Measuring and reducing our emissions
The climate change action mantra is “measure and reduce”. This page gives you some information on how you can estimate your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and gives you ideas on simple ways to reduce them.
How can you measure your emissions?
There are several good online calculators that can be used. One of the good ones is from LandCare Research (available from www.carbonzero.co.nz). On this site, you need to register and then you get access to the calculator.
The calculator asks you to enter information on your (or your household’s) energy use, transport use, and waste production. It then estimates your greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, using the government’s GHG conversion (or emission) factors. The calculator is designed so you can capture the data on a monthly basis, so you can see how your emissions change.
Does the calculator cover the main activities which result in emissions?
Absolutely. As the NZ Facts and Figures page described, it is the emissions from electricity use and road transport which have risen most in the last twenty years, and these are the ones that the average kiwi can do something about.
What are the emissions from typical activities?
The average kiwi family is responsible for over 8 tonnes of GHG emissions just from electricity and car use.
Add in other major emitting activities like air travel and landfill waste, and the impact is much greater. For example, a return flight between Auckland and Sydney results in an estimated 440 kilograms (0.44 tonnes) of CO2 per passenger, whilst one to Europe produces about 3 tonnes per passenger. (These estimates use the emission conversion figures provided by the Ministry for the Environment.)
How can you reduce your emissions?
Reducing your emissions is not difficult, but it does require a bit of effort.
In summary, use the car much less; be more energy efficient at home; buy local/in-season food; try a few more veggie dishes; follow the reduce-reuse-recycle approach to “stuff”; and help with local tree planting volunteer events.
Here are some specific ideas…
When out and about…
Walk, bike or take the bus or train to school or work; if you can’t then car share; even making a change on two days a week is a 40% improvement!
Get the bike out, or walk, for those short local journeys
When using the car, drive smoothly (no heavy acceleration or braking), make sure tyres are correctly inflated, remove unnecessary weight from the boot, minimise use of the air con, and turn the engine off when stationary (the fuelsaver website estimates that 25-50% savings can be made from taking these actions)
At home, at school or at work…
Make sure you use energy efficient light bulbs; if not in all lights then focus on the lights used most often in your home
Use the energy saving settings on equipment like PCs and laptops
Don’t leave anything on standby; switch off at the wall
Insulate your hot water tank and make sure the hot water temperature is no more than 55° at the tap
Only boil the water you need, and keep saucepan lids on when cooking
Cut down on the long showers – try less than 4 minutes
Buy a low flow shower head – these use water more efficiently, it doesn’t mean it’ll be a trickle!
Don’t have windows and doors open when the heating is on (obvious, right?!)
And when buying stuff…
Generally, use the reduce, reuse, recycle approach
Buy less meat products; find some good veggie recipes and go meat free on two or more days a week
When you make those big purchases think energy efficiency – spending more upfront on efficient equipment will be more than offset by lower usage costs (and they’ll have higher resell value)
What’s the next step?
The above list gives you some ideas, but the best thing to do is make your own list.
Think about where you probably have the most impact, e.g. driving (or being driven) to places, leaving the TV and computer on, leaving lights on, long hot showers, etc.
Then, produce your own written list, and encourage your family or housemates to contribute.
Include at least five actions from the above list, or others that you think of, and put your list in a very visible place which you’ll see every day (like the fridge or noticeboard).
And, every now and again, update the list with new ideas.
How much could we all save?
Reducing electricity use by 10% is definitely achievable. And the savings from reducing car use, and driving more efficiently, can be much higher.
If electricity use is cut by 10% and fuel use by 20%, then the emissions savings for an average family would be about 1.5 tonnes.
If all households (over 1.6 million) did this then our emissions would reduce by 2.4 million tonnes (over 3% of our emissions).
What if my friends and family just don’t want to do anything?
Of course, some people won’t be that interested in reducing emissions, but most are interested in saving money. So, just get them to think about the dollars they’ll save by taking this action.
Electricity prices have risen by 20% in real terms (i.e. adjusted for inflation) over the last decade, and will continue to rise.
And who needs reminding of the price of fuel? Even though we’re just out of a recession, prices are still not far from their pre-recession peak. As global supply fails to keep up with demand, then it may not be long until the $2 litre is back. And, then how long until the $3 litre?
So, what are the dollar savings?
Returning to the “average kiwi family”, if they cut electricity by 10% and fuel use by 20%, then the savings would be about $1200 per year.
And, as the international carbon price increases, the ETS will mean that energy and transport prices will go up.
Carbonzero calculator - http://www.carbonzero.co.nz/EmissionsCalc/login.aspx
How you can save fuel - http://www.fuelsaver.govt.nz/
How you can save energy at home - http://www.energywise.govt.nz/
NZ government emission conversion factors - http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/climate/guidance-greenhouse-gas-reporting-sept09/index.html (note, these emission factors were used for the estimates shown on this page)