Whats your carbon footprint? Lots of ways to look this up online various websites have different levels of detail so take different lengths of time and their estimates will be more or less accurate but it can be an interesting and thought-provoking way to procrastinate for just a few minutes of your day! The carbon trust and carbonfootprint.com are probably some of the best. One project you could think about is to develop a better student-specific carbon calculator tool, and if you are interested in this CUECS would be able to help out and would be keen for you to get in touch.
What exactly is a carbon footprint anyway?
It is a measure of the impact your
activities have on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced through the burning of fossil fuels and is expressed as a weight of CO2 emissions produced in tonnes, and more sophisticated footprints can include other greenhouse gases expressed as their equivalent amount of CO2 (CO2eq).
Global experts call for a target limit of approximately 1-2 tonnes per person per year to stabilize emissions. Currently, the global average is 4 tonnes per person, with enormous variation between countries, as well as between individuals within countries.
Approximate national average carbon footprint for the United States of America is 20, United Kingdom 9, China 3, and India 1.2. Individual activities are estimated to contribute around 45% of your footprint. The rest is your allocation of system-generated emissions for services provided on your behalf (healthcare, education, defence).
Sources: WHO document Protecting health from Climate Change annex 1, 2008 www.who.int/phe European Commission - Take Control website-http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/cam-paign/control/takecontrol_en.htm accessed January 20 2008.
Reducing your personal environmental impact some things anyone can do: Some things like recycling are fairly obvious and not too difficult, whilst others take a bit more thought but can make a huge difference
walking and cycling (the active transport idea) do make a significant difference - as well as being great for health. Easy in Cambridge!
Buy less unnecessary stuff - try to go for second-hand, fairtrade or ethically produced options wherever possible, and things that last.
Treat friends to experiences for gifts, rather than presents thatll gather dust in a cupboard somewhere
Eat less meat, esp. red meat, and dairy you dont necessarily have to go fully veggie but even small changes like Meat-free Mondays, or going for chicken over beef for example can massively reduce your carbon footprint.
Switch to a renewable electricity tariff (or try to get your parents to) often doesnt actually cost any extra.
Get better home insulation, keep the temperature a bit lower, esp. when going out/in little-used rooms (woolly jumpers anyone?) and dont have the windows open when its cold outside.
Talk to your college about options for composting green waste this varies by college but you can get a green bin from the local council offices and could try to find a way to compost if there isnt one currently in place.
Food buy organic if you can, local and seasonal, try to reduce how much pre-processed, highly packaged food you buy since much more energy and transport is involved in making them and most of the packing still ends up in landfill.
Use streetcar, liftshare, buses coaches and trains more instead of keeping your own car that you use all the time.
Go for lower-impact activities and days out when you can
The Hubs Ethical Guide to Cambridge has loads more information on sustainable living in Cambridge withsome of the best places to shop, as well as info on green & ethical societies
Source: 'Carbon addict' website
Green Holiday ideas
Fly less, live more: staying closer to home may seem less exciting than jetting off to New Zealand but if you are anything like a typical Cambridge student, flying is likely to be a major contributor to your personal carbon footprint. You can discover some unexpected places nearer where you live if you take the time to and save money, plus waste less time getting
there. If you have to fly, try to choose a good offsetting project there is some good information at org. Conservation volunteering holidays these dont need to cost extortionate amounts through a huge gap year company. You can also have a look at the Careers Services resources on volunteering and ethical careers. The Hubs ethical internship system may also be of interest for next summer!
Carpooling save money and carbon when travelling, plus meet interesting new people! Some great websites to check out include:
o Liftshare.co.uk o Covoiturage.fr o Mitfahrgelegenheit.de
(Obviously consider safety aspects thoroughly, check out reviews by previous lift-sharers on the website, and this is probably a better idea when travelling in a pair.)
WWOOFing (www.wwoof.org) - international organization with
groups in almost every country: pay a small joining fee, get in touch with the ones your interested and then work on an organic farm in return for your food and accommodation. Also a great way to practise other languages and meet new people! But again, plan well and bear safety issues in mind.
Existing projects to get involved in
FoodCycle Love Food Hate Waste? Food cycle is a brilliant charity with a new and dynamic1-year-old Cambridge group keen to get more people involved. They have been cooking up nutritious and incredibly tasty 3-course meals every Saturday for disadvantaged members of the community from food that is perfectly good but would otherwise have had to be thrown away. Get involved in cooking/serving up/clearing away whenever you find time (regular commitment not required) and if youre particularly keen, talk to them about helping to organise events, fundraising, publicity and which committee positions are available.
CUECS This is the Cambridge University Environmental Consulting Society, and they run a number of projects you could get involved in, such as their Student Carbon Calculator, Climate Friendly Homes and the Green League Table Project, with training and support provided. A brilliant opportunity to gain experience of making real change within the University and local homes.
College green action teams Contact your college green/environmental and ethical affairs rep to find out what you could do to help within your college. At the university level, CUSU environmental and ethical affairs are responsible for this area. They have lots of information, resources and campaigning experience, and are hoping to recruit green teams for a number of departments soon (see next page!)
Zero Carbon Society For those interested in the policy and campaigning aspects of environmental policy and climate change or who wonder what a lower carbon Cambridge/ UK/world would look like. They also organise a series of green careers talks. So go along to find out whether a less obvious way to work on environmental issues could be for you They are setting up an online
platform of events, contacts and research internship and opportunities if you are looking for ways to get involved in higher-level policy work.
New projects: Start something! Want to put your skills to good use and gain new ones (not to mention great stuff for interviews/your CV) We can provide ideas, contacts, resources and training get in touch if theres anything youve been thinking of starting. Some ideas to set you thinking Project Genie Help teach climate change and sustainability in a local primary school. This project has been run in a number of schools already with enormous success in motivating children to reduce their schools energy usage (between 40 and 65% reductions and enormous money and carbon savings as a result!) but has not been done in the Cambridge area Grow things!
This could be food, herbs, trees or anything else you fancy, and could be in Cambridge, at home or during your holidays. There are a series of allotment schemes taking off in Cambridge your college may even have one of its own, and if it doesnt you could try to
persuade them to start one. It has been said that you havent really made you mark until youve planted and looked after a tree (someone famous may have said that). But more to the point its different from the rest of Cambridge life, can save you money on food, fun, real, and you can easily do it whilst spending time with friends. Whats not to like? A good example is Roots and Shoots: an allotment scheme near Tesco which is very keen to have more student volunteers. This could be either on a fairly relaxed basis they work every Tuesday and Thursday from 10-3, provide tea, coffee, snacks and lunch and are always happy to have extra help or you could volunteer with them on a longer-term basis Become a Department Environment Rep for your subject And influence departmental sustainability policy as well as the inclusion of environmental content and sustainability in their teaching. There is already an allocated staff member for each subject who we can put you in touch with and you can meet with them and work out what are the obstacles to change and how they could be addressed, then try to get fellow students on board and bring about change. The environment affects and will affect us all, and in the same way there are few subjects/departments it isnt at all relevant to!
Some useful contacts for any environment-related questions you might have
Cambridge Hubs environment coordinator & contact for the 2012 Climate & Sustainability Foru