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What is my carbon footprint?

Your carbon footprint is a measure of the impact your activities have on the environment – namely, in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, as measured in units of carbon dioxide.

A carbon footprint is made up of the sum of two parts: the direct/primary footprint and the indirect/secondary footprint.

The primary footprint is a measure of our direct emissions CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, including domestic energy consumption and transportation; while the secondary footprint is a measure of the indirect CO2 emissions from the whole lifecycle of products we use (those associated with their manufacture and eventual breakdown).

The table below demonstrates a typical breakdown of a UK resident’s primary and secondary carbon footprint:

 Breakdown of the average person’s carbon footprint

 Percentage of total carbon footprint

 Gas, oil and coal




 Private transport


 Public transport


 Holiday flights


 Food and drink


 Clothes and personal effects


 Carbon in car manufacturing


 Household buildings and furnishings


 Recreation and leisure


 Financial services


 Share of public services






How can I reduce my carbon footprint?

If you would like to reduce the impact that your activities have on the wider environment, there are a number of things you could consider:

  • Buy a fuel-efficient vehicle – Instead of buying a standard petrol or diesel car, make your next car a hybrid or electric vehicle. Also, be wary of the estimated miles-per-gallon of any car you buy, as this could reduce the impact your driving has on the environment.
  • Insulate your home – Loft, cavity wall, solid wall and floor insulation are cost-effective ways to retain the heat you use in your home, meaning you can use less gas to heat your home (and lower energy bills, too).
  • Reuse and recycle – Where possible, reuse, recycle, or up-cycle your waste or belongings. Recycle any food packaging, turn your waste food into compost, and consider repurposing any old furniture to avoid it going to landfill.
  • Unplug and switch off – Any appliances or equipment in the home that is being unused can be switched off and unplugged entirely, rather than kept on standby, as this still uses power (you’ll benefit from a reduction in your electricity bill, too).

If you’d like to find out more about measuring and reducing your own carbon footprint, visit the Energy Savings Trust website.

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