Readers reply: what is the single most effective thing I could do to reduce my carbon footprint? | Life and style

What is the single most effective thing I could do to reduce my carbon footprint? Without dying, preferably. Andrew Hufnagel, Caithness

Send new questions to nq@theguardian.com.

Readers reply

The most effective way of reducing your carbon footprint is to use contraception. Julie Day

Go vegan. Easy to do, massively beneficial to the environment and reduces animal suffering. LegzOS

Vote. Only government level action is going to make the largest and most necessary changes in fossil fuel use. EGriff

Take out (or request, if not available) How Bad Are Bananas? by Mike Berners-Lee from your local library (hopefully a walk or cycle ride away!), and read it cover to cover. Then decide on a significant carbon-reducing lifestyle change that you can sustain (and be happy with). UnaVocePocoFa

I’m on a mission to get everyone using Treeapp. ParityMu

There’s no better guidance for this than this report. It recommends focusing on the big wins and being quantitative. If we vaguely say “flights have a bigger impact than lamps”, then we obscure whether the impact is 2x or 2,000x as large. By far the most effective thing one can do is to donate to Clean Air Task Force or Coalition for Rainforest Nations, which have been independently evaluated by Founders’ Pledge. Rochelle Harris

Stop worrying about your individual carbon footprint. Use the time you spent worrying to organize civil society by collectively pushing for green policy. The idea that you can influence carbon emissions by changing your individual behavior is a straw man. Modern economy does not supply to demand, but demands cheap supplies and distributes them, creating imagined needs at any cost. Change the system, not yourself. Pjotr ​​Elshout

Heat your feet! The one truly effective action that would make a real difference is to change the way you keep warm indoors. Turn off the boiler, and warm your legs below the knee. I made myself some warm indoor fleece boots that cuddle my feet, ankles and calves to keep them toasty, and now I can happily laze around without feeling cold. Martin Lewis’s tips to keep warm without the central heating can make a massive difference and save you money, too. Ian Glatt, London

Replace your gas stove, gas furnace, gas hot water tank, and gas clothes dryer with heat pump equivalents. Higher upfront costs, but significantly lower life cycle costs. And, as the grid goes green, so too does your home. Bill Rau

Stop cryptocurrencies. Prof. Petra Molthan-Hill

Petition your local and national government for assistance with home retrofit costs and install an air-source heat pump, together with improved insulation. Your heat pump will provide heat in winter, cooling in summer and filtered clean air – this results in no need for gas or coal in your home. Judith Brook, British Columbia

Stop buying and eating commercial fish and unsustainable farm products. Lotus Boyanton

Your carbon footprint doesn’t really matter, and neither does mine. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of climate change. Solving this problem is easy. We just need governments with the cojones to do it. YesPrecisely

The UK’s carbon emissions are mainly from surface transport and heating, so get an electric car (or stop driving and stop getting deliveries) and get a heat pump. People get very hung up on flying, perhaps as a way of shifting blame to other people who are frequent flyers, but it’s a minor part of our problems. randomusername222

The individual carbon footprint of an average European is about 10 tonnes of CO2e a year, more than twice the global average. Lifestyle factors affect the precise makeup, but broadly this splits into five equal components of about two tons of CO2e a year each. There are therefore five highly effective steps of broadly equal weight ranked in order of relative ease as follows:

1) Switch to a genuine renewable energy supplier for all electricity and heat requirements. Ideally heat is provided by electricity (via a heat pump) as this also avoids other emissions such as fugitive. Avoids two tonnes of CO2e a year.

2) Go vegan. Avoids two tons of CO2e a year (assuming avoidance of three portions of meat including one portion of beef a week).

3) Stop flying. Avoids two tonnes of CO2e a year (assuming eight flight hours per annum avoided).

4) Stop driving an internal-combustion-engined car. Avoids two tonnes of CO2e a year (assuming medium-sized car and 8,000 miles per annum).

5) Reduce consumption and waste focusing on clothing, electrical goods, plastic avoidance and food waste avoidance. Potential to avoid two tons of CO2e a year, but most difficult to achieve. Consider genuine offsets.

The 1.5C pathway requires us all to get to within two tons of CO2e a year, so there is scope for some emissions and in future goods and services will become less carbon-intensive. Rolf Stein

he answer depends on your current lifestyle (mainly energy consumption) and knowing where your emissions are generated. Use a personal carbon footprint calculator to discover this – carbonfootprint.com is one of the best because it is authoritative and sufficiently detailed to reveal which of your activities has the greatest impact.

Going whole-foods plant-based is hands down the No 1 thing you can do. So much is connected to it, that not only do you win, but the whole planet wins. Maplelvr

Eat the rich. Droff

Use the damned emissions that we aren’t about to stop creating! Capture them, sell them as CO2 feedstocks for new products, feed them to microbes, encase them in CarbonCure concrete, feed them to specialized crops in high-CO2 environments. Eric Lee

Join Extinction Rebellion (XR), get educated, get active, meet new people and collaborate in nonviolent mass disobedience. The more the merrier! The biggest impact will be made when our government gets the message and acts decisively! Act local – think global. barfgray

Change your bank to a green bank that does not invest in fossil fuels. You can check how green your current bank is at https://bank.green/. Changing where your money is invested has very far reaching and real consequences, and can also be done within a matter of minutes. Andy Gale

The single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon is avoid having children (not the easiest choice for many). The next most important action is to stop driving a car. If that’s not possible, drive an electric car. If you don’t drive or fly, the next most important action is to install solar or buy green power. If you have already done that, go vegan. Rebecca Blackburn

Support or join a coalition like Just Stop Oil and collectively demand that the UK government stops granting new fossil-fuel licences. If successful, this will be the biggest reduction you will ever make to your carbon footprint. Paul Fawkesley

As was pointed out in Rebecca Solnit’s article last year, the term “carbon footprint” was invented by PR company Ogilvy and Mather for BP as a means to shift blame for the climate crisis on to individuals and deflect it from the corporations responsible for promoting an economy completely linking on fossil fuels. The best thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to blockade an oil refinery, protest on the streets, or chain yourself to the gates of parliament and make a big noise about the corrupt and stinking cartel at the center of our extractive capitalist economy . Just Stop Oil! Hubeth New

To reduce emissions, choosing to have a small family, or forgoing having biological children, is best. If the goal is to mitigate the overall impact of the crisis, on many social and ecological levels. Promoting Fair Start family reforms is the best move. Carter Dillard, University of Denver College of Law

My family’s was the national average of approximately 11 tonnes of CO2e in 2006. Being more careful with home heating and cutting out most flying reduced it to eight tonnes the following year. By 2021 the national average had reduced to six tonnes (mainly due to replacing coal with gas-fired electricity plus industry efficiencies) and ours was 3.6 tonnes (two tonnes direct and 1.6 tonnes secondary emissions) helped by a more fuel-efficient, carefully driven because, less mileage, frugal electricity use and being vegetarian. Further significant reductions will require moving car or house heating to 100% renewable electricity, either being very costly. The UK national target set in 2008 is equivalent to five tonnes by 2030 and two tonnes by 2050, so we all have a way to go. We need more ambitious government action but as individuals we can do our bit. Simon Austin

Is there one single individual action which will solve the crisis? No. And yet … can we lead healthier lives where we’re in sync with nature and our local – and global – communities? That’s the prize. Greener and cleaner means slower and happier. Dr Noah Birksted-Breen, Oxford Flying Less podcast

Reduce what you buy (includes reduce, reuse, repair, rent and recycle). Gets rid of the carbon footprint from extracting raw materials, process plants, packaging, transport, storage and disposal. If it’s clothes, it also stops water being diverted from those that need it to cotton fields. Melanie Boyle

It’s easy to looks at the things that are defined – get an electric car, get a heat pump, go vegan, buy less clothes, stop flying, and so on. All are good advice. But I also say, go little. All the little things we consume add up to one big old mess of wasted production, use, and then rubbish. Garden centers full of plastic tubs and plastic labels and plastic garden decorations, and solar lights using the smallest of microchips, but there are tens of thousands of them out there. Precious metals shipped to China, transformed in a factory, using energy to be joined with pretty plastics decorations, then shipped back around the world and into our gardens because they look oh so cute. Only for then to stop working after a year and go in the bin. Of course we can still have nice pointless things, but let’s have better nice pointless things. Long-lasting, well made, repairable, resellable, made from renewable sources. confused23

I no longer shower every day and I don’t think I smell. Save water and power. Most of us work in nice clean environments and don’t really get stinky enough to have to scrub ourselves every day.
Amanda Thompson

How about spending time at Her Majesty’s pleasure? You won’t need to buy fuel, or pretty much anything else for the duration of your stay, and the shared accommodation is efficient if nothing else. You could even like to get detained for attending an XR demo. Danny Moodie

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