The last two years I have started a seasonal tradition of reviewing and publishing our personal carbon footprint for the year. The year is not yet over, so arguably a bit early, but it’s a rough rainy day here in Lochaber and so a good day to contemplate in the big brown chair by the dormant wood-burner. Below is a graph showing the last three years side by side:-
Exploring each category in turn:-
We used a bit less electricity (6617kWh) in 2020 compared to 7504kWh (7.5MWh) of electricity in 2019, emitting 2.04 tonnes CO2e. The usage is on par with 2018 where we consumed 6660 kWh (6.6MWh) of electricity. I would guess the reduced usage was largely due to less sourdough baking during 2020, as the hospitality and tourism sectors wound down due to Covid-19 restrictions [a common thread this year].
The electricity carbon footprint is also a bit less this year as I used a reduced figure of 309gCO2e/kWh rate (a 25% reduction on 2019 published rates). This reflects both the de-carbonisation of UK electricity production, but maintains that albeit we purchase green electric, the electricity we consume is not always green due to the current UK generation mix. We do though purchase only 100% aggregated renewable electricity from Octopus Energy, who continue to be a joyful supplier to deal with. (If you fancy joining them, try this link as you and I share £50 off for switching).
We used a bit less heat (5899 kWhth) in 2020 compared to 6830 kWhth in 2019 and 6894 kWhth of heat in 2018, emitting 2.04 tonnes of CO2e directly out the flue in 2020; that’s for hot water at the tap, and heating in the form of underfloor heating.
I again used a direct emissions figure of 345 kg/CO2e per MWhth reflecting the fact that burning wood produces CO2e, albeit the wood we purchase is from a locally FCS managed woodland and a lower figure could theoretically be used.
We drove far less miles in 2020, just 2,147km (1,333 miles) emitting 0.5 tonne CO2e along the way, compared to a much greater mileage of 7,169miles in 2019 and 7,638 miles in 2018 respectively. This is based on a 220.69gCO2e/km figure of a large LPG/petrol fuelled car. This significant reduction is down to a full year of use on our e-bike cargo trailer and no long distance car travel due to Covid-19 restrictions. That and our car has been off the road much of the year having some TLC. We came reasonably close to an electric vehicle purchase this year [our ideal would be an electric vehicle conversion of our classic VW Syncro] but for now local travel for us is all about two wheels and pedals.
We did zero family train journeys in 2020. We normally do one or two journeys on the Caledonian Sleeper and although we had one booked, it was cancelled due to Covid-19 restructions during 2020.
In 2020 we did zero personal plane journeys. Last year I lamented doing a single short flight, and the carbon impact hit home when we did our annual carbon footprint review. So zero flights this year has been less due to Covid-19 restrictions and more about the choice to travel slower and lighter.
Our food emissions, (1.17tonnes CO2e), Health, Education etc (4.2 tonnes) and miscellaneous (1.19 tonnes of CO2e) have remained unchanged, and represent the UK average per head shared tonnage of our current carbon heavy cultural system.
Our total family carbon footprint summed up to 11.31 tonnes of CO2e during 2020, about 3-4 tonnes less than previously (15.49 tonnes in 2019 & 14.59 tonnes in 2018). To put that into context the world average per person is 4.4 tonnes; the UK average per person is a whopping 14.1 tonnes. Per person this year (our family is 4) we are 2.83 tonnes of CO2e during 2019. Carbon independent suggest 1.5 tonnes of CO2e per person might be a sustainable (i.e. what earth can support) figure to aim for.
What to change?
Reflecting on last years change areas, here’s some areas to focus on during 2021:-
- Overall Carbon Independent suggests a 10% reduction year on year is easily achievable – based on this years footprint, shooting for that in 2021 would bring us in reach of the watershed figure of 10 tonnes – I am curious to see if we could get our personal footprint into single digits next year.
- Electricity last year electricity was our biggest personal carbon emitter. This year it is level pegging with heat. On the electricity front I still want to get a next generation smart meter installed and to start playing with storage and home grown renewable generation behind the meter.
- Car Travel we hit our change target of reduced car miles this year (the target was 4000 miles per annum). I think we can keep this down in 2021, and am going to set a reduced target of 3000 miles per annum.
- Heat I remain interested at ways to decarbonise our heat which is currently a croft community wood boiler. We have some conceptual options in the form of renewable add-ons – solar heat coils (in the summer) and hydro head dump load (in the winter) and I think a realistic target in 2021 is to flesh out some of those add-on concepts. That and to start some carbon sequestering. Last year I hinted at getting started on our own tree planting plan here on the croft, and I’m delighted to say some tree planting has begun…
That’s all for now peeps – wishing you and yours a relaxed quiet reflective turn to the new year in a few days time.