Everything we do creates a carbon footprint. We rarely think about this when making decisions about what products to buy and actions to take, which leads us to having larger than necessary carbon footprints. However, small changes to our behaviour can reduce our carbon footprint without affecting our day-to-day lives. Below we present five everyday tasks which have an unnecessarily high impact on climate change and some of their less environmentally costly alternatives.​

Geek note: we should tell you that CO2e means ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’. This is how carbon footprints are measured. CO2e refers to the carbon dioxide equivalent of the total impact of the different greenhouse gases produced from an activity or product.

Washing the dishes

So, what are the stats?

Almost 0 CO2e: By hand, in cold water
540g CO2e: By hand, using water that isn't too hot sparingly
770g CO2e: Using a dishwasher at 55*C 
990g CO2e: Using a dishwasher at 65*C
8000g CO2e: By hand, extravagant use of water

If cold water could effectively clean dishes, we’d be able to be almost carbon neutral with this activity. At a glance, hand-washing dishes in warm water would seem the most ecological option for clean dishes, however, few people use water sparingly and many will do multiple hand washes in a day. This would therefore make using a dishwasher more ecological, as one cycle at night would actually work out as more ecological than two hand washes – or one hand wash with extravagant water.

Making a hot tea/coffee

So, what are the stats?

21g CO2e: Making a black tea or coffee, boiling only the water you need
53g CO2e: Making a white tea or coffee, boiling only the water you need 
71g CO2e: Making a white tea or coffee, boiling double the water you need 
235g CO2e: Making a large cappuccino
340g CO2e: Making a large latte

You wouldn’t consider something as simple as making a hot drink to have a large impact, but the above figures mean that if someone was to have four black teas or coffee per day, boiling only the water they need, this would result in a contribution of 30kg CO2e per year. This is the equivalent of a 40-mile car journey. Even worse, having three lattes per day for a year produces almost 20 times more CO2e, which would be the equivalent of flying halfway to Europe!

Having a shower

So, what are the stats?

90g CO2e: 3 minutes long with an efficient gas boiler and aerated showerhead
500g CO2e: 6 minutes long with a typical electric shower 
1.7kg CO2e: 15 minutes long with an 11-kilowatt electric power shower

The most shocking thing about these figures is how easy it is to make a large CO2e contribution to the environment just by having a shower. Just bear these figures in mind when you have your morning shower – do you really need 15 minutes?

Having a bath

So, what are the stats?

0 CO2e: With water heated by solar energy
500g CO2e: Modestly filled bathtub with an efficient gas boiler
1.1kg CO2e: Generously filled bathtub with an efficient gas boiler
2.6kg CO2e: Generously filled bathtub with electric water heating

Like with a shower, the carbon footprint of simply having a bath can jump dependent on the circumstances. So, if you’re wondering whether you can be more ecologically friendly with a shower or a bath, it really depends on how your water is heated and how long you intend to spend cleaning yourself. If you like to take your time, we’d recommend taking a bath to avoid increasing your CO2e contribution by the minute.

Using your mobile phone

So, what are the stats?

47 kg CO2e: A year’s usage of under 2 minutes per day 
1250kg CO2e: A year’s usage of 1 hour per day
125 million tonnes CO2e: Global usage per year

You wouldn’t think spending an hour scrolling through Facebook as being environmentally damaging, but this actually leads to a large contribution of greenhouse gases because of the energy required to power this. Unfortunately, the world today is dependent on mobile phones for communication, but you can ease their impact by deleting any non-essential apps to stop you from mindlessly scrolling through your phone and increasing your carbon footprint.

Although these five carbon footprints have a place in our everyday lives, they can be reduced relatively easily. So, initiate the switch and you will reduce your own personal impact on the environment.