Top ten ways to reduce your ecological footprint
Even busy people can cut their Ecological Footprint by using WWF's quick guide to reducing their footprint. For an interactive way of reducing footprint you can log on to our footprint calculator.
- Don't drive when there is an alternative – use public transport, cycle or walk
On average we can reduce our total ecological footprint by as much as 20 per cent if we don't own and drive a car. Using it less will reduce your footprint.
In 2005, four-fifths of the distance travelled in the UK was by car. Between 1996 and 2005 emissions of CO2 from private cars rose by 4% and the distance travelled by car rose by 10%. In contrast the number of walking trips fell by 16% and the average number of bicycle trips per person per year dropped by 20%.
- Grow vegetables and don't waste food
Combining these actions could reduce our footprint by 11%. Growing our own fruit and vegetables reduces all the energy and waste which normally goes into getting food from the field to our plates – such as transport, refrigeration and packaging. Allotments are becoming more fashionable and sites are available across the UK helping us to lead a healthier life.
Planning a weekly menu ahead of time and shopping with a list allows us to better estimate how much food we need and ensure we don't waste anything by impulse buying. It saves money and wastes less food. Planning ahead also avoids unnecessary extra trips to the supermarket and therefore cuts down on travel emissions.
- Instead of flying, take holidays in the UK or use the train to get to Europe
Aviation has the fastest growing carbon emissions of any industry sector. Flying has an even greater impact on climate change than was previously thought, flying has 2 to 4 times the impact of CO2 emissions on climate change because it releases water vapour and nitrous oxide at high altitude.
Flights cause a large and growing part of our collective footprint. For example, a single passenger’s share of a return flight from London to New York has nearly four times greater impact on the climate than the average person in India has in an entire year. Europe is now easier to reach by train than it has ever been. A passenger on a flight to Paris is responsible for ten times more CO2 emissions than a person using the Eurostar; and the journey takes longer once checking in and travel to the city centre are taken into account.
- If you need a car make it a small one and reduce the mileage
Over a quarter of all car journeys made in the UK are less than two miles. Smaller, and indeed smaller-engined, cars are usually much more energy efficient than larger ones, and also have cheaper road tax.
Walking, cycling or taking public transport instead will help reduce congestion and carbon dioxide emissions and will also reduce our overall footprint. Many people are discovering the benefits of public transport. In the last 10 years the distance travelled on London buses has increased by 37%. The distance travelled by rail has increased by 34%.
- Instead of buying new things buy second-hand, or borrow
On average 10% of our footprint is made up of the things we buy. Our houses are often cluttered with items we only use or wear a few times. The average drill is used for just 15 minutes in its lifetime.
While babies need certain clothes and equipment to survive and be stimulated they only tend to need them for a few months or a year before they have grown out of them.
Rather than buying something, consider whether you could hire or borrow one instead.
- Make your home energy efficient – insulation, double glazing
This tip is common sense and one of the simplest to follow. We all want pleasant warm homes so why do we persist in living in homes that rapidly lose heat through uninsulated walls and roof and are draughty? Improving your home's insulation, which can be quick and easy, will normally repay the cost in reduced energy bills within a few years.
Many other measures can not only reduce your footprint but also save you money. For example, turning appliances off instead of switching them to standby could save the UK £700 million of energy costs each year.
- Turn the thermostat down
By turning down your thermostat by just one degree you could cut your heating bills by 10% turning it down by four degrees could save the average home 5% of their total ecological footprint.
A well insulated home will keep more heat in the home; this can be anything from drawing curtains at dusk to cavity wall insulation. Other measures that will help your home be heat efficient include turning down the heating in rooms which you are not using and keeping doors shut to stop heat dispersing round the house to be wasted.
- Vegetarian diet
The ecological footprint of vegetarians who eat a moderate amount of milk and eggs could be 40% lower than their counterparts who consume a low-meat diet.
Other research shows that 16,000 litres of water is needed to produce one kilogramme of beef, which is over five times that needed to grow a kilogramme of rice.
- Buy locally produced organic food
In the UK, we import more than half of the food we consume. Buying locally-grown, seasonal food would mean we could reduce our food miles and use less packaging to preserve fresh produce. Food that has been transported half way around the world can never have a small footprint, although its impact can sometimes be lower than intensively produced local food. A bonus is that the freshest food – unprocessed, locally grown and in season – is also food with a low footprint.
Organic and other forms of low-input farming that use minimal or no pesticides and fertilisers – which are energy intensive in their manufacture – consume up to 40% less energy, and support higher levels of wildlife on farms. Organic and other more holistic farming approaches tend to prioritise animal welfare more than conventional methods.
However, it is vitally important that we don't ignore the value of fairly traded products as a means of income for producers in developing countries. Therefore when you do buy produce from overseas try to buy from fairly traded sources.
- Recycle everything
The average UK home throws away over one tonne of materials every year. Avoid overpackaged products when shopping. Donate unwanted items to charity shops. Use your kerbside recycling collection and find out where you can recycle items that are not collected.