Not that complicated

Some people say “Oh, it’s so complicated to be low carbon in this modern society.”  Here is a way of simplifying it. You get a reasonable approximation to an intermediate[1] low-carbon lifestyle by focussing on three simple maxims.

  • Slowness
  • Thermal frugality
  • Veganism

Slowness: taking progressively slower forms of transport.  Shifting down from air to road, road to rail or bus, and rail or bus to food or cycle, generally cuts emissions.  Or not travelling at all – which is infinitely slow.  The saving can be hundreds of kg or several tons a year, particularly if you are cutting down on or eliminating flying.  (Additional, smaller, slowness savings come from doing things yourself rather than using electrical appliances.)

Thermal frugality: to be thermally frugal you have to have your house very well insulated – roof, walls, double or triple glazing; energy efficient heating system possibly with renewable elements; wear warm clothes indoors; keep the temperature low (e.g. say 16 or 17 deg).  These measures can cut emissions by up to a ton CO2 per person compared to the average.

Veganism: meat and dairy are CO2 intensive.  So a vegan diet, or at least diet with very low meat and dairy content can cut your footprint by over half a ton a year.

Keeping it to three simple maxims should make it easier for people to cut emissions.  It’s only the first step towards genuine low carbon living, but these are probably the three most important and easiest measures.

Slowness and veganism require no investment and, generally, have low operating costs.  This should make them appealing areas for government policy, as cash is not a constraint.


  1. Intermediate low carbon lifestyle – say, under 5 tons per year from a UK average of 10 or more.
  2. See:  Emissions from food at 167m tons p.a. in the UK; vegan / vegetarian diet could cut that by 25%, i.e. 42m tons p.a.; = 695kg per head for 60m people.
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