All I want for Christmas is a carbon calculator

By Safia Minney


Recently I’ve been asking my friends about the most reliable carbon calculator. I wanted to do a ‘carbon confessional’ – spend seven minutes answering questions about my carbon footprint so I can benchmark my current lifestyle and understand how to cut carbon and readjust my life. But I also wanted to know that I was in trusted hands and that the figures were truly up to date. I was recommended

reducing my carbon emissions

The average carbon footprint per person in the UK is seven tonnes per year. Having refused a couple of work assignments overseas this year because they involved flying, I hoped that I had reduced my carbon footprint.

However, during the survey I learn about other priorities too, like insulating my home, switching to renewable energy; getting a good seasonal, veggie/vegan cookbook to start planning meals with less imported foods (I rarely eat out) and some good organic herbs and spices to turn my Riverford organic veg leftovers into great soups.

As for ‘stuff’ I don’t buy much, but realise I need a wardrobe ‘detox’ and a home declutter so I can find things (this will stop me buying stuff I already own but have forgotten about). Those items I am sure I no longer want I can recycle on gumtree, etc. and find good homes for them.

At the end of the survey I’m reminded that the target ‘sustainable’ figure of 1.5 tonnes per year is ‘uncertain’. Scientists believe this is the amount the world’s oceans may be able to absorb but fossil fuels are finite, so a zero carbon emission level is the only truly ‘sustainable’ target for the very long term.’

courageous conversations at christmas

This is going to be a big adjustment for all of us. It isn’t easy when the advertising industry around us shout “business as usual” and the people around you act as though there is no climate and ecological emergency.

Of course individual action must combine with putting pressure on governments (and the media) to tell the truth about the climate crisis and create the urgent system change we need. Ideally, what would follow would be regulation and infrastructural support for individuals and communities to go zero carbon. I am hopeful about the economic impact a Global New Green Deal would bring about. 

But right now I’m just hoping that the extraordinary Extinction Rebellion protests and the School Strikes will mean that this year, when the different generations come together for Christmas, they will be having courageous conversations about the climate and biodiversity crisis.

After all, what is the point of us as parents or grandparents conjecturing what the kids will be doing 10 years from now if we are not also acting to protect their futures?  Instead of discussing what to buy in the January sales, talk about and do the things that really matter – enjoying good relationships, connecting with nature and finding the courage to face up to the change that is coming.

Where better to start than comparing the results of your ‘carbon confessional’?