our planet. 

Global warming is an aspect of climate change, referring to the long-term rise of the planet's temperatures. It is caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly from human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation and farming. The main driver of current climate change is the emission of greenhouse gases, most importantly carbon dioxide and methane. 

  • Released when fossil fuels are burnt. Transport, furnaces and Power Generation
  • Meat and dairy production, sorry, animals that eat a lot of grass, fart a lot!
  • Producing cement and some industrial processes, such as the production and use of fertilisers.
  • Loss of refrigerants gasses

Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the world has emitted over 2.2 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide. 'Energy from the Sun falls on our planet and normally gets reflected back as infrared radiation. But instead of escaping back out into space, this radiation gets absorbed by molecules of greenhouse gases, which then emit them in all directions.' This process causes more heat to be kept near Earth's surface, warming our world. 

While we cannot stop global warming overnight, or even over the next several decades, we can slow the rate and limit the amount of global warming by reducing human emissions of heat-trapping gases. 

Climate change refers to the increasing changes in the measures of climate over a long period of time – including precipitation, temperature, and wind patterns. More frequent and intense drought, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans can directly harm animals, destroy the places they live, and wreak havoc on people's livelihoods and communities. As climate change worsens, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe. Climate models forecast that global warming will cause climate patterns worldwide to experience significant changes. These changes will likely include major shifts in wind patterns, annual precipitation and seasonal temperatures variations.

The UK government has committed us to cut national greenhouse gas emissions by at least 100% of 1990 levels (net zero) by 2050 and agreed interim five-year 'carbon budgets' that take the country progressively towards that 100% target at the lowest possible cost. From 1 April 2019, quoted companies must report on their global energy use and large businesses must disclose their UK annual energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The government encourages all other companies to report similarly, although this remains voluntary for now. 

Carbon management is the process of managing the carbon emissions. Carbon management is applicable to a wide variety of business activities, products, services and to each individual on the planet. 

Becoming carbon neutral involves looking at the way you live, your home, what you eat, how you travel, work, shop. including your supply chain, in fact you must look at everything. Identifying your footprint, reducing it, and neutralising the impact of any remaining emissions are the three steps to becoming carbon-neutral. 

Carbon neutrality refers to achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon dioxide emissions with removal (often through carbon offsetting) or simply eliminating carbon dioxide emissions altogether. 

Offsetting is a way of paying for others to reduce emissions or absorb CO2 to compensate for your own emissions. For example, by planting trees to suck carbon out of the atmosphere as they grow. Becoming environmentally friendly not only benefits the environment but can also save you money. 

So, what can we as individuals do? 

There are lots of ways we can help, the list below generally does not cost a lot of money, if you do have a few spare £ then more efficient boilers, solar panels, solar water heaters, heat transfer systems can all help reduce your impact.

1. Reduce heat loss in your home. 

  • Through the roof - install loft insulation
  • Through walls - use cavity wall insulation
  • Through the floor - fit carpet with underlay
  • Through gaps around doors - fit draft excluders
  • Through windows - fit double glazing

2. Reduce energy usage in your home. 

Heat, Lights and Appliances In the average home, 35 percent of energy is used to heat spaces, 15 percent is used to heat water, and the remainder is spent on appliances. 

  • Turn down the heat. Use a programmable or smart thermostat if you have one. Keep blinds closed to help keep temperature stable inside.
  • Turn down your water heater.
  • Turn off lights and appliances when you are not using them.
  • Turn off appliances at the power outlet to reduce even more energy. Putting them to sleep is second best.
  • Stream movies through your smart TV, not your game console. Smart TVs and their plugins use just a few watts to stream movies, if you use your game console, energy use is about 10 times higher, because they are not optimized to play films.
  • Buy a laptop, not a desktop computer. Laptops take less energy to charge and run.
  • Replace lights. LED lights use up to 85 percent less energy, last up to 25 times longer and are cheaper to run than incandescent lights.
  • Do not set your fridge and freezer temperatures lower than necessary.  Unplug that old fridge in the garage when you do not need it to chill anything.
  • Choose renewables. If you can choose your energy supplier, pick one that runs on renewables.
  • Replace old fridges. If it is 15 to 20 years old recycle it.
  • When replacing appliances, try to buy appliances which use less power and have a good energy rating.

 3. Reduce the amount you use the car and think about the way you drive. 

  • Drive Less, try taking a train, bus or better yet, ride a bike.
  • Go easy on the accelerator and brakes — driving efficiently can help to reduce emissions.
  • Regularly service your car to keep it more efficient.
  • Check your tires. Keeping tires pumped correctly can reduce emissions.
  • Air conditioning and intensive city driving can make emissions creep up. Cut down on these as often as possible.
  • Use cruise control on long drives — in most cases, this can help to save fuel.
  • Do not weigh your car down with extra things that you do not need on your trip. 
  • Carpool — this way, you are splitting emissions between the number of people in the car.

4. When choosing a new car 

there are several factors to consider, which will determine how “clean” your purchase is. Petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric? 

  • Cars are rated by efficiency.
  • Think about where you will be charging up.
  • How efficient hybrid and electric cars are depends on where you get your power to recharge.
  • Weigh up both production and use emissions. (Making electric cars has a carbon footprint, too.)
  • Look for the Smart Way certification.
  • Cars with lower emissions can often end up costing less to operate.

5. Fly often? 

Taking one fewer long round-trip flight could shrink your personal carbon footprint significantly. Reduce the class you fly, flying Business class has a greater impact on carbon use as the carbon emissions are divided by fewer passengers. 

6. Food 

  • Reduce the amount of meat you eat, cutting down on meat, and red meat, is a better choice for the environment. This is because the production of red meat uses a lot of feed, water and land. Cows themselves also give off methane emissions (a harmful greenhouse gas).
  • Overall, eating low down the food chain as often as you can is a probably a good way to reduce your carbon footprint and stay healthy. This means filling your plate with vegetables, fruits, grains and beans. For meat-lovers, swapping carbon-intensive meats like beef and lamb with chicken can make a difference. Better still, swap a few meals per-week to vegan or vegetarian. This protein card can help you make climate (and wallet) friendly choices at the grocery store.
  • When it comes to food, most greenhouse gas emissions happen during production, rather than transportation: What you eat is more important than where it comes from. But eating local can still make a difference.
  • Waste Less, this is a big one, on average, we waste around 40 percent of the food we buy. Take stock. Organize your fridge regularly to check on what you already have and make grocery shopping lists before you go to the store to prevent buying things you do not need. Be wary of bulk. Low-priced food might seem like a good deal, but it is not if you do not end up eating it before it goes bad.
  • Plan. Do not cook more food than you can eat. Account for the right amount of food for the number of people eating and adapt recipes to your needs. Get creative. Reuse leftovers instead of tossing them. Freeze. Extend the life of your food, including additional portions, as well as produce like fresh herbs, by freezing them properly.  If you order takeout, wash and reuse the plastic containers that food often comes in.

7. Waste 

Much of the waste that can be recycled still ends up in landfills. Here are some tips to make sure your waste ends up in the right place, in Carbon Management we use a Waste Hierarchy. 

  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Repair
  • Recycle

 Use the correct waste receptacle, do not put non-recyclables in the recycling bin. 

  • Look for a recycle triangle on the bottom of plastic containers.
  • Empty and rinse food containers before putting them in the recycling bin. A dirty container can spoil a whole batch of recyclables.
  • Recycle paper, plastics, metals and tin cans. 
  • Before throwing away, think, Can I re-use or repair this? 
  • Donate working electronics.
  • Recycle broken electronics. Many local electronics stores offer free recycling programs for old goods.
  • Collect dry cell batteries. You should be able to recycle them through your local recycle centre.
  • Contact your local car dealer or recycle centre to recycle car batteries.
  • Do not put non-recyclables in the recycling bin.