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How to Become a Carbon Neutral Family

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 18 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Global Warming Carbon Neutral Carbon

With global warming and climate change widely described as the greatest threat that mankind faces, more and more people are looking to find ways to lower their own impact on the environment.

For many, simply reducing their carbon footprint is no longer enough; the goal has now become performing the perfect balancing act and going completely carbon neutral.

Achieving this inevitably requires a bit of a shift in thinking and some adjustments of lifestyle. However, the good news is that while some of the ways do call for some major changes, there are also a number of small measures you can take which cost very little and you’ll probably hardly even notice the difference – at least not in your day-to-day life. With a combination of big steps and little ones, any family can start out on their journey to becoming carbon neutral.

Alternative Energy

Switching to alternative forms of energy offers one of the best ways to begin making a difference to your family’s carbon footprint and there are many ways to do it, from having a set of photovoltaic panels on your roof to signing up for a green deal with your current provider.

The renewable energy sector has come on in leaps and bounds over recent years and an increasing number of products have become routinely available for households – and at the sort of prices which no longer threaten to break the bank. As a result, having your family’s electricity supplied by solar power or from your very own aero-generator is now a real possibility for almost anyone.

At the other end of the scale, a huge range of solar-powered or wind-up gadgets have appeared in DIY shops, online and in mail order catalogues to help you start to make the transition to alternative energy in a small way. Solar garden lights are a firmly established favourite, which have been joined by a huge range of pumps and fountains for ponds, self-contained water features, alarms for sheds and even mole-scaring devices powered by sunlight. For the “texting-generation”, many of the wind up torches on sale come with adapters to recharge a variety of mobile ’phones.

Cutting Travel Carbon

The idea of carbon offsets emerged from the need to balance the emissions from flying, so it’s little surprise that your travel arrangements is another good place to look for ways to cut back on your footprint. Apart from the usual tips about taking fewer flights and using public transport, walking or cycling whenever you can, the aspiring carbon neutral family can also make a difference by thinking ahead and trying to combine journeys – especially if they are ones that have to be made by car.

A well serviced vehicle, with full occupancy and driven with fuel consumption in mind – no heavy braking and fast acceleration, please – contributes far less to your collective carbon debt than a series of individual journeys with just one or two people on board. Car-pooling works well for businesses; it should work even better for the average family – chiefly because all the journeys tend to start and end at exactly the same place!

If you do need to drive, look into the growing number of green insurance policies that are on offer – some of them will make all your driving carbon neutral for you, extending the familiar idea of carbon offsetting to road transport too.

Around the Home

Nearly a third of the UK’s carbon emissions are said to originate from our homes, so greening up our act here offers huge scope to advance our quest for carbon neutrality. A lot of it comes down to thinking about the way we all use energy – and how we can reduce the amount we waste.

Most of the best ways are very well-known and if your house doesn’t already have good insulation or double glazing, then installing them is a pretty good start. Selecting energy efficient equipment is also an obvious thing to do – so when you need to replace your fridge or washing machine, have a good look to find ones with good environmental rating. Even at a small scale – replacing incandescent light bulbs with low energy ones – can make a difference both to your bills and your carbon-count.

Energy efficiency is not just about the kitchen and living room; the average youngster’s bedroom contains an Aladdin’s cave of electrical gadgets and gizmos and while many of them will have been made to the latest energy standards, they all still consume power.

Switching off rather than using standby can empower today’s internet-enabled, MP3-playing generation to play their own part in the family’s carbon neutral goal too. When it comes to reducing your household’s total carbon footprint, everyone can do something – and whichever way you look at it, it all adds up!

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