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Taking your first steps towards carbon neutrality

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The science is now undeniable – our activity is causing the Earth’s temperature to rise at an alarming rate, faster than even the most pessimistic climate scientists predicted. The good news is that each of us can make a difference through our behaviour. It’s about how we use energy in our everyday lives and in our places of work.

The greenhouse gases we produce in pursuing our lives and livelihoods – carbon dioxide being a prime example, trap heat in our atmosphere. Our activities are releasing millions of years of buried carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. All this in just 150 years since the industrial revolution.

Our planet’s ecosystems can’t re-bury it fast enough against the onslaught of developed and developing nations. Burning rainforests destroys a major natural carbon burial process.

As signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement, the UK has a legal obligation to steer itself towards being a zero-carbon economy by 2050. Many climate change scientists believe this will be too late to avoid a catastrophe, so more aggressive targets can be expected. As an illustration, in July 2019, 212 councils had already declared a climate emergency, with many stating a net zero-carbon target by 2030.

Plymouth City Council is one of those who’ve stepped up.

Where do we start?

Start with your individual responsibility – encourage and incentivise your family and colleagues to make small changes. Even the simplest things we do leave a carbon footprint.

For example, your cup of coffee has multiple impacts.

  • Firing the cup in a furnace
  • Importing the coffee beans
  • Roasting and grinding the beans
  • Boiling the water/creating steam
  • The dairy production
  • The sugar production
  • The dishwasher

In terms of carbon, this means one small cup of coffee releases 53g of CO2 into the atmosphere, with one large latte putting out as much as 340g. And let’s not forget the problems caused by our takeaway cups

But that’s nothing. Our diesel or petrol engine produces about 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Small Steps

Cutting your carbon footprint starts at home, long before you arrive at work. The behaviours we exhibit there carry with us into the workplace. Some changes are easier to make than others, but we all need to do more than just think about it.

Do you need to drive to work? Could you set up a carpool scheme? Is there a shorter route? Do you need that cup of coffee on the way? Did overtaking that slower vehicle get you any further than the next set of traffic lights? Can you stick to the speed limits and avoid aggressive acceleration and braking?  Can you cycle to work? Can you buy meat from local producers? Can you buy other produce from local producers? Can you spend a few seconds looking at product labels and boycott products with Palm Oil? Can you avoid products with plastic wrap? Do you really need to buy bottled water? Can you buy recycled paper for your printer and the loo? Do you need to leave your electrical appliances on standby? Can you turn down your central heating and hot water by one degree? Could you open a window rather than turn up the aircon? Do you really need that latest Smartphone?

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Truthfully, the list is endless, but just these few things are quite easy to address. Adopting them will change our collective mindset about how we use energy and how we consume. Our understanding of what constitutes behaviour that contributes to climate change and environmental damage is already changing, but it needs to accelerate. Our individual actions make a big difference because there are 7 billion of us.

The RE100

Yes, of course, there are many ways of going the whole way and achieving net-zero carbon at home and in the workplace. We can all easily point to high-profile examples of other people and workplaces that are doing just that. Check out the ‘RE100’ – Global companies that have committed their operations to carbon net-zero and who have seen a rise in profitability at the same time.  They are outperforming their rivals’ profitability by up to 7.7% according to Capgemini

Renewables and energy efficiency

This brings us nicely onto technology at home and in the workplace. For example, many of us are already thinking twice about buying a petrol or diesel vehicle and are waiting for electric vehicle (EV) prices to fall. How many of us think uncharitable thoughts when we see a gas-guzzling car charging around on our roads?  How long before fossil-fueled cars are regarded as anti-social?

EV prices are set to drop as more car manufacturers tool up to meet Government legislation. 60% of new vehicle sales must be electric by 2030 and all new vehicle sales must be EVs by 2040. That’s the UK’s commitment to the Committee on Climate Change.

Did you know that there are now more public EV charging points in the UK than there are petrol stations? Sure, there are many challenges about how the grid will cope with the expected demand and it raises questions about what sort of electricity we’ll be using to charge up our vehicles (brown or green?). Grid changes and just as importantly, a rise in investment in self-generation, Solar PV and battery storage will answer these questions.

Already, workplaces and businesses are increasingly getting ahead of the curve and installing EV charge points for their employees and their customers.  Soon, it’ll be expected by both groups.

Already, Councils are retro-fitting their social housing stock to be carbon net-zero under the ‘Energiesprong’ model – which includes extensive Solar PV, battery storage and Air Source Heat Pump technology.

Our way of life is changing, whether we believe in climate change or not. The impact on each of us is quite small right now, but how we use energy will permeate everything we do in the very near future. You may conclude that it’s better to make the necessary personal and work changes voluntarily, ahead of being compelled.

Article by Nigel Follett, Marketing Manager of IU Energy.

Further information on renewables and how we can help in turning your organisation’s green and net-zero ambitions into ACTION here.

Full guide ‘How to take your first steps towards carbon neutrality’, here.

To discuss your own business energy challenges, including commercial electric vehicle charging, talk to us now on 01752 26 26 26 or email

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