Guide to going carbon neutral

There are steps you can take to reduce your environmental footprint.
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  • Updated:3 Nov 2007

03.Indirect carbon emissions

Household energy use isn't the only thing that contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In fact, home energy use makes up only about 20% of the figures.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says the majority of GHGs result from the production, transport and distribution of goods, services and the food we buy.

The usual suspects

  • Food contributes about 28% of our GHG pollution. This includes eating out and buying food. Meat and dairy products are especially problematic, because their production is particularly water-intensive. (About 200L of water is needed to produce a 150g steak).
  • Goods and services, like clothes, books, magazines, tobacco and alcohol, contribute 29%.
  • Home construction and renovations contribute 12%.
  • Transport contributes 10%.

What can we do to help?

The ACF recommends personal actions like shopping smarter, buying fewer things and wasting less. Here are a few ideas:

Buy fewer things, enjoy life more
Spend time on education, exercise, appreciation of art, and personal treats such as getting a massage. These have a lower environmental impact than going on a shopping spree, for example.

Share more
You'll save money and help the environment by sharing the types of goods you don't use frequently with friends or neighbours. Also consider borrowing books from a library instead of buying them.

Buy smarter
Keep the environment in mind when you shop, by choosing recycled goods (such as building materials made from old tyres), durable items that won’t need to be replaced often, and efficient appliances. For example, if you’re planning to buy a dishwasher, check the CHOICE dishwasher report to find out the water and energy efficiency, running costs and reliability of different models.

Cut waste
Don't buy more food than you can eat, clothing that you won't wear often, or novelty gadgets you're unlikely to use. For example, in a recent survey of useless gadgets, CHOICE members rated the following products as the least useful: electric wine chiller, aromatherapy diffuser, electric ice shaver, foot spa, ice cream maker, vertical grill and milk frother.

ACF has also published a consumption atlas. It allows you to check the eco footprint, water usage and how much greenhouse pollution is caused in your local area. Go to

Companies that provide goods and services we consume also have some responsibility to cut their emissions, and to inform consumers which products have lower associated emissions. Very few companies do this.


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