Top 10 ways we can reduce our carbon footprint as individuals

By Anna Laughey

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” – Mother Teresa

There’s a saying that no snowflake ever feels responsible for the avalanche. We are all responsible and individually we can all make a difference. Making an individual effort is infectious and the little changes can inspire others. Here are 10 research-backed ideas on how we can adapt our lifestyles to help heal and maintain our planet.


1. Fly less

Exploring the world is one of life’s great pleasures, however it doesn’t come without a cost to the environment. Reducing our flying could be the single most impactful contribution to reducing our carbon footprint. Total annual CO2 emissions from aviation ‘is about 600-700 million tonnes – a 2-3% share of global CO2 emissions.’1 A return business class flight from London to Hong Kong is double your entire recommended annual carbon budget of 5 tonnes2. When a flight is essential, simple things like choosing flights without a change can contribute towards a greener journey, as will choosing airlines with more modern, economic aircraft such as the Boeing 787, or Airbus NEO aircraft. Although many destinations aren’t easily accessible without air travel from the UK, many desirable destinations in mainland Europe can be accessed via the train. Consider using the Euro tunnel and trains for your next destination visit!


2. Green your home

The easiest but most impactful action you can do is to switch your energy supplier to a 100% renewable supplier. (Read more here

Some other ideas include turning the heating down when you can, making sure switches/electricals are turned off when not in use, recycling, composting, buying goods with recyclable packaging, getting your food shop delivered, to name a few! This mind-set is great for both the environment and your bank balance.

Visit Good Energy for a great guide to eco-friendly living at home. You can also use the ‘My Planet’ app to calculate your carbon footprint.


3. Eat less meat

Being a vegetarian, vegan, or even reducing your meat consumption is a great way to help the environment. In its 2006 report, the United Nations said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined3. A great way to start cutting out meat is adopting a day of a week to not eat it, for example meat free Mondays.

Websites for support:


4. Swerve the car

In England, around 60% of 1-2 mile trips are made by car.’4

Where possible use bicycles or walk to places that you would usually drive too. Not only is walking and cycling great for the environment, but also for our health. Car-pooling and public transport are also better alternatives, and self-hire  electric scooters are already available in many of the UK’s cities. 

As for electric vehicles, they are becoming increasingly affordable and so many of us should be considering them.


5. Plant trees through a charity

A great way to offset your carbon footprint is to donate to a tree-planting charity such as JACKPINE.  Scientists agree that trees are the most effective and cheapest way to take CO2 out of the atmosphere. In one year an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles. Even more promising are estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions from human activities that remain in the atmosphere today.

You can donate here.


6. Green your money

This one is simple. Choose a bank invests responsibly.

A good guide to help you choose is on the Green Eco Friend blog.


7. Recycle and Upcycle

Of the 26m tonnes of waste produced in the UK, 12m tonnes are recycled, and 14m tonnes are sent to landfill sites5. The more we recycle our products, the less we will be damaging the environment. Always ensure to look on your produce to make sure it’s recycle-friendly. Upcycling might include repairing objects that might otherwise be thrown away and giving them a new lease of life!


8.Buy local produce

Help decrease food miles by buying local produce. Not only will these seasonal fruit and vegetables be more environmentally friendly as they’re not being flown in, but you may find it’s tastier too as fruit will be treated less. ‘Eating only locally grown food for one year would save the greenhouse gas equivalent of driving 1,000 miles.’6


9. Shop second hand

Fast fashion is developing into a big problem for our environment. The lifespan of our clothes is shortening more and more. Shopping second-hand garments isn’t only sustainable but also allows for cheaper and more unique finds!

Places to look: Depop, Etsy, eBay, and Vinted.


10. Speak up!

Don’t be afraid to voice your thoughts and opinions to family and friends. By speaking to each other we educate each other.

Some great material we personally like includes: ‘There is no Planet B’ or ‘How bad are bananas?’ by Mike Berners-Lee. 


[2] Mike Berners-Lee, How bad are bananas? (Profile Books, 2020), p.140
[3] ‘Livestock a major threat to environment’ United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006