I decided to find out what my carbon footprint was and take steps to reduce it. On the plus side I have energy-saving light bulbs, a small house and don't fly (well, very rarely). On the minus side I drive 200 miles a week, have a wife who obsessed with turning the thermostat up to 23c and only recycle my wine bottles. How bad am I?
I have looked at several carbon footprint websites and I'm still none the wiser. One carbon footprint 'calculator' has asked me very specific questions about my gas consumption whilst another is content to make assumptions based on fairly nebulous criteria. The average carbon footprint of people in Britain is around 9,500kg (19,000 in America; 1,200 in India). According to the CF calculators, my footprint could be anywhere between 5,500 and 9,500, which is quite a large margin of error.
If someone like me who is informed and sympathetic about green issues feels baffled and cynical about these calculators, then what is the ordinary person in the street going to feel? I'd like to see a calculator that is easy to use but detailed enough to account for everyone's unique circumstances, so that they can identify the areas of their life that need changing.
In the meantime I aim to do the following:
- Only buy organic products that haven't been flown halfway across the world
- Stop buying beef
- Compost our food waste
- Have showers instead of baths
- Persuade my wife to wear a woolly jumper when it's cold
- Ban all 4x4s (SUVs) unless the owner lives in the countryside
- Have a VAT rate of 50% for food that has travelled more than 5,000 miles
- Ban the sale of patio gas heaters
- Offer tax incentives to anyone who installs energy-saving measures
- Make biodiesel available at filling stations