From travelling to work to our weekly shopping, every task and action we carry out contributes to our carbon footprint. The transition to a low-carbon society will require action from individuals and households, making carbon reductions in their everyday lives. Anna and her family are on a journey to reduce their carbon footprint, and have kindly shared with us their experiences, lessons and the benefits they have encountered over the years.
Anna works for the local cycling charity, Camcycle, focused on achieving more, better and safer cycling around Cambridge where everyone can enjoy the benefits of cycling. Her work for Camcycle and passion for car-free living is one of the many ways that Anna is striving to reduce her personal carbon footprint. This drive to be part of positive change, where we can all work together for the good of our planet and everyone who lives here, was ignited in childhood, when in the last year of primary school she carried out an environment-themed project. This, alongside the Blue Peter Green Book, inspired a lifelong interest in green issues and concern about climate change, and has shaped Anna’s lifestyle and choices ever since.
“In recent years, parenting and my work for local cycling charity Camcycle have opened my eyes to the joys of simple living and the power we each have as individuals to effect change.”
Anna shares with us her motivations and experiences from her carbon footprint reduction journey. It’s not always been plain sailing, and change has occurred across many years involving lots of unpicking of both expectations (personal and others) and societal norms. To help her along the way she has gained invaluable support from friends, faith, resources from local groups such as us and Transition Cambridge, and lots of advice from books, websites and social media. Along for the ride are Anna’s husband and daughters who are constant sources of motivation, as they head on the path to a low-carbon life together.
To help her get started Anna took part in a ‘Carbon Conversations’ course with us, introducing her to the four key areas of action: food, home energy, travel and shopping/consumption. Since then she has become a local climate leader, facilitating her own course with another attendee, which led to her finding out even more about the different ways to reduce hers and others carbon footprints.
Alongside educating others in her community, Anna has worked on her own personal carbon footprint in many ways and showcases how living car-free with a family in Cambridge is possible! They walk and cycle for the majority of their journeys, choose bus or train for longer ones, and occasionally use a hire car or car club vehicle for day trips, holidays or moving large items of furniture.
Other ways in which Anna’s family have combated their carbon footprint include limiting the amount of new products they buy, trying to choose second hand wherever possible, and they have been slowly transitioning to a plant-based diet. They also have started to focus on the home energy aspect of their footprint, getting their gas and electricity from Ecotricity, buying the highest A-rated white goods and have fitted insulation in their loft and to some internal walls.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
Almost everything we do creates greenhouse gases. Based on research and statistics we can roughly estimate the amount of greenhouse gases caused by our lifestyle choices. Adding all of these emissions up over a certain period of time (most commonly per year) we can calculate a person’s, an organisation’s, a business’s or even a nation’s carbon footprint. Calculating our own personal carbon footprint helps to better understand the greenhouse gas emissions we can directly influence and reduce. Learn more about carbon footprints here.
Anna has found that the journey to a low-carbon lifestyle provides constant opportunities for self-discovery and learning, while also presenting many co-benefits.
“I’m proud of persevering with this journey to a lifestyle which reflects our values: it feels more rewarding than letting my lifestyle be led by which magazines I read or social media feeds I follow. Parenthood could have taken us down a path of increased consumption, but actually it gave us an added motivation to change: our diet has improved, we’ve bought fewer new things and we love cycling as a family. When you rely on money less, you open yourself up to your local community more: borrowing baby stuff, using the toy library and attending free groups has been a wonderful way to get to know people in our neighbourhood.”
She is always looking for new opportunities to tackle her carbon footprint and highlights how you don’t have to be an expert to be part of the change. Her household is about to embark on the next step of their journey, auditing their consumption in more detail, and improving the sustainability of their house. Although the technical information relating to home energy and retrofitting can seem a bit overwhelming, she has been inspired by our Open Eco Homes talks, and wants to begin to make more progress in this area of her life, gaining experience along the way. Alongside this Anna will continue to campaign for active transport, since enabling more people to walk and cycle is an essential part of the journey to zero carbon.
It can be daunting when you first start thinking about reducing your carbon footprint, especially when you are unsure of where to start. Anna has shared her top tip to help you with your first steps to making the change:
“Begin to measure different aspects of your life and try new things: recording progress and breaking the inertia of inaction can spark the motivation needed to begin a journey of change. The CCF Carbon Footprint Calculator is a great place to start measuring!”
Our carbon footprint calculator enables people to explore the impact of day-to-day choices, and empowers them to take action in their everyday lives. Discover the difference your emissions can make below.
Rob Hopkins of the Transition movement is endlessly inspiring and Zion Lights writes well on green parenting.
Anna is a signatory of the Cambridge Climate Change Charter, pledging to reduce her carbon footprint. This World Environment Day, 5 June, join individuals, businesses, and organisations taking climate action across the city by signing the Charter as part of our mass sign up day. Together we can make a difference, see our event for more information.