Personal Choices Have Profound Impact on Climate Change

From a car-free lifestyle to eating more plant-based foods, there are a number of ways people can help reduce their carbon footprint
Reducing air travel can help rein in individual carbon footprints.Reducing air travel can help rein in individual carbon footprints.
It’s especially important for young people establishing lifelong patterns to be aware which choices have the biggest impact

Governments and schools are not communicating the most effective ways for individuals to reduce their carbon footprints, according to new research.

Published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the study from Sweden’s Lund University, found that the incremental changes advocated by governments may represent a missed opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beneath the levels needed to prevent 2 degrees Celsius of climate warming, Physorg reported.

The four actions that most substantially reduce an individual’s carbon footprint are: eating a plant-based diet, avoiding air travel and living car-free.

The research analyzed 39 peer-reviewed papers, carbon calculators and government reports to calculate the potential of a range of individual lifestyle choices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This comprehensive analysis identifies the actions individuals could take that will have the greatest impact on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Lead author Seth Wynes said: “There are so many factors that affect the climate impact of personal choices, but bringing all these studies side-by-side gives us confidence we’ve identified actions that make a big difference.

Those of us who want to step forward on climate need to know how our actions can have the greatest possible impact. This research is about helping people make more informed choices...

“For example, living car-free saves about 2.4 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, while eating a plant-based diet saves 0.8 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.

“These actions, therefore, have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling (which is four times less effective than a plant-based diet) or changing household light bulbs (eight times less effective).”

The researchers also found that neither Canadian school textbooks nor government resources from the EU, the US, Canada and Australia highlight these actions, instead of focusing on incremental changes with much smaller potential to reduce emissions.

Study co-author Kimberly Nicholas said: “We recognize these are deeply personal choices. But we can’t ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has. Personally, I’ve found it really positive to make many of these changes.

“It’s especially important for young people establishing lifelong patterns to be aware which choices have the biggest impact. We hope this information sparks discussion and empowers individuals.”

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints