Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Thursday, 12 June 2008 16:29 UK

How do I become carbon neutral?

By Jo Perry
Central reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Richard Lochhead with Rachel Nunn at the Kings Knot in Stirling
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead with Rachel Nunn

The term "carbon neutral" is one we are hearing with increasing regularity.

Now a group of enthusiasts is aiming to show people how they can achieve it in practical terms.

It is all part of a drive to turn Stirling into the country's first carbon neutral city.

Going Carbon Neutral Stirling has been given 1.25m from the Big Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government towards achieving its aim of radically reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The group has also issued advice on what it means to be carbon neutral and what you have to do to get there.

The latest figures from the UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory calculates that the average person in Scotland emits about 12 tonnes of carbon a year.

Environmentalists believe that figure needs to be reduced to about one tonne a year in order to prevent further damage to the planet.

Becoming carbon neutral involves reducing your own emissions through behaviour and infrastructure changes, then offsetting the remainder.

In real terms this means doing things like only filling up the kettle with as much water as you need to make a cup of tea and leaving the car at home whenever you can.

Rachel Nunn
There is no one big option that'll save us. It's about lots and lots of people making lots and lots of changes in their lives
Rachel Nunn

Almost everything we do in modern society has a carbon footprint attached.

GCNS wants people across Scotland to start thinking about ways to cut their own footprint.

They are targeting more than 500 groups across the Forth Valley to suggest a range of activities which, when combined, will help reduce emissions by about 9% a year.

Speaking at the launch, Rachel Nun said: "It is real kudos to the people here today that they have actually stood up and said, 'yes, we need to do something and yes, this is important'.

"I speak to lots of communities across Britain and everybody is waiting for this to start because it's going to demonstrate whether people will buy into it and show what they can get out of it.

"The initiative will start to define all the options that we have available to us.

"There is no one big option that'll save us. It's about lots and lots of people making lots and lots of changes in their lives.

"And although they might be quite small changes, it's the cumulative effect. There is not another way of doing this.

"Before I put my bid into the Big Lottery I interviewed over 100 people from different key agencies and communities and I only had one business say 'no, we're not interested'.

One tonne of carbon is used commuting
2.5 tonnes are used on heating
1.2 tonnes on hygiene
1.5 tonnes on food
Two tonnes on leisure and recreation
1.5 tonnes on electricity
0.8 tonnes flying
0.5 tonnes on education

"Everybody else knows that we need this. Even when I visited people's homes they wanted to take part. About 96% of the people I visited wanted to take part. People are ready for this, they want it."

The scheme has won the backing of the Scottish Government, which has pledged 750,000 over the next four years.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead, who launched the 18m Climate Challenge Fund this month, said there was an appetite among local communities to act.

He said: "I'm inspired by what's happening here in Stirling. By individuals at grassroots level who are coming up with the ideas to reduce Stirling's carbon footprint.

"It's an example to us all and I'm very keen for Carbon Neutral Stirling to be an exemplar for the rest of Scotland.

"I am already aware of many local community groups who are lining up now for a share of our climate challenge fund because people want to play their role in reducing carbon emissions."

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