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.

9 comments

  1. Global warming is a hoax perpetrated on us to force more government regulation, control and taxation. The world temperature has not gone up in over two decades!

  2. First you need to establish this claim. Second it’s a world wide hoax I guess even worse the the moon landing.. then you mention government control, which is ironic, since abortions , CRT, don’t say gay, no homo sexual rights are all pushed by the government.🤡

  3. I think the best results would come by systemic changes more than personal ones: the concept of “carbone footprint” itself tends to nove the responsability of global warming from factories and great corporations to people, as if our lifestyle changes (that are great and that we should undertake) could change something, without more strict regulation of carbone dioxide emissions by factories.

    (Sorry if I made mistakes, English is not my native language).

  4. Fascinating. We all need more info. Appliances: kg/hr active & standby. Supermarket foods carbon footprint as well as nutrition. Transport: airlines now gove kg per flight . How about kg per seat (nore in business class)

  5. I’d love to use this study in my non-profit organization to show (possible) gaps between what people believe and actual science. Is the survey still available (with answers)? Would love to see it if possible!

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