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23 September 2014

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Thousands of you took part in the world’s largest climate experiment

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What can I do?

I can’t possibly make a difference on my own, can I?

You’ve heard it all a million times. Turn the lights off when you leave a room. Re-use those plastic carrier bags. Cut down your car use. But can these changes really make a difference to the planet’s climate problems?

It’s actually very easy to make many simple changes that together have a big impact. For example, if everyone turned their thermostats down by just 1°C, total domestic emissions in the UK would reduce by about 4.5% according to the Energy Saving Trust (EST). You’d also pocket about £30 in energy bill savings at the same time.

Get started straight away. Some easy-to-implement changes, as recommended by EST, are shown in the box. You’ll find plenty of other ideas elsewhere on the web. We’ve listed a few sites to get you started, including our very own new site, BBC Bloom, helping you make smarter carbon-cutting choices.

Top six simple changes to make

This is probably not the first time you’ve seen this list. But how many of these easy changes have you actually made?

An eco house1°C on your thermostat accounts for 4% of your household energy use Heating
Turn your thermostat down by 1°C. Total saving: 4% of your total household energy use.
Replace your light bulbs with energy saving ones. They use just 20% of the energy of traditional bulbs and last 12 times longer. Total saving: 0.3% of your total household energy use for replacing three bulbs.
Turn them off when you’re not using them. Lights, TV, computer, mobile phone charger. Use your appliances efficiently: only boil the water you need in the kettle, hang washing up instead of using a tumble drier, totally fill the dishwasher and washing machine up before putting them on. Total saving: 1.1% of your total household energy use.
Close up of a petrol pumpMake fuel efficiency a priority when buying a car Car
Cut down journeys: use public transport, cycle or walk. Car share where possible. Drive at a lower speed to increase fuel efficiency. Consider a more fuel efficient model when buying a new car.
Try to buy food with less packaging.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Reduce the amount of packaged products you buy, reuse shopping bags and recycle newspapers. Apply the ‘three Rs’ to everything you can to reduce manufacturing energy costs.

[Source: EST]

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Where should I focus my efforts?

Bemused by conflicting advice and confusing stats about emissions? Don’t be put off. Any changes you can make are better than nothing.

Yet some actions will make a much greater difference. Take a look at the top household energy saving actions according to EST. If you’re only going to do one thing to help combat climate change, it’s probably best to start here.

Top three high impact changes for the household

Install cavity wall insulation
Potential saving: 4.4% of total UK domestic emissions
Upgrade to a gas condensing boiler
Potential saving: 8% of total UK domestic emissions.
Top up your loft insulation
Potential saving: 2.6% of total UK domestic emissions.

[Source: EST]

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You can get a better idea of your personal or household emissions and how to reduce them with an energy audit or carbon footprint calculator. There’s plenty on the web. Here are a few to get you started.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external links

I don’t want to give up my current lifestyle

Don’t worry: you don’t need to live in a mud hut to reduce your emissions! You may even find that tackling climate change will improve your health and your bank balance.

Leave your car at home and walk or cycle instead. Short urban journeys are often faster by bike than by car, and fold-up bikes can be used on trains for city-to-city journeys. Cycle parking is free and the running costs are a fraction of those for a car. If you have to go by car, why not ring round friends, or make some new ones, and join a lift-share?

Think about driving a more fuel-efficient car. Help your local economy by cutting out longer journeys and shopping closer to home. Cars are responsible for 40% of personal emissions on average. Reducing car use will go a long way to decreasing your emissions. Maybe you can get rid of your car altogether?

Find out more about car sharing and cycling.

  • Lift share – find drivers, passengers and travel buddies
  • Why cycle? – top reasons to cycle and tips on getting started

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A European holiday resort

With emissions from planes set to double over the next 25 years, consider replacing short-haul flights with train travel. Relax, enjoy the scenery along the journey and arrive right in the heart of your destination instead of a distant airport. You might be surprised by the fantastic locations across Europe easily accessible by train, from Amsterdam to Barcelona to Scotland.

Long-haul trips might not be as essential as you think. Could you have a similarly relaxing, adventurous or inspirational holiday closer to home? Swap a return flight to New York for a holiday in the UK and you can save the equivalent of a year’s worth of car emissions.

What difference will my small actions make compared to growing emissions from developing countries?

You may have heard that China is building enough power stations each year to supply the whole of Britain’s energy needs, and it’s true. Developing countries such as China and India will soon overtake America as the world’s biggest producers of greenhouse gases.

However the Chinese government is starting to tackle the problem. Projects include the building of huge wind farms on its coastline, hydrogen-fuelled buses in Beijing and a promise to raise fuel-efficiency standards above federal American levels by 2008.

David Miliband, Secretary of State for the Environment, also believes it’s important that developed countries lead by example.

David Milibandplay video Video: David Miliband says it is essential that developed countries lead the way on tackling climate change
How come tackling climate change is my responsibility?

A quarter of emissions come from domestic transport and another quarter comes from homes. The remaining half of emissions comes from offices and industry. We also have direct influence over these areas too.

When buying products and services, think about the emissions associated with manufacture, transport and packaging.

Transfer good practices from the home to the office to minimise company energy use. Switch off computers, printers and lights at the end of the day. Get your company to sign into the government’s tax free bike scheme - with bikes available at up to half price.


Find out what else can be done to combat climate change


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