When I embarked on my Climate Journey my focus was on reducing my carbon footprint with the expectation that I could make year on year improvements. On a path from 18 tons CO2 per year to a net zero target of 1.8 tons CO2 per year I have already made a lot of progress – a footprint of 3.2 (compared to UK average of ~13 and Global average of ~4.4 tons CO2 per year) is very commendable. However, making further reductions has proved to be an elusive challenge – my carbon footprint (calculated using Carbon Independent calculator) appeared to be pretty much unchanged from last year – why?
Because a carbon footprint is too simplistic, it focusses only on the things you can easily measure. A fact that I explore in some depth in the Shadows and Beacons concept. Up to now I have been able to reduce the measurable aspects such as home energy but this was countered by an increase in travel (all be it using electric car and train) so overall this year my progress was minimal – I have gone as far as I can within the limits of our current energy system.
Until the carbon intensity of the UK grid reduces further I can have little more impact on these aspects (the average carbon intensity of UK electricity is the amount of CO2 produced per kWh of energy; in the past two years this has actually increased!). The further decarbonisation of our grid will depend on government policy and market forces. Choosing a green energy supplier goes some way to influencing this; lobbying MPs and local government officials for urgent change is also important and this is something I do as often as I can.
In the meantime I can turn my focus from footprints to shadows. If I do that I can see that I have made progress and achieved much of what I set out to do in 2022 (and more) – its just not possible to put into numbers. The Global footprint calculator suggested that, because I had purchased a new laptop and some clothes, my Global footprint had gone up to 1.4 earths. Again this is a little misleading as the calculator does not capture the quality or durability of those items. I was careful to choose items which will last and I plan to keep them for many years so the impact will be spread over multiple years not just this one.
Paying more attention to the sources of the things we buy is an important part of reducing our Climate Shadow. This applies particularly to food as nearly a quarter of global emissions relate to this. I have continued my efforts to source organic, seasonal and where possible local food. We have grown more of our own food from organic seed (sourced from the brilliant Vital seeds and Real Seeds). We have used more of our own compost and saved more of our own seed to use in subsequent years. We have also extended our food focus beyond vegetables to other staples, sourcing as much as possible from bulk suppliers of organic produce and buying less from the local supermarket.
The link between the Climate and the Ecological Emergency is becoming more and more apparent. The health of our ecosystems and their resilience is driven by biodiversity. This diversity comes in all sizes from larger mammals to insects, plant and microbes. In our modest garden patch we have been working hard to allow a wilder habitat to develop; to grow native flowers, nurture insects and birds. We have also paid much more attention to our soil. When I tested the soil in our beds earlier in the year I was shocked by how poor they were. Not just in terms of mineral nutrients but also by how little organic matter they contained and the small amount of soil life (nematodes, protazoa, fungi, microbes etc.) that they supported. So we have embarked on a plan to regenerate our soil using the No Dig approach and tried to use rainwater for irrigation where possible as the use of chlorinated hard tap water is far from ideal for maintaining soil health. Not all things go to plan, however, and the drought conditions we experienced highlighted the fact that our rainwater capture and storage is not sufficient. This has prompted me to look again at our water use in general and this will be an area of focus for next year.
Improving the way in which we produce or our own food at home goes some way towards reducing our Climate Shadow but we have less control over the impact the food grown elsewhere. We often think that we are at the mercy of the wider food system. But even here we are not powerless, our purchasing habits can make a big difference. As we move into the coming year I will be sharing more on this as part of my exploration of Regenerative Concepts – keeping my Climate Beacon burning brightly. I hope you will join me for the next steps on my Regenerative Journey…