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Reducing your carbon footprint

Befriending the environment.

Written by Tricia Purcell | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life

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We’ve all heard the good aul, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra over the years and the importance of reducing your carbon footprint to curb global warming. And while many households in Ireland are doing their bit, it’s easy to leave the responsibility to our parents or whoever is paying the bills – but the thing to remember is that that will be you soon enough if it’s not already.

I know I’m guilty of often getting fed up with sorting my paper from my plastic and thinking: “Sure I’m only one person, what difference can I make?” but if everyone thought like that, we’d get nowhere so I am here with a few tips that are easy to incorporate into your life to reduce your carbon footprint and protect the environment.

Well, first of all you might actually be wondering what it is?! Our carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of CO2 emissions each of us causes in our daily lives through our travel, energy use and lifestyle. These CO2 emissions in turn affect climate change and I’m sure you’re aware of this considering Ireland hasn’t had a summer in about the last 10 years!

The basics:


  • Paper can decompose in less than five months and is one of the more common things to recycle. But you have to be aware that if the paper is put in a plastic bag, it won’t decompose for about 20 years and if the paper is greasy/oily/wet it’s not recyclable at all.
  • Plastic takes up to 400 years to decompose so it’s extremely important that this substance gets recycled.
  • Glass never wears out so it can always be recycled- a glass bottle can take up to one million years to decompose in a landfill so never put this in your regular rubbish bin.
  • Aluminium has the best turnover in terms of recyclability as it can return to its shiny fullness on a shop shelve around 90 days after it reaches the recycling plant. It takes 500 years for aluminium to decompose and by recycling one aluminium can, you can save enough energy to run a TV for two hours or a computer for three.
  • Fabric can always be recycled and an easy way to do this is by giving your old clothes to a charity shop or clothes bank.
  • Electronic waste is an increasing issue as often people don’t realise that they can recycle their old mobile phones or laptops. A lot of companies actually offer discounts to people who bring in their old TVs and computers when they’re buying new ones so check out where places that trade in old electrical stuff before you dump them in the trash. And electrical products which get dumped in landfills or incinerators can release certain toxins into the air.

Did you know 20-50 million tonnes of e-waste are disposed worldwide every year!

Some practical stuff you can do that saves energy:

  • Turning off the lights, turning off your TV and computers when they’re not in use and not leaving them on standby
  • Unplug your chargers
  • Only fill the kettle to the amount of water you need for your cup or pot of tea or whatever…
  • Make sure you close your fridge doors and defrost your freezer regularly so it closes properly
  • Bring a reusable shopping bag to the shops with you and save yourself the 22c for the plastic bags
  • Walk where you can or cycle and take public transport where possible as it will reduce your CO2 emissions and save money on fuel
  • Swap your light bulbs for energy efficient ones
  • Ireland has great drying weather (when it’s not raining) so avoid the tumble dryer when you can
  • Only use your dish washer/washing machines when you’ve got a full load
  • Becoming politically active can be another way to get involved in creating sustainable change around environmentla policies in Ireland

Can you think of any other energy saving tips? Add them to the comments below!

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Published July 4th, 2013
Last updated February 23rd, 2018
Tags environment eco friendly recycle
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