Whenever a problem is encountered, most people prefer it if someone else takes responsibility. In the case of climate change, for a long time that “someone” has meant politicians and the industry. In order to mitigate climate change, politics and industry do need to change, but as these changes can be traced back to the opinions of individuals, we quickly realise the potential of personal choices to decrease emissions.
Globally, 72% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are related to household consumption; the rest of the emissions come from government consumption and investment (Hertwich and Peters, 2009). In Finland, the numbers are similar – 68 % of GHG emissions depend on choices that individuals make. Spark Sustainability uses the round number 70% as a basis for all emissions reduction we propose, to keep things simple.
Research shows that we can reduce the emissions we directly control by 55%, using only solutions and technology already available to us (Sitra, 2017). But what are these 70% of emissions that we can control, and where do the remaining 30% come from?
The emissions you are in direct control of include how your home is heated and lighted, how much stuff you buy (there are always emissions when something is produced), what you eat and how you travel.
The 30% of emissions you can’t control include the emissions from building your house and producing the steel and cement and other building materials used in doing so. It includes the emissions from building the roads you drive on, building and heating airports and hospitals as well as drawing power lines and building power plants.
Why is any of this important?
If people are made aware of how much power they have over climate change, they will be more motivated to act, and vast emission reductions can be achieved by popularising climate action. However, the science-based information needed to guide these actions can be hard to grasp.
We at Spark Sustainability strive to be the link between the massive amounts of confusing carbon emission data and that simple question: “What should I do?”
If you google “per capita carbon footprint” you will find a whole range of different answers. How do we know which one of those is right?
Well, we don’t, because “right” depends on what it is we want to know and what we are going to use the information for. We wanted to know how those 70% of global emissions that we as individuals can impact with our choices translate into our everyday lives: is there one big life choice that dictates a person’s emissions or is it a combination of many? Which is more polluting; flying to Dubai once or driving a car all year?
Alas, the Carbon Donut calculator was born.
The Carbon Donut divides the emissions you have influence over into six categories:
- purchasing of goods and services
(pink in the Carbon Donut),
- heat (red),
- electricity (dark red),
- road transport (dark green),
- flying (light green) and
- food (yellow).
By filling out Spark’s Carbon Donut you will see what your emission distribution looks like and get personal tips on how to mitigate them.
With so many people out there already wanting to change our society and combat climate change, the fact that it is us individuals who control the larger part of emissions is actually a good thing. Together, we can create a strong global movement and pave the way to a carbon neutral future.
What can we do?
Click here to find some examples of everyday choices that impact the climate in a positive way.