Evelina Utterdahl is a Swedish climate activist and advocate for sustainable travel. She has abandoned flying and instead focuses on exploring the world through more environmentally friendly means of transportation, inspiring others to make more sustainable choices.
“Flying is not an option for me, instead I focus on exploring the beauty in my immediate surroundings and Sweden as a whole. There is so much beauty in our country that I have not yet experienced. When I do feel like discovering places outside of Sweden, I dream of train adventures or road trips (with electric vehicles) through Europe with my family. I also see small adventures, like visiting a new restaurant in my city, as a form of travel.”
Her transition to a sustainable way of traveling began with an eye-opening insight:
“In 2018, I came across an article that pointed out the large amount of carbon dioxide emissions from air travel. When I realized how enormous the impact of a single flight can be, I decided to stop flying entirely. I could not justify the pleasure of flying with the serious consequences it has on our planet and its inhabitants.”
Evelina’s tip: Try to be flight-free for a couple of years
Evelina wants to highlight how our choices in travel affect our environment:
“It is important to remember that our travel choices have direct consequences on our planet. Many people in the world have never even flown, and it is actually just a small percentage that flies regularly. Europeans have the luxury of being able to explore so many fantastic places through sustainable travel methods, like trains or carpooling.”
For those who are ready to take the step towards more sustainable travel, Evelina recommends starting by aiming to be flight-free for a couple of years.
“Give yourself the chance to discover the wonderful sustainable alternatives that exist. Once you try these alternatives, the thought of flight-free travel will feel less overwhelming. For example, if you are unsure of how to travel by train, there are Facebook groups and travel specialists who can guide you.”
The Bunch, a group of amazing freeskiers, just released their seventh film “Is there time for matching socks“. During the entire production a main focus was to keep the greenhouse gas emissions down. We talked to The Bunch members Magnus and Alric to get some insights and key learnings on how to make a sustainable film.
The film was shot in Sweden, Norway, France, Russia, Switzerland, Japan and Canada during 171 days and resulted in 41 tonnes of CO2 emissions. That is 459 tonnes below the average film production and probably way below a big screen play’ emissions. So, what did they do differently?
Climate-friendly options for producing films
Hello The Bunch, how did you keep the carbon footprint at a minimum? We mainly ate vegetarian and vegan food resulting in a high intake of potatoes and beetroot salad in Russia :). There’s definitely room for improvement in some countries when it comes to trying to cut down on meat. But overall it was an interesting experience.
We also decided to take the train whenever possible. We travelled to the Alps and back from Stockholm, Sweden twice. And we spent 70-80 hours on Russian trains going to both Kirov and Sochi.
How was your experience spending such a big amount of time on the train? It was a great experience with lots of fun memories. It does of course come with a bit of hustling and it’s more time consuming than travelling by plane, but the benefits outweigh it. Most of our time was spent in the dining car playing cards, talking to Russians and challenging them in arm wrestling. That would not have happened on a plane. It was really memorable and gave us great laughs.
For a 2-3 week long trip, spending a few more days on traveling isn’t a big deal. We really like to fully experience the local culture and not only check in to a hotel, spend days on the mountains without seeing any locals at all and then take the next flight to another mountain. On the opposite, we love to shoot in the middle of the streets in a city, it creates really interesting encounters which wouldn’t have taken place on another set.
In what other ways do you take climate action? Even if this is the first movie production we have calculated the carbon footprint for, we have always been conscious about the way we travel and what we eat. We have turned down offers to go to the US and Japan just to avoid the emissions it would cause. We sell thrifted The Bunch merchandise on our website, we have an Insta account we’re we sell pre-loved stuff as helmets and skiis and we are promoting veggie food and a healthier lifestyle via #healthgangofficial.
We at GoClimate are really impressed by The Bunch showing true leadership within the film industry. Our findings are that emissions caused by a production rarely are taken into consideration and when they are, numbers are not public. They are also great role models within the wintersport world, where transports with planes, helicopters and big cars are causing big amounts of greenhouse gases.
Transportation is the highest emission factor
In this film production the majority of the travels were made by train. The return trip from Sochi, Russia, was done by plane. A few seconds of the movie was shot in Japan by one of the Bunch members, who was there on another assignment. The emissions from that trip were also included in the calculations. The Canada trip was not planned but since there was no snow in Scandinavia and The Bunch’s Hackel was competing in Xgames realski with a tight deadline they made the decision to go there to finish up the X Games video. They filmed some shots for “Is There Time for Matching Socks” in between shooting for Xgames realski. That trip included three round trips from Stockholm to Quebec, which generated a big part of the overall emissions for the film.
The diet consisted of around 30% vegan food, 60% vegetarian food and 10% meat.
The full climate report can be found here. Read more about the carbon footprint of the film industry here.
One year ago, the GoClimate team set our climate resolutions for 2020 – personal challenges, because for us saving the climate is more than a job, it’s a life mission. This is an overwhelming task, and therefore setting a specific goal to a specific time frame makes it all more approachable. Now we have another new year ahead of us to make better habits for the future!
One of my resolutions for 2020 was to participate in twice as many climate strikes compared to 2019. And then Covid19 happened. For 2021, my resolution will be “Spread the word” – to talk more about the climate crisis and the climate action I am taking via social media and with my friends in order to hopefully inspire others to take action.
My new year’s resolution for this year was to stay on the ground and not travel by plane. It was easier than I had expected and it reduced my carbon footprint with 3.19 tonnes compared to 2019. For 2021, my climate commitment is to move one step closer to a vegan diet. I have been a vegetarian for 10+ years, and for next year my intention is to only eat egg/dairy products when they are served by someone else. That means, at home and at restaurants/cafes I will always choose vegan, but if I’m invited to a dinner I will accept vegetarian food. Curious to see what challenges this will bring me and how I can handle that!
I wish all climate actions came as easy to me as sticking to a vegan diet and not driving a fossil-fuelled car, but staying on the ground is a huge challenge to me. It breaks my heart on a regular basis that catching a flight to London, which I consider my second home, is no longer an option for me as I simply can’t justify the harm it causes the planet. My resolution for 2021 is to look closer into climate friendly alternatives to flying, rather than giving long-distance traveling up altogether (which has been the situation in 2020, needless to say). I’m excited to look in to options by road and rail and aim to make the actual travelling a fun part of the experience too, making it an adventure rather than just a transfer.
My new years resolution for 2021 is to think long-term with all of my purchases. I will only purchase brand-new products if I’m confident I will get at least 5 years of good use out of them.
For 2020, my new year’s resolution was to not buy any new clothes nor electronic devices. I aim to keep that going for the full year of 2021 as well.
I’ll continue sticking to my vegetarian diet, plus avoiding dairy. I will also make sure to cut out beef and lamb when feeding my dog (who’s moving in with Emma in January, welcome to the GoClimate family little one). Whenever I feel the need to buy new items, I make a list of what it is that I “need”. I then give it a week or two before asking myself if I still want or need it? If the answer is still a yes, I research if there are any other ways to achieve what it is that I crave other than making a purchase – perhaps renting or borrowing? Or can it at least be bought second hand? If buying a newly produced item is the only option, I compare alternatives and chose the one with the seemingly lowest climate impact.
By now, it has become evident that almost all of our choices have an impact on the climate. Still, there are some factors that affect our carbon footprint, which we only have a limited ability to choose – the public emissions. These are the emissions caused by society (state, county and municipality), whose benefits we share and whose carbon bill we have to split in between us. Let’s take a closer look at what these are!
A large responsibility that we entrust our states with is to provide safety and justice for its citizens. Therefore, this category includes emissions caused by the police, the judiciary, political activity, environmental protection, and the military. The emissions for this vary widely between countries, and is not regularly disclosed. Some estimates say that the UK military causes 13 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, which is 195 kg co2e per person. One study from a city in Sweden determined that the emissions from authorities were520 kg co2e per person.
Health and social care
This makes up about 4% of carbon emissions in the largest economies, resulting in an average carbon footprint of healthcare of 600 kg co2e per person. The US is a major outlier here with 1510 kg co2e per capita. On the other hand, since healthcare is largely privatized in the US, the emissions are not shared equally by all citizens. Another area to consider is the care facilities for children, elder and people with special needs. Emissions from social care are difficult to estimate.
This varies significantly between countries, depending on how to account for private education. Data from a study on a city in Sweden shows that the emissions from the education system amount to 220 kg co2e per person. Noting that all education, including universities, is publicly funded Sweden (and school lunch is included), this number could well be both lower or higher in other places.
Recreations, culture and sports
Public spending on these categories vary significantly from country to country and can sometimes, such in the case of world championships or olympic games, soar through the roof. Data from a study on a city in Sweden shows that the emissions from recreations, culture and sports amount to 90 kg co2e per person. This could be a reasonable baseline for a European or north American person, excluding large scale events.
This includes infrastructure maintenance, and construction of roads and tracks. Again, this will vary widely depending on where you live. It fluctuates depending on how much the state invests, so the economic situation is an important determinant. Data from a study on a city in Sweden shows that the emissions from construction are 220 kg co2e per person, however, this can be both lower and higher in other places.
Since public transport is often subsidized by public funds, this post covers the emissions that result from everything other than the emissions per passenger km, which are included in the personal travel category. In Gothenburg, Sweden, public funds cover 50% of the public transport, and there the emissions from public transport reach 50 kg co2e per person. Again, this will vary a lot between places.
… and yet more
There can be more posts for public emissions, varying between place and methodology. This can range from agricultural subsidies or the EU membership fees, to financing the royal family in a monarchy.
It might seem unfair that you are held accountable for road works, when you don’t drive. But remember that this is how food gets to the supermarket, and how other things that you get benefits reach their destinations. It may seem unfair that you are held accountable for the emissions from the education system, or the healthcare system. Regardless, this is the contract that we all agree on as citizens of a state. We are also the ones funding it with our taxes.
Impact society beyond your own emissions
The ability to impact these emissions are more indirect than for our personal consumption. However, if we invest energy in reducing these emissions, our impact goes well beyond our own carbon footprint. Therefore, if we want to take climate change seriously, we need to become active in this sphere too. From the bare minimum of voting for politicians who have ambitious climate action on their agenda, to joining civil society organizations to campaign for green policies. Or maybe even join a party yourself? This effort has to permeate all sectors and everything we do!
Do you work in the education or healthcare system? Maybe you can be the one to raise the question of renewable energy with the board! Do you see something in your community that could be improved? Contact your local representative! This way, we take collective responsibility for the climate and support the democratic process. When we show our commitment, politicians can enforce serious climate policy on the national and international scale. But they will not do it unless we show that this is what we want.
Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series:
One share of our emissions come from the category broadly defined as “shopping”. This is an area where we spend much of our energy thinking about how we can be climate or environment friendly. Perhaps this is because it feels like we can control it, and how we spend (or not spend) our money defines our identity to some extent.
Where does your money go? This is not directly proportional to our emissions, but an indication of where your emissions come from. Also, the wealthier we are, the higher emissions we have. When looking at our bills and bank statements, we get proof of our consumption behavior. It is possible to estimate emissions based on the money spent, however, often what is best for the climate is to make one sustainable purchase and stick to it, rather than cheaper ones which need replacement. So a long-lasting investment looks like it has high emissions, even though it balances up over time.
Let’s look at some of our main spending categories and their associated emissions!
Do’s:Buy long-lasting garments from sustainable brands. Buy second hand and resell/donate your used garments. Avoid tumble-drying. Mend what’s broken!
The purchase of electronics has a high footprint mainly due to the mining of minerals. The footprint of a new smartphone is around 70 kg co2e, a new laptop in the range 200-400 kg. Again, weight of the item is a good indicator of the footprint. Some major electronics companies are moving towards carbon neutrality! This is usually a significant investment for a person, so it is worth doing some extra research on the product’s sustainability before spending hundreds of dollars.
Do’s: Use your products for as long as possible, and repair them if they break. Purchase second hand or from sustainable brands.
Staying connected is good! The consequence is that the carbon footprint of the internet is ever increasing, which we have discussed elsewhere. In our calculator, the carbon footprint of your internet use is partially included in the home category, as this covers your electricity. The per capita carbon footprint of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in Sweden was 140 kg co2e in 2015. This has probably increased by now, but is still comparatively low to other emission sources.
Do’s: Use the internet mindfully! And don’t worry too much.
Leisure, entertainment and culture
This category is so broad that it’s impact is near impossible to describe. The carbon footprint of an average American film is 500 tons of co2e, and the 2010 South Africa World Cup was 2.8 million tons. But how do you even measure how many people benefit from this? And at the other end of the spectrum is an acoustic concert at your local bar, which probably has a negligible impact on the climate. What sports do you practice? Do you need particular equipment for that?
Do’s: Consider if your entertainment is fossil free. If you find that it isn’t, search for a way to improve it!
Do’s: Beef has the highest carbon footprint, so consider fodder made from poultry or fish. If possible, consider a vegan/vegetarian alternative food. Don’t feed your pets more than they need.
Furniture, household items, maintenance
Swedes especially love to renovate and re-style their homes. Redo the kitchen, new furniture, fresh bathroom – construction generally has a high carbon footprint. Although wood and some other materials bind carbon, what we are generally concerned with is the turnover rate. A couch can have a carbon footprint of 90 kg co2e, and an office chair 70 kg. Material choice is key here, where steel and metals have higher footprint than other materials such as synthetic fibers and cotton.
Do’s: Use your products for as long as possible, and repair them if they break. Purchase second hand or from sustainable brands. Consider if you can repaint or reuse something you have instead of purchasing new items.
Do’s: The more money you spend, the more time you should invest in researching the sustainability and climate impact of your purchase.
Healthcare and education
In Sweden and some other countries, this is funded by taxes and thus not included in the private consumption. Because of variability in methodology and other factors, the carbon footprint of a university can range from 250–7670 kg co2e per student. This depends among other things on campus facilities and investments. Healthcare makes up about 4% of carbon emissions in the largest economies, resulting in an average carbon footprint of healthcare of 600 kg co2e per capita. The US is a major outlier here with 1510 kg co2e per capita.
Considering all of the above, it is apparent that there are many factors to consider to understand our carbon footprints, and to use a calculator that takes all factors into consideration is near impossible. Another way to make approximations is to use CO2 emissions per money spent, where in Sweden the average euro spent causes emissions of 0,44 kg co2e (noting that a weighted average is slightly lower, 0,3 kg per euro).
It is worth mentioning that climate friendly and environmentally friendly, although strongly interconnected, does not always lead to the same priority of actions. Hence, sustainability requires us to keep several parameters in mind simultaneously, and that can often be confusing. What is important is to not fall into the trap of either/or, but stick to doing our best and hopefully do more/both.
Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series:
“Does it really matter that much if I fly?” – it’s the question that all of us who both love to travel and care about the climate ask ourselves. The short answer is yes, because it is such a large part of the emissions you as an individual can control. But let’s investigate a little more!
Moreover, the impact from flights is not evenly distributed over the earth’s population – 80% of the earth’s population has never flown (estimate)! So we who fly contribute a disproportionate amount. International flight traffic from Sweden has actually increased by more than 90% since 2005! We who fly thus belong to a relatively small group that contributes very much to this part of the global emissions.
How much does a flight actually emit?
Considering the radiative forcing index and the most complete calculations of fuel production and consumption, one passenger flight hour causes approx 200 kg CO2e. This is a rough estimate as many factors are unknown; airplane model, wind speed, occupancy rate etc., but is a good rule of thumb to get the right perspective.
So this is how much long flights can add to your carbon footprint:
London – Rome – 290 kg CO2e
London – New York – 857 kg CO2e
London – Cape Town – 2311 kg CO2e
London – Sydney – 4905 kg CO2e
In comparison, traveling from London to Rome by train emits only 52,2 kg of CO2e – but it sure takes a lot more time too.
What can we do to reduce our emissions from flights?
Cut your flights with 50% – there are two ways of doing this, either to fly half as often and maybe go every other year, or cut the distances in half. Instead of flying London to New York, perhaps Istanbul or Marrakesh could be interesting alternatives for half the CO2 budget. Or, you know, the train to Paris.
Is there an alternative to flying? Train, or coach, is often the only imaginable option. This means we have to change our expectations, and make the journey part of the experience. Perhaps you can get an overnight train? Or get some work done? Or some alone time, finally catching up on that book you’ve been meaning to read. If you are going to meet someone, consider if they can meet you halfway. London to Rome is far, but perhaps a weekend in Lyon or Geneva could be a good compromise!
Seeing the bigger picture
It is evident that we need more change. Some push for it on an individual basis, like Mattias Goldmann who takes the train from northern Sweden to Barcelona, to companies improving night train connections within Europe to China building the next generation of high speed trains. Is there something you can do? Can you be a pioneer train rider, write letters to politicians, or engineer the next generation of trains? If we are to continue traveling, this all needs to be resolved!
*Radiative Forcing Index This means that the climate impact of aviation is more than just carbon dioxide emissions, because emissions of water vapor and nitrogen oxides at high altitudes (from around 8000 m) and the condensation streaks from the plane also affect the climate. How this is calculated is very complex, as it depends on many different factors and the effect varies. A rough estimate lands on 70-90% higher climate impact than just carbon dioxide emissions – almost twice as much!
Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series:
Us humans are really good at getting places. Nowadays, we do it both for fun and for necessity – and sometimes the line between fun and necessity is very blurry. There is no shame in traveling and wanting to go places! But how we do so has an impact on our climate, so it is worth considering how we travel, and how much we do so.
The zero emission options are walking and biking (obviously). Sure, producing bikes and shoes has a carbon footprint, but compared to all other means of transportation, it’s minimal. And if you take good care of your bike, it will last for decades! If you know how to bike and live in an area where it is safe enough to do so, it is also a healthy means of transportation. If you plan your trip using a service like google maps, you can see how long it takes you to get places by foot or by bike and in cities, it is often not much more than other alternatives. If the weather allows, this is a good option!
If walking or biking is not possible, the second best option is public transport. The big win here is that the emissions are shared with other travelers, but also that the number of vehicles used is significantly reduced. A standard bus can carry 50 passengers, so even if it’s only half full, it reduces congestion on the roads, and we need less cars! General emission per person traveling on a local bus is 90 grams of CO2 per km, and 30 grams for coach (long distance bus). If there is a rail option, that’s even less: 30 grams per passenger km for metro (London Underground) and 35 grams for light rail and tram. For long distance trains the emissions are 40 grams per passenger km in the UK, and only 6 gram for international trains. This depends on the energy source for the trains: in Sweden, almost all trains run on renewable energy, whereas in Germany many regional railways still operate on diesel.
Does it really make a difference?
How does this compare to a car? The average diesel car in the EU emits 146 g co2 per km! This is five times more than taking the metro and 1,5 times as much as the local bus. And petrol (gasoline) cars are on par with that, at 148 g co2 per km in the EU. It is worth noting, however, that cars in the US emit significantly more – 252 g co2 per km, or 404 g co2 per mile. This is because the average car in the US is larger and consumes more gasoline than cars in the EU. The same is true for the Australian car fleet.
Commuting to work, 20 km per day 5 days per week for 47 weeks per year would thus result in:
141 kg co2e by metro
423 kg co2e by local bus
701 kg co2e by diesel car (EU – 1 passenger)
1210 kg co2e by gasoline car (USA – 1 passenger)
Drive in a better way?
What can be done about this? First of all, try to avoid unnecessary driving. If you have to go by car because there is no public transport, see if you can share the ride with someone, or plan your errands efficiently. If you are anyways going to the supermarket, maybe your neighbor could need a ride too, or just a bag of oranges? Another option is to join a carpool – there are even alternatives offering electric cars! For less frequent drives and especially in larger cities, this can be a great option.
Moreover, we need to use cars that are not as bad for the climate! If you can, using an electric car and running it on renewable energy is the best option. There are other alternative fuels that are also better for the climate than diesel and gasoline – see if you can find HVO (hydrogenated vegetable oil), FAME (Fatty Acid Methyl Ester) or CNG (Compressed Natural Gas).
We have a complex global system, where what we eat is often produced somewhere far away from our own kitchen. According to the OECD, agriculture is responsible for 17% of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, and land use change accounts for another 7-14% (when we cut down forest to make more room for agriculture). Other sources offer even higher numbers. So if at least one fifth of our emissions come from the food that we eat, we have reasons to carefully consider what we put on our plates.
Our diets are a hard nut to crack, because there’s no one time fix that can set us on the right track for the long run. We need to continuously make good choices, and it can be very hard to know what is actually the right thing to eat. Should you go for the local produce from a greenhouse, or the organic that has grown in the sun, but been shipped here?
In this post, we aim to give a few good indications, which should serve as general guidelines.
Reduce the amount of red meat
The one, big adjustment that you can do that makes a significant change to the carbon footprint of your diet is to reduce the amount of red meat. The less meat, the better for the planet. If you are going to have a treat, make sure that the meat is high quality, and avoid meat from Brazil (where the rain forest is pillaged to make room for cattle).
A heavy meat diet (more than 100g per day) has a carbon footprint of 2,62 tonnes per year. By reducing to a low meat diet (less than 50g per day) where you can still enjoy your occasional treats, but restrict the everyday consumption, you can come down to 1,70 tonnes. This reduction is equivalent to driving over 6000 km in an average diesel car! Average mileage for a car in the EU is 12 000 km per year.
Fish is a better alternative
Cutting out meat completely but still eating fish is referred to as a pescetarian diet. This reduces the carbon footprint even further, to 1,42 tonnes per year. Given that fish and seafood has relatively low carbon footprint, the difference between this diet and a vegetarian one is actually not that big – vegetarians are 1,39 tonnes per year. It is worth noting that fisheries have other environmental side effects (over fishing and disruption of ecosystems), but specifically in terms of climate, fish is not the bad guy!
However, climate conscious vegetarians still want to be mindful about their dairy consumption – the difference between a vegetarian (no meat, fish) and a vegan (no meat, fish, dairy, eggs) is significant, and can take you from 1,39 to 1,05 tonnes. This is because the dairy cows emit greenhouse gases, especially methane.
Throwing food away is the most wasteful alternative
Last but not least – do not waste. If you happen to cook more than you want to eat – put it in the fridge for later. If a banana goes brown, put it in a smoothie. So much food is wasted, that the FAO estimated that a whopping whole third of all food produced is thrown away along the chain. Much of that happens before it reaches the consumer, but we can definitely be mindful not to contribute to the enormous amount of waste.
As an end note, we see that the climate impact from an average diet in the US is much higher than the average diet in India. Apart from ingredients, these differences also depend on portion size. Needless to say, no one should go to bed hungry. We encourage healthy diets, and emphasize that our caloric needs vary greatly from person to person. The climate can supply us all with the quantities we need.
The first question in our carbon footprint calculator is “Where do you live?”. This is important to know because you are (most likely) connected to the electricity network in your home area, and it also gives us a range of alternative energy sources for heating/cooling.
If you know your energy consumption in kWh (or other unit), and the source of your energy, you can calculate the exact impact on the climate by looking up the emission factor. But as this varies from country to country, we use average values in the calculator to give you a good estimation of what the carbon footprint is.
What do we use the energy for?
In our homes, there is usually some kind of heating, through radiators (the values from eurostat can differ if you live in a warmer climate and use more cooling!) Heating can come from electricity, but the variation is wide. In Sweden and Finland, district heating is very common. In other countries, natural gas is more prominent. If you live in a rental, you may not even know what the source of the heating is, and your possibility to change it may unfortunately also be limited. If you own your home, making a decision on changing your heating can be a big investment, but the impact you can have is big too. In the US, the best option for the climate is to electrify – and use green electricity. Regardless of where you are, you want to move away from fossil fuels. Remember, natural gas is also a fossil fuel!
Water heating can be done with electricity, gas or other energy sources. The most climate friendly way is to electrify – and use green energy!
Generally, in our homes we use electricity for appliances such as the stove and fridge, the microwave, the washing machine, lighting, the tv, computer, etc. Exactly what we use it for obviously varies from home to home. The electricity bill tells us which company supplies our energy and through them we can find out what the source of the electricity is. Today, many suppliers offer electricity plans from renewable energy sources. This can be a tiny bit more expensive, but it makes a massive difference on your carbon footprint!
What is the climate impact?
“Regular” energy in the EU emits 295,8 g CO2 per kWh, in the US it is 452,8 g. However, renewable energy emits only 10-20 g CO2 per kWh, depending on the source.
A 3-4 bedroom home in the UK uses on average 3100 kWh of electricity per year. If the source is regular grid electricity, the CO2 emissions are 723 kg. If renewable energy is used, the emissions are only 47 kg!
If you also heat your home with electricity and can switch your electricity plan from regular to renewable energy, you can reduce the carbon footprint from 2 tonnes to 100 kg (based on average values in our calculator). That’s amazing!
Of course it is great to always turn off appliances, and be mindful about how we consume energy in our homes. The greenest (and cheapest) kWh is the one we don’t spend! But to make the most impact possible, focus should be on the changes that make a big difference, not on a lot of small actions that have low impact. It is better to hang-dry your clothes than using the tumble dryer, but if you leave your phone charger plugged in it really won’t make a big difference.
What equals one kilo of CO2? Is a tonne of CO2 a lot? And how do our personal lifestyle choices affect how much is released into the atmosphere? This can all be hard to grasp because we can’t really see or touch the emissions. Below, we have listed some examples of how much CO2 is linked to different objects, what the impact is and info we hope will serve as a helpful tool to get this under control.
[Reminder] Globally, we emit about 40 gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. That number is so large that It feels impossible to understand. The info you may want to keep in mind going forward though, is that we need to reduce this number in half every decade to stay reasonably safe from climate change. That means, in 2030 we need to be down to 20 gt, in 2040 to 10 gt, and in 2050 to 5 gt.
The mindset to continuously half the emissions can and should be applied universally – by everyone. That includes governments, companies as well as us as individuals. It might seem like a big stretch, but let’s start with the low hanging fruit to start making an impact today – and it will just get easier from there!
Step one is to measure your carbon footprint. Countries are obliged to do this with data continuously tracked and updated by the UNFCCC. Some companies are obliged by national legislation to report their carbon footprint, while others do it on a voluntary basis. Individuals are currently not held accountable for their emissions, but judging by how rapidly our community is growing there are a lot of like minded people out there, seeing that they too can make a change and help contribute to meeting the targets needed for our planet’s well being.
The individual CO2 emissions of someone living in a western country is roughly 10 tonnes CO2. In some places it’s a little less, in the US and Australia it’s usually significantly higher (we will explain why in future posts). But this is a good general number to go by – 10 tonnes. Now, to start your own climate journey – go to our start page and calculate your personal footprint!
The strongest indicator of carbon emissions for an individual, is income level. That means that if you make 40 000 USD per year in Sweden or in South Africa, your emissions are likely more similar than between two people living in the same country but on different ends of the income spectrum. We still focus on economically wealthier countries in our business, as most of the consumption takes place in western countries and we therefore need to assume more responsibility.
Hopefully these examples will help you focus on what is important. Try following these guidelines:
The things that fall under 1 kg – don’t stress about it.
If it’s more than 1 kg and you do it regularly – be mindful about your habits.
Purchases around 100 kg – it is definitely worth looking for climate friendly alternatives. Could you possibly find it second hand?
1 tonne – is this really necessary? If there is no way to avoid it, offset the impact.
More than 3 tonnes – this should only be things which you cannot live without.
More than 100 tonnes – Is there anything you can do about this, even something small? Then you probably should!
The impact of 1 tonne of CO2 released into the atmosphere is terrifyingly easy to measure – it melts 3 square meters of arctic ice. So the impact of an average swede’s lifestyle is causing the disappearance of 30 m2 of arctic sea ice every year – that’s the size of 2,5 parking lots. Now let’s do something about that!
Curious to know more about your carbon footprint? Read the other posts in this series: