How can I reduce my carbon footprint?

We all need to change our habits and our consumption patterns in order to reach the climate goals. There is much you can do right away to reduce your impact on the climate.

The average carbon footprint per person and year in Sweden is 10 tonnes, which is significantly higher than the global average. For the world to keep the global temperature increase well below two degrees, the emissions of greenhouse gases need to come down as far below 2 tonnes per person as possible by 2050.

What we do as individuals is an important factor in reducing the global greenhouse emissions.

All the choices we make matter and can contribute to reducing our emissions. If you feel that your choices do not make enough of a difference and that they seem unimportant – think again! Your actions may encourage others to make more climate-smart choices. Travelling less by air, changing our eating habits and buying second-hand instead of new, creates great climate gains, and it can reduce your carbon footprint by several tonnes per year.

The last 2–3 tonnes of emissions per person are difficult to change yourself, as they relate to the construction of infrastructure and public sector consumption, for example.

The responsibility for reducing emissions does not lie solely with the consumer, but must also be shared by the public sector and industry.

Our travel habits make the greatest climate impact

For many people, air travel is the largest source of emissions. Travelling less frequently and staying longer when you do go away is one way of reducing your carbon footprint.

You can see your carbon footprint on your flight ticket, or use the ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator to calculate your emissions. Note that these calculations do not include the effect of flying at high altitude, which means that your emissions are probably around twice as high for longer flights. The reason for this is that high-altitude emissions create contrails (condensation trails) and nitrogen oxide emissions, which also have a warming effect on the climate.

The ICAO Carbon Emissions Calculator

Taking the train or public transport is always better than taking a car that runs on fossil fuel. If you have to travel by car, it is better to carpool and to choose an eco-friendly vehicle. A medium-sized car releases close to 2 kg of greenhouse gases each 10 km. If a family travels around 20,000 km per year, this would equal 4 tonnes per year.

What we eat makes a great difference to the climate

Cutting down on our consumption of certain foods, such as red meat, is of great significance to reducing our emissions. Today, the consumption of meat alone gives rise to just under one tonne of emissions per person and year on average in Sweden.

Average climate impact of different food products

Sweden's National Food Agency recommends us not to eat more than 500 grams of red meat per person and week for health reasons; but today we are averaging around 600 grams. The amount of meat you can eat in an average week to achieve a total carbon footprint under two tonnes depends on how much you travel and consume in general.

The simple answer is that we need to eat less red meat and cheese. Reducing the consumption of red meat is an effective measure to reduce our climate impact, and it is especially important, as it is possible to reduce the emissions from its production. Exactly what amount is sustainable in order to reach the climate goals is hard to say, as this depends on how much is released otherwise.

Even if the meat consumption needs to be reduced for the sake of the climate, grazing animals also have a positive effect on the environment, for example through increased biodiversity.

Our eating habits are important in reducing our climate impact (in Swedish)

How we choose to live affects the climate

Choosing a smaller home and switching to climate-smart heating can make a great difference, depending on your current living situation.

You can also make an impact by making your home more energy-efficient. Insulate windows and doors to reduce the heating need.

You can reduce your energy consumption by lowering the indoor temperature somewhat. Use hot water sparingly and use a dishwasher instead of running water. Wash your clothes at lower temperatures and hang your laundry to dry rather than using a tumble dryer. Keep your appliances at the right temperature: minus 18 degrees in the freezer and plus 5 degrees in the refrigerator.

If you need new furniture, appliances and electronics, remember that reuse and second-hand is always better than buying new. Repair instead of buying new major appliances, and change your old appliances for more energy-efficient ones when the time comes.

Contact your municipal energy and climate advisory service (Swedish Energy Agency's website, in Swedish)

The way your electricity has been produced also affects the climate. You can opt to buy eco-labelled electricity from renewable sources, or perhaps invest in your own production of renewable electricity by installing solar cells on the roof.

How to make your home more energy-efficient (Swedish Energy Agency's website, in Swedish)

Carbon offsetting is the last resort

It is always better not to cause the emissions in the first place if you wish to reduce your carbon footprint. But if that is not possible, you can use carbon offsetting. Carbon offsetting means that you pay for the reduction of a certain amount of emissions elsewhere, or that the corresponding emissions are taken up in nature. This allows you to compensate for the emissions, for example from a journey by air or for your whole lifestyle. Or why not give it to someone else as a present!

There are different ways to carbon offset. The most common way is to purchase reductions created through carbon offsetting projects, often in developing countries. Typical projects include energy initiatives that replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, for example by changing to cleaner stoves or by installing solar panels. Other projects may relate to increasing the uptake and storage of carbon dioxide, for example by planting trees.

In order to ensure that the reduction in emissions is real, the projects should be certified according to one of the developed standards. The Gold Standard is a good example of a certification that has been developed by environmental organisations and which has high-set requirement on both verified emission reductions and sustainable development.

Our savings are important in the climate shift

How you save your money also impacts on the climate. To a large extent, our savings currently do not contribute to the shift that is necessary to reach the climate goals. Whether you have money in a savings account, in unit trusts or in shares of a company, your money can be used to benefit the climate. It may be a good idea to review your investments and choose unit trusts, shares or a bank with a good climate profile. You can actively strive to influence the actions of your unit trusts, the companies you invest in and your bank.