• Climate hub
  • 16 Sep 2021
  • 4 min read

Five unexpected ways you’re increasing your personal footprint

By Laetitia Laubscher

Tackle your personal footprint

Aotearoa New Zealand is ranked 25th in the world’s Global Sustainability Index however, we still have some way to go. New Zealand’s share of global GHG emissions is small, but our gross emissions per person are high. The world (OECD) average carbon footprint is 9.8 tCO2-e (metric tonnes in carbon equivalent) and the NZ average is 6.0 tCO2-e. You can work out your personal carbon footprint using this calculator or work out your household footprint using this Toitū calculator.

With a few unexpected and easy cuts to our own energy consumption, we can all contribute to reaching carbon neutrality in our country just a little bit faster.

Leaving the phone to charge overnight

We all do it, but all-night phone recharging is inefficient and damaging to your battery. Leaving your phone on charge overnight means that the charger will keep trickle charging your phone once it’s fully charged – basically jumping back and forth from charged to fully charged, stressing the battery and leading to it running out faster in future – so you need to buy a new smartphone sooner. It takes roughly a gigajoule of energy to create a smartphone, which is 73 times the amount of electricity used to charge it for a year. Instead, try to not fully charge your phone (or leave it on overnight) so you can hold onto your device for longer.

Driving short distances

With short car trips under two kilometres making up nearly a third of all car trips on our roads in New Zealand, and transport being responsible for 48% of the country’s energy related greenhouse gas emissions, cutting down on those shorter trips can make a noticeable difference. In fact, your driving is likely to be the single-biggest contributor to your personal carbon footprint. Instead of making that quick drive, why not try walking or using an electric scooter or e-bike for those micro distances – they use only about 1% to 3% of the emissions of petrol cars on a per kilometre basis.

Sending too many emails

A normal email has a carbon footprint equivalent to 0.3g of CO2 emissions, jumping up to 50g when you include a large attachment. That means that over the space of a year, your average office worker is creating a carbon footprint the size of 135kg – which is about the same carbon impact as driving from Taupo to Wellington. While you might like to unsubscribe to a few mailers clogging your inbox, and be a little bit more mindful of how many emails you’re sending out, another way to cut down and compensate is by turning off your computer. Experts estimate that about 7% of the average Kiwi household power bill is wasted on standby power, which translates to about $100 of your annual power bill.

Binge streaming TV shows

The internet currently makes up about 3.7% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, which is a similar level to the pre-2020 airline industry. That percentage is also predicted to double by 2025. With over a quarter of world’s internet traffic made up of Netflix (15%) and YouTube (11.4%) streams, one easy way to curb your footprint is to swap to back to the good old days of watching video on demand, which can cut your energy use by about two-thirds. Downloading Carbonalyser can also help you keep your energy use in check while surfing the web.

Leaving the lid off while you’re cooking

While we often hear about the virtues of changing diet and cutting down on our red meat and dairy consumption and eating our leftovers – doing both can lead to a 50% reduction in your carbon footprint – how you cook your food can also have a noticeable impact on your overall footprint. Cooking using less energy – including putting on a pan lid during the cook and reducing the heat where possible – will decrease your overall carbon footprint by 5%.

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