Sustainable living guideJaki Bell2021-04-19T16:19:06+01:00
Welcome to the CAfS guide to sustainable living and reducing your carbon footprint.
In this section, you’ll find lots of information and resources to help you green up your lifestyle. Much of the guide is also relevant to businesses, but for more specific information please visit our business section.
Living sustainably means meeting our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
To do that we need to protect our environment. But we also need to ensure that we all have food, water, shelter, healthcare, education and a decent income. Otherwise we’ll go back to plundering the Earth’s resources to survive.
As the UN’s 17 goals show, living more sustainably isn’t just about your carbon footprint. Within this bigger picture, CAfS focuses on action to combat climate change, and the guides in this section look mainly at reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main cause of climate change.
Where do greenhouse gases come from?
Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. It is emitted from natural processes, such as breathing, but the huge increase of this gas in our atmosphere since the industrial revolution has mainly come from burning fossil fuels to power our homes, our transport and our industries.
However, it is not the only greenhouse gas. Methane, for example, has twenty times as much global warming potential, and comes from livestock and landfill, as well as from fossil fuels.
Make the change!
Some aspects of your life will have a bigger impact than others on your carbon footprint. If you’re like most people, food and drink, household energy and transport will be causing the biggest chunks of your carbon emissions.
Food and drink account for a quarter.
Household energy is around 16%.
A car adds about 14%.
(Source: Small World Consulting. You might see slightly different estimates elsewhere, depending on the method they use and what they include in their calculations.)
Other ways you’ll add to your carbon footprint include shopping and waste, for example.
If you want to lower your carbon footprint and tread a little more lightly on the world, explore our guides below. They offer practical advice to help you make changes.
Lines v circles
At the heart of these guides is the idea of a ‘circular economy’, recognising that many of our resources are finite and we should be reusing them, instead of the ‘linear economy’, where they’re thrown away. There’s more about this on the box on this page.
How big is your carbon footprint?
Find out what your carbon footprint is now with the CAfS carbon footprint calculator.
As you make changes to your lifestyle, you can use the calculator to track reductions in your carbon footprint.
We see it as living in balance with our environment and within our means – the means of our planet.
It’s a way of life that can be sustained, because it’s not exhausting what the Earth can provide.
If we’re living sustainably, then we meet our basic needs like food, water and shelter, but without harming the environment or depleting the world’s resources for future generations.
What's a carbon footprint?
Your carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by your everyday life.
For most of us, there are the emissions we cause directly, like the exhaust fumes from our cars.
And then there are the more hidden ones, like the emissions caused by making and transporting the products we buy.
What's the circular economy?
Our society is set up to take natural resources, make them into things, and then dispose of them when they’re no longer deemed useful. This is known as the linear economy.
This isn’t sustainable. The planet’s resources are finite, and every time we dig up raw materials and make new products, we use fossil fuels and emit carbon. What’s more, everything we discard can end up polluting our environment.
A circular economy is different. It’s about keeping materials and products in use for as long as possible by making them durable, repairable and upgradeable. When they are finally no longer wanted, the ‘waste’ material is used to make new products or, for organic material, returned to the soil. And everything is powered by renewable energy.
Here’s a great introductory video from the Ellen MacArthur foundation: The conscious robot.
CAfS guides to sustainable living
Browse our lifestyle guides below for practical steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.
Don’t forget to also visit the For your home section, where you’ll find guides and tips to help you use less energy at home.