Everything we do and buy has a footprint. We need to understand the size of each contribution to know where to focus our energy.

There are a few big things that will make huge impacts to our footprints that require about the same amount of energy as some of the smaller changes, so if you can’t do it all – consider prioritising.

Here is Ireland’s emissions breakdown from 2017

You can see what makes up the biggest pieces, and therefore as the biggest potential to change. If we want to make a big impact it would probably make sense to focus more on transport rather than public services, or energy industries rather than waste.

When you look at individual footprint data from the UK it looks more like this

You can see that food and drink, household energy, transport, and services are the biggest pieces there.

What you eat and drink usually makes up the majority of what you buy. Choosing what you eat and drink carefully can make a huge difference to your footprint because not all food is equal.

Different foods have a wide range of carbon footprints

Green your electricity

Energy use is another big chunk, and luckily it is an easy one to change in one step – find a greener energy provider. Look for one that uses sustainable electricity production like solar, hydro, or wind generation.

Look for more sustainable transport

Transport is also not all equal. If you currently drive a fossil fuel powered car, consider other options. Perhaps you could avoid trips by working from home or doing bigger shops less frequently. You could even consider switching to a hybrid or electric vehicle. If it is available to you – use public transport when you can, or walk or cycle shorter distances.

Flying is almost always the worst option in terms of emissions, followed by a fossil fuel car with just one person in it. A single return flight from London to New York – including the complicated effects on the high atmosphere – contributes to almost a quarter of the average person’s annual emissions

Change your service providers

Consider the services you use. One of the big ones will be your bank. Do they invest in green energy initiatives? Or fossil fuel companies? Are their databases running on sustainable electricity? Ask them these questions and change to a more sustainable provider if you can.

And most importantly – remember that we are working within a system that is not designed for sustainability. We can still all do our best, and share our successes with others, but it might be tricky sometimes. That is when we need to start asking politicians and big business owners to do batter and make it easier to live sustainably.

Until a zero-emission life is possible, we can keep doing our best, and offsetting what we can’t reduce.