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Carbon Chronicles

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Mission: Reduce my carbon emissions by 50% by 2021 Now: 10 tonnes Goal: 5 tonnes (better, but the ideal target is 2)

April 2020, I was due to start a new term. But, like most of the UK, I was confined to home and on a steep Zoom learning curve.

Working at home has had an undeniable effect on carbon emissions. One report claims carbon was down by a third in the UK during April. The fall isn’t all transport related, and more pertinent maybe, is that air pollution in Oxfordshire has been reported at a steady ‘low’. This seemed impossible a few months ago.

We’ve been forced to press pause and we’ve seen nature step in and do some overdue spring cleaning. The air and roads are cleaner. Normally road traffic contributes around a fifth of the UK’s greenhouse gases and I personally contribute about 1.6 tonnes a year of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and tiny particulates that float and stick and cause trouble.

Can we learn any lessons from this enforced hiatus and improve our quality of life?

Working from home It looks like we’re on track to miss our carbon targets in the 2020s and 30s. One reason is we thought more efficient cars would make a larger difference in reducing emissions. What if we weren’t driving?

Around 13% of workers sometimes or mainly work from home (Office for National Statistics 2019, or ONS 2019). What if this number doubled? Or tripled? It’s possible as 40% of workers could potentially work remotely.

Homeworking, if done well, could result in saving 3 million tonnes of carbon every year. To achieve this, we need to be efficient at home. If our houses are inefficient, then it may be better to commute to a more economical office.

So, what can we do?

• Buy energy for the office from a renewable provider.

• Only heat the office during cold months, or for a set number of hours a day.

• It’s better to prolong the life of a computer than scrap it for a newer, greener model. Desktop computers can be greener than laptops, as laptops are harder to upgrade and tend to be replaced more often.

• Get a couple of extra years out of a PC by switching to a more lightweight operating system.

Hopefully, if we can get something good out of this situation, it’s the opportunity to rewrite our lifestyles for the better.

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