How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint


Our daily activities may conceal the significant amount of collateral damage being inflicted on us and on our environment. Carbon released into the atmosphere is a major pollutant and has a detrimental impact on oceans, climate and, in turn, on our ability to enjoy a stable climate and healthy environment both now and for years to come.

Yet some of the activities we value the most can be fairly carbon sober: time spent with family and friends, developing personal creativity, learning and education, exercising … people who consciously decide to reduce their carbon impact often find they acquire a less hectic, more fulfilled way of life that is more in tune with their core values. Cultivating simple pleasures instead of “always more” is the right way to go – and there’s no guilt attached.

With an average 12 tons of carbon dioxide released per person per year, Belgium is one of the worst emitters in Europe – but what can be done to lower an individual’s carbon footprint?  The family circle is a good place to start, as the shift towards lower carbon has the potential to improve not only your own quality of life but also that of those around you.  There are a few easy steps to start a carbon-conscious life, and bear in mind that simplicity is the key.


Calculate your carbon footprint with an online calculator such as the Guardian newspaper’s online quick carbon calculator or the Bilan Carbone Personnel.  If you choose a different calculator, make sure it includes spending habits, as this is a big chunk of our footprint.


Act where it matters. Cutting 10% of a high carbon activity is better than reducing a very small source of emission by 30%. Households typically have three major sources of impact: mobility, food, heating and energy consumption. By acting on these, you can make a real difference.

Mobility can increase your carbon footprint very rapidly if you choose to travel by plane or drive a car every day.  Typically, the train will save between 70% and 90% of emissions compared to a trip by plane. A return trip to New Zealand will exhaust your total yearly carbon allowance. As for cars, there are healthier options to choose from when moving around the city. A brand new car will negate your efforts elsewhere by eating up from six tons for a small car to 35 tons for a SUV.  

A low-carbon food diet is a win-win option for your body, as the prime culprit is red meat. Why not organise a weekly meat-free day at home – this is an enjoyable activity and benefits the whole family.

Heating a house can be a CO2 gusher – don’t let your emissions go through the roof: insulate your roof properly, ideally with renewable and breathable material such a wood fibre. Wood fibre also performs well in summer preventing your house from overheating. Reduce bedroom temperature to 16°C and living room temperature to 18°C.

Finally, money matters and the things that money buys, or can do, may have a huge carbon impact. You will be ahead of the trend by choosing value over volume. Choosing an ethical bank – such as Triodos or the Cooperative Bank, for example – will save you the chore of looking for sustainable low carbon investments yourself.