Image of docklands demonstrating carbon emissions
Reducing Carbon Emissions is a shared goal
(Photo by Chris LeBoutillier: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-smokestack-emission-of-an-industrial-exhaust-pipes-6675078/)

According to the ONS, households have been the biggest emitter of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) in the UK since 2015.

With a carbon output covering things like heating, food, travel, and even the Internet, the total household emissions of the UK in 2021 was 133 million tonnes – a staggering 40% of total emissions.

While the term ‘carbon footprint’ refers to the amount of carbon emitted as a result of consumption of fossil fuels, there are actually seven main greenhouse gases that are contributing to environmental damage:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • Nitrogen Trifluoride (NF3)
  • Sulphur Hexaflouride (SF6)

In this article, we will be focusing on carbon, our carbon footprint, and give some ideas about how we can reduce carbon emissions.

A growing worry about the long-term effect of the release of these gases into our atmosphere has been the driving force in many strands of government forces for change, but the legislation really started in 2008.

The Climate Change Act 2008.

The government created this act to create a statutory target – reduce the GHG produced by the UK by at least 80% by 2050, compared to the levels in 1990. This represented an enormous undertaking – and one that is still in progress today.

In fact, an addendum to this Act in 2019 produced secondary legislation to reduce carbon emissions by at least 100%. This Net-Zero ideal is one that you will have heard of; many large businesses are basing their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plans on similar targets, cars are being produced to be greener, and, of course, homes are under scrutiny too.

It is worth mentioning that if the Climate Change Act (updated) target is met, this means that the UK will completely stop contributing to global emissions by 2050.

Main Sources of Carbon Emissions in the Home

Heating

Domestic heating is, unsurprisingly, the biggest source of carbon emissions. Typically, people in the UK use their heating for about 34 weeks a year – although it can feel much longer – and around 85% of UK homes use natural gas.

According to Nesta, 38% of all gas use can be attributed to home heating systems.

The average gas boiler emits 2.2 tonnes of CO2 a year – which means that gas boilers in homes produce more than double the amount of carbon emissions from all the gas fired power stations in the UK combined.

Boiler Opened Showing controls
A boiler door opened to show the control panel

This massive contributor to the GHGs is the main reason that the government offers a grant towards a newer, renewable heating system through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS).

Electricity

Electricity might be cleaner in general than fossil fuel, but when it is gas or others that are used to produce said energy, there is a carbon footprint to consider.

According to the government, each kWh of electricity emits 0.232g of carbon. Over a year that equates to 1.1 tonnes.

As a whole, the UK spends £3.4 billion annually, which equates to 9340kWh per home for the year.

Transportation

Around 77% of people in the UK own a car, and they are responsible for approximately 55% of all emissions. 79% of all road vehicles are cars.

The more journeys you make, the more carbon you are emitting. Taking the bus or other public transport can help reduce that number down. Buying an electric vehicle (that you charge at home using solar panels), too.

Food

In 2019, carbon emissions from food made up about 35% of all UK emissions – about 160 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Aside from this hefty number, it is the sheer wastefulness we have regarding food that is concerning. UK households waste 4.5 million tonnes of food every year, which works out at a cost of about £700 per year for an average family.

Internet Use

This might shock you, but every time you perform a Google search, you are responsible for about 10g of carbon dioxide emissions. This figure combines the small amount of energy you are using to power your device of choice, as well as the energy cost for powering the enormous data centre at Google.

Emails are not much better – according to the BBC, sending an email with attachments, like pictures, can emit up to 50g of CO2.

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

According to the data from the Committee on Climate Change, the average carbon footprint in the UK has reduced by 4.7 tonnes since 1990 – this equates to 47%. A further reduction of 3.6 tonnes by 2030 will keep us on track to hit that Net Zero by 2050, despite the slight increase we saw in emissions in 2020 (a 4% rise from 2019).

If you want to do your part in reducing emissions, you might want to consider upgrading your central heating. Renewable energy, like air source and ground source heat pumps can even be part funded by the government, if you meet the criteria. Our team is here to help you navigate your upgrade, completely green or not.