Homes account for around 30% of Scotland’s total energy consumption. Only around 11% are heated using a renewable or low-carbon system. New Build Heat Standard, a flagship policy by the Scottish Government, underpins that new builds should lead the way to achieve Scotland’s net zero 2045 target by building future-proof, sustainable homes that reduce emissions and prevent disruptive and expensive future retrofits.
The value of a home can decrease or increase based on its carbon footprint. A smaller carbon footprint means a lower environmental impact and lower energy bills. The carbon footprint has become a key player in the house-building industry, but do you know why? Let’s learn everything about it before you put down your deposit on a home.
Carbon Footprint: What does it mean and what are its implications?
A home’s carbon footprint is its measurable impact on climate change. It refers to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), emitted directly or indirectly by your home. The average carbon footprint of a UK household per year is 8.1 tonnes of CO2.
Heating, lighting, and appliances all contribute to carbon emissions. The more energy they use, the higher the emissions. And the higher the emissions, the bigger the carbon footprint. So, what are the implications of the size of your carbon footprint?
Impact on the environment
Higher carbon footprints mean more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, contributing to climate change and its associated environmental impacts. Climate change is one of the most significant environmental challenges of our time.
By releasing GHGs into the atmosphere, your home’s carbon footprint contributes to the increase in global average temperatures. It leads to a range of adverse effects, including rising sea levels, more frequent and intense extreme weather events, altered rainfall patterns, and changes in ecosystems and biodiversity.
The biggest energy consumer of a home is its heating system. If your heating system has low energy efficiency, it will consume more energy, resulting in higher emissions and a larger carbon footprint. Heating systems with higher energy efficiency considerably shrink your home’s carbon footprint.
Heating can significantly influence a home’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Homes with better EPCs are more in demand by potential buyers. Since 2010, the share of the most energy-efficient homes (rated EPC C or better) has increased by 27%. In 2019, 45% of Scotland’s homes were rated EPC C or better. From 2024, all new builds in Scotland will require heating and cooling systems, which produce zero direct emissions at the point of use.
Lighting and appliances also contribute to domestic energy use. LED is currently the most energy-efficient lighting technology we have. It can save up to 90% of energy. Switching traditional lighting with LED is a simple but cost-effective strategy to save energy. Appliances with high energy ratings save electricity and water use. Everything from tap aerators to thermostats can reduce a home’s carbon footprint.
The kitchen sink is the source of the most water-related carbon emissions in the home. Using a bowl for washing up, rather than a running tap, could save about 666kg of CO2 a year, roughly the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as a return-trip flight between London and Oslo. A US study found that using the dishwasher consumes less energy and water than doing the dishes by hand.
When it comes to laundry, the most carbon emissions get generated from heating water for the wash and drying. Lowering the temperature of the wash, combined with air drying, can reduce electricity. However, the Scottish weather may not always be air-drying-ready. Drying on a high-speed spin cycle on your washing machine can reduce energy as less water evaporates from clothes. Front-loading washing machines use less water and energy than top-loading washing machines.
Mixer showers, which combine hot and cold water before the water emerges from the shower head, can reduce CO2 emissions by 100kg annually than an electric shower. Low-flow shower heads use less water and reduce carbon footprint.
Using solar power to heat water can also reduce your carbon footprint. Solar panels use renewable energy.
The first step to managing waste that will reduce your carbon footprint at home is to limit the amount of waste your household accumulates. Reduce and reuse. Avoid single-use items whenever possible and opt for reusable alternatives. For example, use a refillable water bottle instead of disposable plastic bottles and bring your own bags instead of using plastic bags at the store.
Recycle with care. Buy recyclable items. Familiarise yourself with the recycling guidelines in your area and sort your recyclables correctly. Separate paper, plastic, glass, metal, etc and place them in the appropriate recycling bins. Rinse containers before recycling to prevent contamination.
Use a compost bin for organic waste, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and garden trimmings. You can turn these organic materials into nutrient-rich compost for your garden. It reduces the methane emissions that occur when organic waste decomposes in landfills.
Choose sustainable packaging. Shop for products with minimal packaging or packaging made from recycled or biodegradable material.
Avoid food waste. Plan your meals, make a grocery list, and only buy what you need. Properly store and consume perishable items before they go bad. If you have excess food, consider donating it to a local food bank or giving it away.
A small household carbon footprint can lessen your personal impact on the environment. If we all minimise our carbon footprint, we can achieve global results to counter climate change. However, the most immediate and personally impactful results take place in the form of cost savings. Lower energy bills, water bills, and limited waste will save you hundreds of pounds every year.
On a larger scale, a smaller household carbon footprint helps curb climate change. These efforts also translate into lower utility bills, a boon in the modern age, in which fuel poverty and the rising cost of living are negatively affecting our lives. Buying a GS Brown home means you are moving into a sustainably built, energy-efficient, and low-carbon home with lower running costs. What action would you take today to reduce your carbon footprint?