How to cut your CO2 emissions

Thinking of downsizing automotively to reduce your carbon footprint? Let’s put that in perspective


OPTION 1: Instead of buying a new XR6 Turbo I’ll buy a 2.4-litre four-cylinder Camry.

OPTION 2: I’ll switch my home over from electric hot water to gas.

Analysis: According to the Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide data, in 20,000km of motoring the XR6 Turbo will emit 5840kg of CO2, while the Camry will produce less – 4660kg of CO2. Switching to the Camry (you’ll hate it, by the way) will reduce Greenhouse emissions by a significant 1180kg. However, according to the Federal Government’s Australian Greenhouse Office, an average home using electricity to produce hot water emits about four tonnes of CO2 annually. Using gas instead generates only about 1.5 tonnes of CO2.

Verdict: Buy the car of your dreams and convert the hot water to gas. You’ll still produce 1.3 tonnes less CO2 overall.



OPTION 1: I’ll do my bit for the planet and ditch my VZ SS Commodore in favour of a new Toyota Prius.

OPTION 2: I’ll convert my home over to electricity from an accredited renewable energy source.

Analysis: SS Commodores are right up there in CO2 emissions – to the tune of 6.66 tonnes in 20,000km of annual motoring. The Prius is nothing if not diminutive in this respect (and many others, such as size and performance). It pumps out just 2120kg of CO2 in the same distance – a saving of more than four tonnes of CO2. However, this saving does not take into account the six-odd tonnes of CO2 produced as a result of manufacturing the Prius, which basically negates the CO2 emissions benefit for the first 20-something months of ownership. Alternatively, if you switch to electricity from an accredited renewable energy source, the electricity you consume will be carbon-neutral. Most electricity retailers offer power from an accredited renewable source for a small impost. According to AGL, the cost to the average consumer, who uses 6500 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, will be around $360, or about seven dollars each week – two espressos’ worth. (A 5.5-cent GST-inc. premium is levied upon each kilowatt-hour consumed.) Net carbon saving: more than seven tonnes of CO2.

Verdict: A no brainer. Do your bit for the environment. Keep thrashing the VZ; convert the house to renewable electricity. Net benefit to the environment: 520kg CO2.



OPTION 1: I’ll cycle 28km per week (4km per day) instead of using the car.

OPTION 2: Ill replace all the incandescent light globes in the house with energy-efficient compact fluorescent globes.

Analysis: Cycling 28km per week instead of driving adds up to 1456km annually. If the car you’re leaving behind is a four-cylinder Camry, you’ll save around 340kg of CO2 emissions annually (source: based upon Green Vehicle Guide data). However, according to the Australian Greenhouse Office, the energy used for lighting in an average Australian home generates around 750kg of CO2. It adds switching to compact fluoros will cut greenhouse emissions by 75 per cent, as well as produce the same light output. Net CO2 saving: 560kg.

Verdict: You can change the globes over without raising a sweat. Hell, if you’re in a ‘can-do’ frame of mind (not to mention physical state), do both. You’ll save almost a tonne of CO2, about the same as switching from an XR6 Turbo to a four-cylinder Camry.

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