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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June, 2005, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
How do you live a carbon-neutral lifestyle?
By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine

Power stations in Scotland
CO2 is blamed for global warming
The G8 summit promises to be a "carbon-neutral" event, but thousands of people in the UK are already taking steps to cut their personal carbon dioxide emissions.

A summit to discuss global problems often falls prey to headlines of waste, gluttony and gas-guzzling.

Not this time, the government hopes.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett has announced the G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, and the rest of the UK's presidency, will compensate for its emission of the greenhouse gases blamed by many scientists for global warming.

The total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with the G8 presidency is equivalent to the electricity and gas used in 800 average homes over a year.

A return flight from Edinburgh to Southampton produces 0.12 tonnes of CO2, offset by 5
Driving 10,000 miles in a year in a typical petrol-driven car produces 3.5 tonnes of CO2 for the year, offset by 22.72
Loft insulation can save half a tonne of output
One less weekly journey by car can reduce total carbon output by 5%
Source: Climate Care

So the government has promised to invest 50,000 in projects with strong sustainable development benefits in Africa, and use clean fuel cars and video conferencing where possible.

The Kuyasa urban housing upgrade in Cape Town, which involves installing solar water heaters, ceiling insulation and compact fluorescent light bulbs, is an example of the kind of project which could benefit.

Many people in the UK are already taking steps to cut their carbon debt, aided by groups such as Future Forests or Climate Care, which have websites for people to calculate their personal CO2 output, and the means to offset it.

Flying is one of the highest carbon costs - a return flight from London to Los Angeles "costs" 2.45 tonnes of carbon, according to Climate Care, which says this can be offset by an investment of 15.93.

Lift sharing

Bands such as Coldplay, Pink Floyd and Atomic Kitten have produced carbon-neutral albums by planting enough trees to offset the CO2 generated by making the CDs.

And a growing section of the public are doing their bit, such as the Shopley family in Cambridgeshire, who have a carbon-neutral lifestyle.

The majority of the population who aren't extremely wealthy or deeply green have an opportunity
Jonathan Shopley
Future Forests
On the outside theirs seems to be a typical Western existence. They have a semi-detached house and undertake about two international flights a year, mostly to their native South Africa, own a car and have the school run and the shopping to do.

"What we've done is switch to renewable energy sources, through a company called Good Energy," says Jonathan Shopley, chief executive at Future Forests. "This has reduced our CO2 output by 20%, compared to fossil fuel-driven energy.

"We also keep the thermostat down and use energy efficient light bulbs, so my two children aged seven and 10 fully understand and get the message.

"Then we do a variety of things in the local community, such as lift sharing in the school run."

Radio Taxis
Some taxi firms offset by investing in renewable energy
These steps are what Mr Shopley calls the "low hanging fruit", action most families can take.

His remaining CO2 family "footprint" can be compensated by a 200 annual investment in sustainable projects.

But he plans to reduce this further by loft insulation and maybe solar panels on the roof. The shock of realising how much carbon dioxide the family uses means a purchase like a new kettle is made with energy efficiency in mind, he says.


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