Do you know how best to cut your carbon footprint?
I recently invited people to take an online survey about sustainable lifestyle changes and over 800 people kindly responded. The work was conducted with Prof Mike Page from the University of Hertfordshire and Edinburgh Science, and the results are now in!
Everyone were asked to estimate how many kilograms of carbon dioxide would be saved by taking a range of actions. Many of the ratings were hugely inaccurate, with people generally overestimating the effects of less impactful changes, such as unplugging appliances, but underestimating the contribution of larger lifestyle changes such as following a vegetarian diet. For example
….unplugging a mobile phone charger saves around 2kg of CO2 emissions per year; yet one third of respondents thought that it saved five times that (100kg or more).
….leaving a television on standby emits around 15kg of CO2 per year, but a third of respondents estimated that it was far more significant (125 kg or more).
….becoming a vegetarian can save over 600kg, yet half of the respondents thought that it only saved 300kg or less.
…buying a blue jumper rather than a red one has no impact at all, but, on average, people thought that it would save 37kg.
The good news is that other estimates about, for example, the impact of flying, were more accurate. Every little helps, and people should consider doing whatever they can to cut emissions. However, these results suggest that there are many widely believed myths about sustainable behaviour. There’s a real appetite to make changes, which is great, but many of us may need clearer information on how make the biggest impact.
Many thanks to everyone who was kind enough to take part.