Your Carbon Footprint
What's my carbon footprint?
By definition, carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide or other equivalent gases released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organisation, or community.
Here’s a few great tools to help become climate savvy!
Calculate out your carbon footprint with the carbon calculator. Work out how much you’ll need to offset to compensate for your yearly greenhouse gas emissions.
A few things to remember:
- Base all information you input on the last 12 months
- In Australia we use emissions factors and averages
- For larger measurements, or official carbon neutral claims it's recommended that a Caron Advisor carries out a more detailed analysis and annual audit.
Without necessarily knowing it, over the course of a day, week, month and year the way you live in your home will contribute to carbon emissions. Here are a few lifestyle changes to incorporate into your daily life to reduce your carbon emissions:
As a household:
- Adjust your home routine to improve comfort and reduce energy use:
- Open windows in summer at night
- Create shade in the summer, and remove it in the winter
- Draw curtains at night
- Turn off appliances at the plug when they’re not in use
- Switch off the lights, take showers not baths, use a shorter, cold cycle when you do washing and leave mixer taps in the cold position to avoid accidental hot water usage
- Minimise waste — ‘refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle’
- Reduce your food miles by buying local produce
- Repurpose. Find a new use for something, buy second hand clothing or trade your waste
- Recycle & REDcycle soft plastic at your local supermarket
- Use a reusable coffee cup & bring your own shopping bags
- Compost your food waste. Did you know - when food and garden wastes break down without fresh air they create a mixture of gases including the damaging greenhouse gas, methane?
- Grow some of your own food
- Consume products that are not made or delivered using fossil fuels
- Avoid plastics. Most plastics are made from petrochemicals, and they break up not down - they stay on the planet for longer than most of our lifetimes!
- Avoid buying cling wrap - use reusable containers and make bees wax wraps!
- Carpool with colleagues
- Walk more, drive less
- Choose low carbon foods by buying products that are in season and grown locally
- Make your garden more green. Cut down on fertiliser and repellents or get a water barrel to collect rainwater
- Plant trees. This will offset emissions you haven’t managed to avoid! Check out a handy tree calculator here
- Travel by train, not plane
- When buying new products, make sure you’re purchasing quality goods from certified sustainable (e.g. Good Environmental Choice Australia) and socially preferred (e.g. Fairtrade) sources
As a business:
- Encourage walk or cycle to work schemes for employees
- Incentivise car pooling
- Consider installing solar panels on your office or factory buildings
- Increase the efficiency of office lighting
- Put a recycling scheme in place
- Go paperless
- Minimise single use plastic within the workplace or with your products
- Optimise your heating and cooling systems
- Find out how you can get support and credibility for your efforts, like applying for Climate Action Certification
- Adjust your home routine to improve comfort and reduce energy use:
‘Carbon zero’ or ‘carbon neutral’ refers to buildings or homes that have no net emissions.
In order to work towards a more sustainable future we need to get rid of or substantially reduce the amount of carbon and other greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. Creating a carbon zero or carbon negative home could significantly reduce carbon emissions in the future.
The average australian family generates 18 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gases each year! Thats at least one-fifth of Australia's greenhouse gases. Therefore, what we all do at home really does matter!
Majority of average Australian families' emissions come from their vehicles. The technology for electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles is evolving quite quickly to address this source of emissions. The next largest emissions source is water heating, followed by lights and home heating and cooling (ie. electricity and/or gas).
The two most common ways of addressing these emissions are renewable power (like solar) or paying slightly more for green power through your power provider. Reducing the amount of energy you use and then increasing the efficiency of your home is often the most cost-effective place to start.
Achieving a carbon zero home requires careful design and planning. Some emissions will be unavoidable with current technology and some might not be financially viable. This is where an offset is required to mitigate the impact of your emissions.
To offset your remaining emissions that are unavoidable emissions, you can purchase certified offsets which pay for carbon emission reducing activities (eg. tree planting, human assisted regeneration, grazing management) or you could plant your own trees! For the average Australian household to fully offset, without making any reductions in emissions, we would need to plant approximately 90 trees per year to be carbon neutral! Your local environment will thank you too as there are many other benefits of planting more trees.
Did you know that Mangroves have been found to absorb carbon at a rate two to four times greater than mature tropical forests (Fatoyinbo et al, 2017)? For every ten Mangrove trees that's around 3 tonnes of CO2 per year!If you would prefer to invest in certified offsets there are many options available. Some offset projects provide social, cultural and environmental co-benefits. You can purchase offsets once off or you can sign up to a monthly subscription such as Our-Trace.
Here’s a handy plan to help you work towards a carbon-neutral home:
1. Set Targets
- Calculate your current household emissions based on 12 months worth of bills using the carbon calculator
- Adjust the figures to reflect the efficiencies you expect to achieve
- Set a goal to reduce your emissions by a certain percent each year to achieve neutrality at your desired time, hopefully before 2050!
- Estimate your CO2 emissions left each year and work out how you will offset them.
Note: don’t be discouraged if carbon zero is currently unaffordable. You can take your time to work towards a solar panel solution and in the meantime there are a range of other, more affordable, offset options such as accredited GreenPower and carbon offset programs.
Keep an eye on your consumption via your energy bills and smart meters and you’ll be able to identify areas where further efficiencies can be enjoyed. In particular, look out for changes in energy consumption after replacing major appliances with more efficient ones.
Once all of your efficiencies have been locked in, careful monitoring will determine whether you have achieved a carbon zero or positive status. This will, in turn, help you plan for the future.
3. Plan for the future
Adding renewable energy generation systems such as solar panels can be very expensive. That’s why they’re usually the last step in achieving carbon zero or positive status. In the meantime, thermal performance and appliance efficiency will deliver more cost effective carbon reductions in your home. If it’s an option for you, aim to install renewable energy systems in the future.
If you plan to renovate your home, move home or build a new home in the future, make sure you do your research to maintain your carbon zero status or to make your new home more efficient and less damaging to the environment.
If you’re designing a new home or looking to renovate, chat to your designers about sustainable solutions as soon as they come on board. Make sure that each design solution is tailored to the specific location to maximise site advantages like solar or cool breeze access. Building designers should also have an understanding of how to incorporate renewable energy sources on site.
If you’re building a home or looking to move, consider downsizing. This is the most effective step in achieving carbon zero status. Approximately 40% of average Australian household emissions are from heating and cooling homes and this is proportional to floor area. Your total household energy consumption will decrease by up to 3% for every 10% decrease in floor area.
Basic principles for designing carbon zero homes include:
- Incorporate energy efficiency strategies with renewable energy options right from the start of the project
- Choose a build site that allows for renewable energy options
- Reduce travel to and from the site
- Maximise passive design strategies in the design of the home to reduce energy demand
- Reduce water use — particularly hot water
- Choose appropriate, sustainable materials
Appliances and thermal efficiency
Improve the energy efficiency of your home when building, renovating or buying:
- Install a solar hot water system with an efficient heat pump
- Install the most efficient heating and cooling system available. Hot tip: heat pump or split system air conditioners are now among the most efficient
- Select smaller energy efficient appliances with low stand-by power use and avoid unnecessary purchases
- Reduce water use (it takes a lot of energy to treat and pump water to a home) and reduce hot water demand by choosing water efficient showerheads
- Add or increase insulation levels accordingly and use well-designed, climate-appropriate, insulation solutions e.g. a combination of bulk and reflective foil
- Think about the size and placement of windows to minimise summer heat gains and maximise winter solar gains
- Use appropriate glazing and window styles for the climate
- Use materials in ways that enhance passive solar heating and cooling
- Reduce heat loss and heat gain with draught-seals and weather-strips on doors and windows
- Install curtains, external blinds and shading to reduce the need for additional heating and cooling
Implement renewable energy solutions
- Install grid connected rooftop solar panels
- GreenPower can be a simple, more cost effective way for households to reduce carbon footprint. It’s less permanent than on-site generation - it can be discontinued at any time. Do some research and see if this is an option for you.