Can one person make a difference?

November 3, 2023


Worldwide, the average person produces about four tons of carbon dioxide each year. This is the equivalent to 288 trips between Amsterdam and Paris via the Thalys railway! Or 45 low energy light bulbs. However in the UK and other larger economies the average is around 13 tonnes. 144 light bulbs. Therefore, it is critical for each of us to understand our individual carbon footprint and how we can implement small changes in our own lives to make a wider difference. 

Researchers are confident that the emissions of fossil fuels from human activity are mostly to blame for the extraordinary heatwaves currently being experienced in Europe, the US and China. Making it clear that taking climate action is a must for the entire human population.

Climate change can often feel an overwhelming topic and it is a common misconception that one person’s actions cannot make a difference. However, if collectively the human population makes some better-informed decisions on our individual behaviours, we can reduce our impact on the environment.

How big is your carbon footprint?

A good place to start in understanding our individual carbon footprint can be using an online calculator. There are a wide range available online. One of the best is the ‘WWF Footprint Calculator’ which analyses our annual footprint from a short questionnaire focusing on different elements of individuals lifestyles.

Alternatively, there are more focused calculators such as the BBC’s 'Follow the Food’ tool which looks at your favourite food and drink’s CO2 impact and reveals what they could be substituted for to reduce the effect.

How can we individually make a difference?


In the UK, gas is significantly the most common method of heating, with almost 80% of the population using it to heat their homes. Energy generated by the burning of fossil fuels contributes heavily to the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the earth’s atmosphere. Therefore one way we could reduce our carbon footprint is re-evaluating how we consume energy in our own lives.

There are some fairly quick and simple actions we can take while others are more of an investment of time and money. USwitch outline 104 insightful energy saving tips that we can all consider to implement in our own homes. The site helpfully breaks this down into separate rooms within the house.

Food Consumption

Agriculture is one of the biggest sources of CO2 emissions, directly responsible for up to 8.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Particularly, food items such as meat and dairy products that require a lot of land, water, and energy to produce. Additionally, food shipped overseas has been evidenced to equate to about 3.0 gigatonnes of CO2, indicating that transport accounts for 19% of food system emissions.  

By eating fewer animal products and shopping for locally sourced food, you can make a big difference in reducing your personal environmental impact. While it is understandable most meat eaters will not want to halt their consumption totally, perhaps opting for meat free days would be a more realistic objective to consider.  

With the world population projected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, we will need to produce more food than ever before, therefore considering how we can do this sustainably is crucial.


While traveling by car is arguably the most convenient way of getting around, it is the most harmful to our planet. Contributing 180g of CO2 every kilometre. Further, transport produced 24% of the UK’s total emissions in 2020 and is the largest emitting sector in the UK. The majority of this (91%) is from road vehicles.  

Source: GOV.UK

A good way to reduce our impact in this area is by utilising public transport wherever possible as the indicative GHG emissions are significantly lower.


If altering your lifestyle to make more carbon friendly choices is challenging, another way to contribute to the reduction of global CO2 usage is by carbon offsetting, through contributing to a project that works to conserve the environment and promote energy efficiency.

When selecting a scheme, it is important that you check the credentials of projects to ensure they are certified by goldstandard.org. This is an independent, transparent internationally recognised standard for ‘high-quality’ carbon offset schemes.

A list of approved initiatives are listed here.

Final Note

While we understand minimising our environmental impact can be daunting, there are things all of us can implement into our own lives that can protect our planet, and contribute to the global response to prevent the projected global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees by the century’s end.

For even more information on climate solutions, Project Drawdown present an extensive list of solutions that can be considered at a larger scale.