My Carbon Calculator

I recently started a course with The Open University to study for a degree in Environmental Science. I’ve always wanted to study for a degree but I had no idea in which subject. I had my eye on this degree for about six months. Eventually I got bored of talking about it and signed up. Six years of studying! Eeek!

One of my activities was to work out my carbon footprint. This was something I was really looking forward to doing and I was curious how high (or low) my carbon footprint was compared to the national average.

The calculator was quite easy to navigate, it asks about the number of people in your household, information about your home; insulation, doors, windows, heating, they energy rating for your appliances, your travel habits, food and income.

There were a few areas I had to make an assumption, for example, how long I spend in the shower? I don’t know about you but I’ve never timed myself in the shower. So, I decided to put 7 times a week for 7 minutes. Another assumption I had to make was my salary, if you’re self-employed, you will know that your income fluctuates all the time, so I worked out the monthly average and went with that.

© 2018 The Open University. Developed by Peter Harper with Robin Roy from a calculator produced by Peter Harper for The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) with acknowledgments to CAT. Software and graphic design by Callum Lester and Vicky Eves, The Open University

According to the calculator, the UK average carbon footprint is 14.60 CO2 emissions per year. It turns out that mine is well below the national average of 8.80 CO2 emissions per year. I had a feeling it would be low but I didn’t realise how low it was until you visualise it.

If you look at the bar chart on the right-hand side of the image, you will see that my travel is non-existent, I do travel and I do have a car but I don’t use it that much, only at the weekends and even then it’s few and far between. I live close to Ashford town centre so most things are within walking distance for me. I haven’t been on a plane in two years and I haven’t got any plans to go on a plane anytime soon. The only time I use public transport is when I use the train, which isn’t that often anyway, mainly for networking opportunities.

The OU calculator also allows students to enter in their own personal reduction target, I set mine at 20%, to find areas where they can reduce their carbon footprint further by amending your answers; making sure your loft insulation is efficient, not using the dryer as much, showers instead of baths (or quicker showers), changing your travel habits, buying some clothes or furniture second-hand instead of brand new and looking at changing your diet by eating less meat. By looking at these, it allows you to identify areas you think you can make the changes in order to hit your personal reduction target.

Areas where I have / will be looking at are as follows:
Room Heating – Loft insulation
In order to work out whether my loft insulation was efficient, I got the ladder out, went into the loft and quickly realised my loft insulation is woefully inadequate. I’ve been in the loft many times but the insulation was something I had never noticed. I wondered if that would explain why the upstairs rooms in my home are always noticeably colder during the winter periods, despite living in a terraced house. According to the National Insulation Association, the recommended depth for loft insulation is 270 millimetres for glass wool, 250 millimetres for rock wool or 220 millimetres for cellulose (https://www.nia-uk.org/understanding-insulation/loft-insulation/). I’m working out the figures and looking to get this fixed soon.

Appliances
Next, I looked at the appliances I have in the kitchen. It appears that most of them have an A++ or A+++. The only one that I couldn’t find the energy rating was my tumble dryer, it’s an old tumble dryer so I don’t think it’s a good energy rating. When the weather is good, I would always hang my clothes out in the garden, what’s the point in using the dryer when the sun and wind dry your clothes for free. However, during colder weather is a different story and always used my dryer when I am not able to hand the clothes outside. Since doing the calculator, I’ve stopped using the dryer and hang my clothes in the house to dry. At the weekends, my house looks like a laundrette but it doesn’t bother us that much.

Goods
This is where I looked at my buying habits and how often I replaced things. I’ve never been one for having the most up-to-date phone or the latest fashion. I tend to wear my clothes until they fall apart. But one thing I could change is making an effort to buy certain items second-hand. I had been looking for a chest of drawers for a while and thought I would wait until Black Friday for any deals. It turned out that my Mum had one she never used so I now have hers.

Food
I’ve eaten meat all my life and have never been a big fan of vegetables. But I have looked at what I eat. I know eating meat/not eating meat can be a contentious issue for many people and we don’t like to be dictated to regarding what we should/shouldn’t eat. I believe, as an adult, it’s up to you to eat what you want and respect other people’s choices. I have friends who are vegans and friends who probably won’t ever give up eating meat. That’s their choices, and I respect them. What I am trying to do is to slowly change a 40-year habit. I don’t know if I will ever be able to cut meat from my diet completely but I am making an effort to eat less meat. In the last month I haven’t eaten beef, which probably doesn’t sound like a major achievement but for me it is, I don’t miss it and by looking at what I eat, it’s allowing me to have a more varied diet and try different foods I have never eaten before. A month ago, was the first time I had ever bought a parsnip!

Since doing this calculator, my carbon footprint is constantly in the front of my mind and I do look at what I do and the impact it has on my environment. I look at the packaging we get when we purchase food in a supermarket and I do wonder why a melon needs to be shrink-wrapped. I make more of an effort to buy loose fruit and veg and have started to ‘make do and mend’.

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