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Tips to reduce carbon emissions for individuals

EmissionsAware™ Individuals and families

Each of us needs to do whatever we can to make a difference. There are numerous ways we can reduce our carbon emissions. It's really about being emissions aware and resource smart in everything we do.

Even simple recycling reduces the carbon emissions from producing, collecting and disposing of the waste.

Of course, because electricity makes up such a large part of household energy demands, changing a percentage of your electricity to green energy will reduce the carbon emissions produced from carbon-intense power sources.

The increased costs of green energy may be balanced by the reduced energy demands from following these tips. CSIRO, The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, found that being emissions aware it is possible to reduce your energy demands (and therefore your carbon output) by up to 50%.

Before we look at the tips consider these estimates of average household energy use provided by Energy Australia:

Energy Usage Gauge Percent Usage
Hot Water 37%
Heating and Cooling 1 22%
Lifestyle appliances (TV, Stereo, etc) 10%
Lights 9%
Kitchen Appliances 9%
Fridge 7%
Laundry 3%
Miscellaneous 2 3%
  1. In some cases heating and cooling can be up to 40% of your energy use.
  2. Standby power can account for up to 10% of energy use.

Reduce your energy use


  • Switch off light when it is not needed
  • Change your lights to energy-saving bulbs. Energy-saving bulbs use as little as one-fifth of the energy of a standard bulb and last up to eight times longer. IRC halogen bulbs save up to 30% of energy usage and last up to twice as long as incandescent bulbs


  • Turn off electric appliances at the wall when not use (including the unused second fridge, television, video player)
  • Turn off TV at the wall
  • Avoid gimmicks like plug-in air fresheners - think of a non-energy-consuming alternative like pot pourri

Heating and Cooling

  • Don’t heat the home if no one is there
  • Wear a jumper in winter so you can turn down the heating
  • Turn off radiators in unused rooms
  • Close the doors to keep the heating/cooling in occupied rooms
  • Seal draughts under doors and around windows
  • Insulate the house for more effective heating/cooling (up to 45 per cent of your home’s heating/cooling can be lost without proper insulation)
  • Install insulating window blinds that keep the heat out, or in

Hot Water

  • Take shorter showers
  • Use a water-efficient shower head
  • Do you clothes washing in cold water
  • Consider hanging the clothes outside instead of using a clothes dryer. A dryer can consume 15 times more energy than a cold water clothes-wash
  • When replacing an appliance ensure it has a good energy efficiency rating
  • A solar water-heating system can provide you with up to ¾ of your annual hot water

In the kitchen

  • Enjoy your hot beverage, but only boil the water you need
  • Put a lid on pots when boiling water, it boils much faster
  • Hopefully your fridge is no bigger than you need. A full fridge needs less energy to cool down after the door is opened because the contents remain cold longer than the air space does
  • Take food out of the freezer a day before you need it and let it defrost in the fridge
  • If you use a dish-washer, wait till it is full before running it

When travelling

  • Take public transport instead of driving
  • Walk, jog, bike short trips instead of taking the car
  • Drive moderately; accelerating and braking increases the carbon emissions of the journey

Change your habits:

  • Say no to plastic bags
  • Consider buying second-hand (appliances, furniture, etc)
  • buy quality that will last
  • buy refills, it can be cheaper and reduces packaging
  • buy in bulk, it reduces packaging and can save money and time
  • Say no to junk mail
  • recycle (use the correct recycle bins and follow the instructions)
  • squash bottles, boxes and cans before recycling so it takes less room
  • choose product made of recycled materials (it sends a strong message to manufactures and retailers to implement sustainability policies and good practice)

Recycle and make a difference:

If all households in New South Wales, Australia (about 2.8 million households) recycled 4.6 kg of waste per week over a year the benefits would amount to:

  • avoiding 229,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent emissions of about 55,000 cars for a year
  • a saving of around 2,000 Giga-Watt hours (7.2 million MJ | 68,400 therms) of energy – a enough to cover the electricity consumption of 334,000 households for a year
  • save up to 6,600 mega litres (1,700 mega gallons) of water each year – the equivalent of filling 2,645 Olympic swimming pools
source: Benefits of recycling, Department of Environment and Climate Change, May 2005

For more information we recommend the CSIRO review of the CSIRO Home Energy Savings Book. The small steps giant leaps chart may help you reduce your carbon emissions and save you money

What to recycle

Recycling reduces the carbon emissions from producing, collecting and disposing of the waste. You can recycle almost everything. It is up to you make the effort of finding how and where to recycle when you are unsure. Recycling can help stop damaging climate change. If you live in Australia you can find where and how to recycle almost everything in your local community at

Example of what you can recycle:

  • empty bottles
  • clean jar
  • recycle can
  • Acknowledge the coded recycle bins and use them accordingly. Inappropriate mixes can cause more damage than good
  • Aerosol cans can be placed in the color coded bins provided you dispose of the lid and any easily removable part in the rubbish
  • Batteries: check to find the location of your closest recycling centre. (In Australia, Officeworks usually has these bins)
  • Clothes: donate your old clothes to charity shops
  • Cooking oil: pour in a used milk carton or jar and out in the rubbish (do not pour oil down the drain as it can cause problems when it solidifies)
  • Printer cartridges
  • Mobile Phones can be recycled at most mobile phone outlets
  • WEEE: Waste electronic and electrical equipment

How to compost

Composting is an easy way of reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfill. When living in a building, quite often a compost bin is provided so make sure you use it for your kitchen waste.

Do compost Don’t compost
Vegetable plants Sick plants
Grass cuttings Meat
Cardboard Cooked food
Tea bags Young annual weeds
Crushed egg shells Glass or metal
Older vegetable plants Weeds that are making seed

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