What are the best way to be greener on a daily basis? How can we REALLY to reduce our environmental impact? We have selected for you the 5 practices that will have the most impact on YOUR impact on the environment.
The problem is that in terms of the environment, we do not always know where to start. Is it better to bet on zero waste? Change your diet? Or do without some products? All “green” gestures are not equal in terms of efficiency.
But by looking more closely at the environmental footprint of the average person, and in particular his/her carbon footprint, we can identify the most effective actions. Here are 5 practices classified by efficiency that will not only allow you to be more eco-friendly, but will also preserve your health and your wallet.
1. Change your form of transportation (and live in the city)
The biggest culprit of pollution and CO2 emissions of a Frenchman, on average, is transport. More than half of the CO2 emissions of a Frenchman (54%) are due to the use of transportation and 79% of these emissions are caused by the use of individual vehicles alone. In other words, about half of your carbon impact (and therefore your environmental impact via climate change) is caused by your daily use of the car.
Taking your car every morning to go to work is therefore probably the most polluting thing you can do. The first thing to do to be a little more eco-friendly is, thus, cut back on being behind the wheel. Of course, this is not necessarily easy, especially if you live in rural areas or in a suburb, where public transport is barely (or badly) developed. But if you live in the city, it’s easy! One study shows that, on average, city dwellers living in large urban centers have a lower impact on the environment than those living far from cities, and this is mainly due to better public transportation! In the big cities, it is very easy to get around without using car. Here’s how :
- Take the bike: in cities, it is the fastest way of transport! 15 to 16 km/hr, against for example only 14 for a car in traffic. For all trips of less than 5 km (3 miles), cycling is the ideal form of transportation. And it’s good for health: a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that going to work every day by bike is a more effective way of preserving your health than going regularly to the gym. Another advantage, last but not the least, is that if you use your bike rather than the car, you save on gasoline!
- Walking: If you are lucky enough to live near your place of work, walking is the ideal way to get around. It’s free, it emits no pollution, and it is good for your health. Walking is one of the best methods of preventing diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and also… colorectal cancer (it’s good to know).
- Take public transport: public transport is generally much less polluting than the private car. On average, trams, metro, trains have a carbon footprint of between 20 and 45 g of CO2 per km and per passenger. In comparison, the individual car emits around 135 g of CO2 per km and per passenger (in very fluid traffic conditions) and around 310 g of CO2 per km and per passenger in the city (more in the case of congestion). The bus emits somewhere between the two (80 g of CO2/km/passenger approximately). A US study suggests that taking public transit reduces your annual carbon footprint by about 2 kg (nearly 28% down).
It’s important to note that taking public transport, cycling, or walking do not necessarily mean delays, wasted time, or a longer commute. In Paris, for example, 97% of metro passengers arrive on time, and around 90% of RER passengers and passengers on other modes of transport. In urban areas, the bike is almost always as fast or even faster than the car (see the comparison in Albi , Vannes or Paris ). As for the walk: for a journey of 2 to 3 km, the walk is systematically faster than the public transport, and sometimes faster than the car according to the conditions of circulation and the accessibility of a parking space.
In the event that these alternatives are not feasible (because public transport does not reach your work area, for example), other solutions can be found: intermodality for example! Take your car to get to a subway station that reaches your job! Or take public transport to an urban bike rental area close to your job. Carpooling can also be arranged, which can be set up in enterprises by means of PDE (business travel plans), in order to reduce the impact of employee transport . But keep in mind that you are probably part of the 43% of French people who take their car while an alternative mode of transport equivalent in time exists for their daily commutes!
2. Choosing and maintaining your home (even renovating it)
The second most polluting resource for the French is… housing! Indeed, the energy and heat consumption in housing represents about 30% of the polluting emissions of a Frenchman. On these emissions, it is mainly heating (and electricity consumption) on environmental bill. They account for 84% of the polluting emissions of French homes, compared with only 16% for emissions related to the production of household equipment.
In other words, if one wants to reduce one’s environmental impact and especially that from housing, the first thing to do is to lead a more vigilant lifestyle. For example, you can slightly reduce the heating temperature of your accommodation (and put on a sweater!), take baths and long showers less often. The idea is also to reduce our needs by using suitable equipment: low-energy bulbs, thermostats to regulate the temperature per room, or water meters to measure and regulate its daily water consumption.
And most importantly, it can be very profitable (economically and ecologically speaking) to have one’s home renovated in order to reinforce the insulation. This may involve replacing windows, insulating the attic, or placing an insert instead of an open fireplace in your home. In this regard, consult ADEME’s comprehensive guide, which gives you all the tips to living in an environmentally friendly way (which installation to choose, how to renovate, how to get heat on a daily basis). Knowing that heating is 67% of household energy consumption, it is THE most important point to consider to reduce the environmental impact of housing.
But that’s not all: collective housing (townhouses, apartments) are also more environmentally friendly than the individual houses on average. The concentrated habitat makes it possible to pool the resources consumed (an inhabitant of a single house consumes 7% more energy than a resident of a apartment ). Having a single house and a large garden is not necessarily environmentally friendly, and it encourages urban sprawl. So bet on small dwellings, close to downtown and public transport (to avoid having to take the car every time you leave).
3. Reduce or change your meat and dairy consumption
The third culprit of greenhouse gas emissions for French is food. In France, about 22% of our CO2 emissions come from our food! Dairy products (48% of our food) and meat (30%) greatly increase our impact on the environment. To reduce our carbon footprint, it is therefore necessary to begin by reducing our consumption of dairy and meat products.
In France, we consume more than 85 kg of dairy products per year (3.1 kg of butter, 3.7 kg of cream, more than 28 kg of yogurt, 38 kg of milk or 12 kg of cheese). And from the environmental point of view these numbers are far from trivial! To produce 1 liter of milk, about 1 kg of CO2 is generally emitted (in France, but according to a US study, this figure can rise to more than 4 kg of CO2 per liter). Indeed, cows produce a lot of methane (a very powerful pollutant partly responsible for climate change), and their feed can be expensive in terms of pollution if they are not grazing. When we know that it takes about 22 liters of milk to make 1 kg of butter, we really see how big an impact our consumption has on the environment.
The French are already among the biggest consumers of dairy in the world (1st for butter and cheese) and data indicate that we consume too much. However, in recent years, some studies have suggested that over-consumption of dairy products may increase the risk of developing certain cancers due to excess calcium. On the other hand, the WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that the consumption of milk and dairy products does not decrease the risk of osteoporosis. From the nutritional and health point of view, it is therefore desirable to reduce our consumption of dairy products.
But dairy products are not alone responsible, as meat also has a significant impact on our planet: the breeding of meat breeds pollutes enormously. And since we consume more than 86 kg of meat per year per capita, we have a good margin to reduce this consumption. In environmental terms it is mainly the beef and lamb production that is a problem: they are undoubtedly among the most polluting foods, with around 11 kg of CO2 emitted per 1000 calories . On the other hand, pork, chicken or duck are just under 4 kg of CO2 per 1000 calories, such as fruits and vegetables (on average), while cereals and legumes are around 2. 8 kg of CO2 per 1000 calories on average. A study by Shrink That Footprint shows that a beef- and lamb- less diet is much more environmentally friendly than a diet rich in beef (practically equivalent to a vegetarian diet in terms of environmental impact).
It is quite possible to consume less meat (and less beef in particular), and it is even advised by several institutions of authority on the subject. For example, WHO estimates that over-consumption of red meat (and in particular processed meat) is likely to have a negative effect on the prevalence of cancers, particularly when the meat is cooked or cooked at high temperatures. So to be more eco-friendly and healthy, eat less beef, less lamb and less meat in general!
4. Go on vacation closer to home
When we talk about pollution and environmental impact, one thing is rarely mentioned: the rich systematically pollute more than the poor. Besides the fact that the rich generally consume more (which increases their carbon footprint), the problem is mainly their way of life and especially their leisure and travel habits. For example, a simple airplane trip abroad can greatly increase your carbon footprint. If you decide to go on vacation in Mexico, your flight will emit about 2.4 tons of CO2 equivalent (nearly one third of the average annual carbon footprint of a Frenchman).
So if your goal is to be more eco-friendly, choose to go on holiday closer to home, to destinations accessible by train, for example. Not only will you save money, but you will protect the planet. And do not forget that it is not Mexico City, nor Phuket or Sydney, that are at the top of the 10 places to visit in 2017 after Lonely Planet, but Bordeaux, which will be accessible in 2 hours thanks to the LGV from Paris. Of course, nothing prevents you from traveling by plane to discover the wonders of the other side of the world, but in this case, follow our 5 tips for a more eco-friendly holiday (and avoid transferring flights!).
Apart from travel, recreation also has a significant impact on the environment. So, if your hobby is the motocross you will pollute more than if you are a compulsive gardener. And if you’re hooked on surfing, be careful: surfers emit an average of 50% more than an average person.
5. Be an active member of your community
People living alone are polluting on average more than families and large households. The reason is simple: when there are many in a dwelling, the energy spent to heat or light the dwelling is shared between individuals. When you are alone, you pollute while the resources go only to yourself. Roommates and housemates are therefore a good idea.
But living in a community also includes learning to share and exchange. There is the classic example of the drill: almost all households have one, and more than 99% of the time it is stored in a closet without being used. It would be much more profitable and more environmentally friendly that neighbors buy only one drill all together and lend it when the time comes or rent from the owner. If the sharing economy and the collaborative economy were widespread among communities, thy would bring about enormous resource savings. And we can apply the same idea to carpooling and many other things!
With these 5 acts, you can drastically reduce your carbon footprint. Of course, other habits are important: reducing and sorting waste, recycling, etc. But in terms of efficiency, these 5 are the most effective and easy to achieve. For example, reducing even that 30% use of the car, a French will save 1 tonne of CO2 per year on average. To achieve the same result by reducing waste, it would be necessary, for example, to reduce its annual production of plastics waste by 300 kg (i.e. more than what a French producer produces in one year)! Another example: simply bypassing beef would allow you to save 600 kg of CO2 per year!
Well, you know everything. With these 5 gestures to be greener, you can now better choose how to better respect the planet on a daily basis.