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Ward off Climate Change

About the author

Gary Warden was raised in the Perth Hills. After graduating from the University of Western Australia with a degree in Geology, Gary joined BHP Billiton where he spent 18 years working in a variety of roles in a number of locations around the world. Prior to leaving BHP Billiton in December 2006, Gary was Global Manager for the company's US$1Billion business improvement program.

While he was originally sceptical about the claims relating to climate change, he became convinced of the urgency of the issue in early 2006. He left BHP Billiton primarily to spend more time with his young family, but also to dedicate himself to creating a more sustainable life for himself and his family and to support others in making that change.

In September 2007 he was trained by Al Gore and has delivered the "Inconvenient Truth" lectures to thousands of west australians since then. In November 2007 Gary ran for the senate in the Federal Election representing the Climate Change Coalition.

In addition to his climate change lectures, he has facilitated Living Smart workshops across Perth. Between 2008 and 2009 he was on the Executive Committee of the Conservation Council of Western Australia including one year as Vice President.

Gary co-founded and is Executive Director of the very exciting Days of Change program, one of the largest sustainability programs in Australia and is now General Manager WA for Eco-Kinetics, one of the largest Solar PV companies in Australia and subsidiary of ASX-listed CBD Energy.

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There is No Silver Bullet for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

by Gary 4/8/2008 9:08:00 PM

I did some research the other day which turned up some surprising results.

I had thought that electricity was biggest single source of CO2 emissions for most households, meaning that working on ways to reduce your electricity consumption would have a big impact on your emissions.

While electricity is an important source of emissions, it would be a mistake to focus on this alone.

The following chart shows the main sources of CO2 emissions for a typical Western Australian household.



As can be seen, the "typical" household emits 38 tonnes of greenhouse gases, and interestingly, electricity only rates fourth highest in terms of sources of emissions.

What rates the highest? Food!!

Reducing Food-Related Emissions

The following chart shows the CO2 emissions associated with different types of foods.


Hopefully this chart is clear - eat less red meat!!

I must admit that when I first heard this message from the ACF more than 12 months ago I was resistant to the concept. However the more I look at the data, the more I realise that we all have to reduce our red meat intake if we are to be successful in fighting climate change.

If you're wondering why red meat is so bad in terms of CO2 emissions, check out the following link.

You can also reduce your food-related emissions by buying local produce and reducing the amount of processed foods that you eat. The act of processing food typically results in the generation of greenhouse gases.

Reducing Your Transport-Related Emissions

The first chart showed that road transport and air transport both contribute about 20% towards the overall emissions of the "typical" household.

The biggest thing you can do to reduce your emissions in travel is to not take plane trips, particularly for holidays. The "typical" household assumes one return airfare from Perth to Melbourne for a family of four. If the family were to instead travel to a local holiday destination, say a 300km return trip, the emissions for the household would be cut by 20%.

Catching public transport is another great way of reducing your emissions. I am amazed that so many people spend so much of their time on the freeway carparks when they could be relaxing in a chauffeur driven bus or train. And I'm sure most people have no idea how much it costs them to commute to work every day. I've calculated that the average commuter would save $7000 a year by selling their second car and taking public transport instead. This is equivalent to a pay rise of up to $12,500!!

You can also reduce your transportation emissions by car pooling, downsizing your car (when it comes time to replace your car) or choose a fuel efficient vehicle such as a Toyota Prius Hybrid or Honda Civic Hybrid.

Reducing Your Electricity Emissions



The above chart shows that water heater heating consumes almost one third of the electricity of a typical household in southwest Western Australia.

Switching to a gas-boosted solar hot water system will cut your electricity consumption by this amount.

Heating and Cooling consumes another quarter of the electricity of the typical household. The key to reducing electricity consumption in this area is the reduce the need for artificial heating or cooling. There are any number of ways of doing this including:


  • Use of heavy drapes and pelmets;
  • Use of solar window films;
  • Use of double glazing;
  • Use of secondary glazing films;
  • Use of shade sails;
  • Use of shade trees and green belts around houses;
  • Use of whirligigs;
  • Removal of heat sources from within home (eg halogen lights);
  • Use of ceiling fans rather than air conditioners;
  • Use of insulation;
  • Use of light coloured roofing (painting a dark roof white will reduce temperature by 3C)

Refrigeration is the third largest consumer of electricity in the typical house. The solutions here are simple. Firstly get rid of the beer fridge!! Secondly, make sure the seals on your fridge are in good condition and replace them if deteriorated. Make sure that the fridge is well ventilated. If you are looking to buy a new fridge, consider a fridge that is cyclic defrost rather than frost free. You'd be amazed by how much electricity is consumed by frost free fridges. 

Interestingly, lighting only represents 4% of the electricity consumption of the typical house, so don't expect a switch to compact flourescent lights to have a big impact on your emissions. Having said that, halogens can generate a significant heat load in the house that can drive up your air conditioning bill, so I believe that it is still worth doing - and you will save money too!!

The Wrap

For a typical household, if you just do one or two things to reduce your emissions, then you probably won't have a significant impact on your emissions.  The key is to make sure you take action in a range of areas, including the food you eat, the way you travel, what you do with your waste and how you use electricity and gas.


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4/13/2008 6:29:26 PM


Very interesting, thanks for the info Gary. We gave up meat 12 years ago, one of the reasons was we didn't like the idea of all the resources that go into growing cows etc, not to mention the horror of abattoirs, cows are people too!
About emissions though, is the "stuff" we buy included in that breakdown above? It seems to be endless, the stream of "stuff" that daily comes into the house, once you start becoming aware of it you realise how much of it there is, even when you're trying to be conservative. I think we all need to remember that the first word of "reduce, reuse, recycle" is Reduce!

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4/15/2008 10:43:08 PM

Gary Warden


You are quite right about the issue of people having too much stuff. I don't believe that this factor is included in the calculations that I showed. One of the biggest things we need to overcome is our overwhelming need to consume. One of the mantras that Toni and I try to keep in the back of our minds whenever we go shopping is "do we really need to buy this?" It is amazing how frequently the answer to this question is NO! We still have a long way to go though before I can say that we have overcome our addiction to consuming.

Gary Warden

4/16/2008 6:38:00 PM

Steve Strutt

Good (short) article and the subsequent comments relate specifically to an article in the front of The Australian last week. Stuff manufactured and transported unnecessarily. What a waste!

As for the red meat thing... just one more argument for me to tackle the cholestorol and waistline issues. Could they all be related?

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4/16/2008 9:50:48 PM

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I need to post a new picture of me on my website. I've lost about 12 Kg since January and Toni has lost a lot as well, although she claims that she isn't keeping count. While our primary aim was to assist my son Ryan with his Autism, the diet is actually pretty low emissions - cutting out all processed foods, grains, milk, sugar etc. We've since started reducing our red meat intake. We now need to make sure we don't disappear into thin air!!

Gary Warden

6/6/2008 1:14:18 AM


Hi Gary

I may be exiled in the UK at present but I'm still a Hills person at heart.

Congratulations on your site. I'm looking forward to trying your Moroccan veggie tagine recipe: there's a tasty dish of the same name available as a pre-prepared "fresh" meal at the local supermarket here in (currently) sunny Seaford on the Sussex coast. Obviously it would be far better to prepare it myself, both nutritionally and in terms of food-miles (oops, I mean kilometres - it's amazing how quickly you slip into these foreign ways!) I've eaten very little meat for the last few years, but still get that urge from time-to-time so can't call myself a vegetarian.

With some of the $$ from the sale of my house in Glen Forrest I bought a (second-hand) Prius when I got here. I'm very pleased with it overall, and have to resist the temptation to go driving just for the sake of it, nominally exploring the nearby countryside. Doubly so as we're paying about $2.39/l here right now - and as in Aus, it's going up practically daily. Initially I was slightly disappointed in the consumption figures I was getting in the Prius. I was driving it as I normally drive - nothing extreme, just normal take-offs from the lights, sticking to speed limits. Frustrated at my 50mpg (5.6l/100km) average, I decided to see what difference driving more gently and restricting my top speed to 80kph would make. I have found I consistently get 63mpg (4.5l/100km), and up to 71mpg (4.0l/100km) on some journeys. I'm amazed! That's a 20% to 40% saving - not only of dollars at the bowser, but also in my CO2 emissions! I accept that some of this saving is probably due to the Prius's sophisticated energy management system, but I feel certain that anyone can obtain similarly significant savings even with a standard engine, petrol or diesel.

Right now I'm looking for hard figures to support my empirical results in preparation for launching a campaign to encourage people to cut their top speed, but I'm surprised how difficult such data is to come by. If you can suggest any sources please do. Ideally I'd like a table showing engine type and size down one axis and maximum speeds across the top, with consumption figures for these variables in the body.

Anyway, that's my suggestion for something we can all do right now to reduce our own transport emissions, if we really _do_ have to drive. And it will get you a lot further between fill-ups, too. While your journeys do take a bit longer, the difference isn't as much as you might expect, and it's much less tiring driving at 80 than at 110.


Tony gb

6/6/2008 7:45:10 AM


Hi Tony, we've been able to cut out fuel use significantly too by driving conservatively. It makes a huge difference. It's nice that modern cars give us all the relevant statistics on the dash as we're driving. It was only a few years ago that we were still driving 35 year old cars & guzzling fuel like there was no tomorrow.
My advice to anyone who's a chronic rusher arounder is to make sure you leave yourself enough time to get to your destination in a relaxed manner without feeling you're pushing on that pedal all the time. Much less stressful!
Maybe the local hoons will start hooning more conservatively now that fuel's so expensive?

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Hi Gary, I am heartened to read your website after Rudd's pitiful 5% reduction in emissions by 2020. I have looked at the meat section and am starting to get it and will reduce my consumption further. An increase in fish consumption instead is suggested. The Australian Marine Conservation Society put out "Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide", something else to bear in mind. Thanks for your website. Alfiah Blond

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