Why even bother reduce your lifestyle carbon emissions? Because if one person in each Finnish household would reduce personal emissions by 20%, we would already achieve 38% of Finland’s emission reduction targets, as set in the Paris Agreement!
Living in today’s society causes emissions, and that’s fine. Learning where most of them come from is the very first, and in a way the very biggest, step we can take towards making a real change. Spark wants to build a society where people take climate action because it aligns with our values, improves our health, and is often also fun — not because society forces us to. These are our top tips on how to reduce your lifestyle emissions, and improve your quality of life while you’re at it!
65% of all electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, i.e. coal, natural gas, or oil (IEA, n.d.). This process emits greenhouse gases. There are however emission-free (and cost-effective!) alternatives available, such as nuclear, solar, wind and hydro power, of which the last three are also renewable. Since it will take some time to replace all conventional power plants with emission-free ones, reducing electricity consumption — and consequently the burning of fossil fuel — is a huge climate action.
We humans use a lot of heat, and since almost all of it is produced by burning fossil fuels, it is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Heat can also be obtained through renewable sources like biomass, geothermal and solar power, or by transforming electricity to heat. The alternatives are still not widely used, so heat efficiency in for example buildings is a hot topic.
Transport accounts for around 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of emissions in the Nordics. The lion’s share of this comes from private cars. Trains, metros, trams, buses and carpooling are climate-friendly alternatives, since the emissions are shared by a larger number of passengers and rail traffic runs on electricity instead of gas.
Flying has large emissions because a lot, seriously a LOT, of fossil fuels are needed to lift a plane off the ground and propel it forward. We typically travel quite far when we fly, which means that a single trip can have a huge impact on our personal emissions. For example, a round-trip between Finland and Thailand, can increase our yearly lifestyle emissions by 30%. Using biofuels reduces emissions, but there isn't enough biomass on our planet to fuel the aviation industry. Electrical planes are being developed but we’re still a far cry from having them in use. The good news is, you don’t have to cancel all your future travel plans to live a more climate-friendly life.
In Nordic countries where consumption is high, purchasing products and services often account for over 25% of our personal carbon footprint. All products and services cause emissions through the extraction and production of raw materials, manufacturing (mostly in the form of electricity and heat consumption), transportation, and disposal. Usually, manufacturing stands for the largest share of the emissions of a product. Hence, the easiest way of reducing emissions from consumption is to simply spend less money.
Globally, more than 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions can be traced to the food we put on our tables. Deforestation for breaking new cropland, energy consumption at the farm, the use of fertilizers, transportation, and processing of food all produce emissions. In general, plant-based foods have a significantly smaller carbon footprint than meat, which is higher up in the food chain (meaning it needs more energy to be produced). Red meat is particularly troublesome, as cows produce the strong greenhouse gas methane. Consequently, also dairy products have quite a high impact on the climate.
What food we buy is not the only important factor, but also what we do with it — do we turn overripe fruits into a marvellous smoothie, or do they end up in the bin? As soon as food is wasted, all the resources (and emissions) that have gone into producing it are wasted, too. Emissions from food waste is in fact such a big problem, that if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world.
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