Lifestyles

The lifestyles of six people from around Scotland are shown here. Their footprint sizes vary according to their lifestyle choices. Now that they know their footprint, most of them are taking steps to reduce it. But they also need policy changes to remove some of the barriers in their way. Who most closely matches your situation?

Helen lives in rural Aberdeenshire with her husband in a beautiful old farmhouse. She considers herself to be quite “green” – recycling as much of their waste as possible, buying locally produced food and using energy efficient light bulbs throughout the house.

So she was shocked to find that her footprint is 8.39 global hectares – 50% above the Scottish average. If everyone lived like Helen does, we would need 4.5 planets to survive.

So why is Helen’s footprint so high? The main reason is to do with her energy use. Her house is badly insulated and uses lots of oil. So Helen plans to reduce her energy footprint in planned house renovations by improving the insulation and installing an energy-efficient heating system and solar panels.

The other large part of her footprint is because of a single trip to South Africa. She was shocked to find out that this added an extra 24% onto her footprint! Helen says that this is the first long haul flight she has made for 7 years – so isn’t typical for her. But there’s not much she can do about her high car mileage – her area is poorly provided by public transport so she relies on her car to get around.

Sabita lives in a modern house with her family in a village in Renfrewshire. Sabita commutes by train into Glasgow to study physiotherapy while her girls are at school. She has always been careful to minimise the waste and energy produced by her household by turning off lights, separating her rubbish for recycling and keeping the temperature on her thermostat turned low.

Sabita has a relatively low ecological footprint of 4.15 gha – about 75% of the Scottish average. But if everyone lived like her, we would still need almost another planet and a half to survive.

Sabita is planning to make further small changes to help reduce her footprint by cutting down on red meat and switching to a renewable electricity supplier. She would like to buy more local food but most of the small shops have closed down in her area, so she is dependent on large supermarkets. She would also consider putting a solar panel on her roof, but thinks she would lose the investment if she moves house in the near future.

Ginny lives in a small village on the Moray coast with her family where she is the director of a local mental health charity. Her house is well insulated and is heated by an old wood burner as well as an oil boiler. She has recently switched to a green supplier of electricity and most of her holidays are spent relatively close to home on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. She is also careful to make sure that over 90% of the food that the family eats is sourced organically from local suppliers, wanting to give her kids “a good start in life”.

Her footprint is 5.22 gha – just below the Scottish average. So like the average Scot, if everyone lived like Ginny does, we would need three planets to survive.

Ginny would like to cut down her footprint further by investing in a renewable energy system for her home such as solar panelling or a small wind turbine. But she cannot afford paying the initial investment and would like to see more help from the government to make the switch. “With such limited help for people it seems like going green is only an option those who are affluent enough to afford it.”

Brian is retired and has lived with his wife, Tricia, in their family home in Stirlingshire for the past 26 years. Over the years they have made their home as energy efficient as possible, fitting double-glazing, insulating the walls and floor, switching from oil to natural gas and installing solar panelling on the roof.

They separate all of their household waste for recycling, use their car very little and seldom take holidays abroad. They also buy all of their red meat from local farms rather than supermarkets.

Brian’s footprint is 5.32 gha – just below the Scottish average, and still a “three planet lifestyle” – a surprise given the efforts he has made. His footprint analysis showed that the biggest part of his footprint is energy use in the house, so he is now upgrading the insulation in the house and putting in more efficient radiators.

He would like to cut down his home energy footprint even further by ridding himself of dependency on fossil fuels and fitting a wood chip boiler. However, he is frustrated by the lack of information about woodchip boilers and is currently considering opting for a more energy efficient gas boiler instead.

Laura lives on a housing estate in North Lanarkshire with her parents and six year old son. She travels into Glasgow during the week where she is a student.

Laura is a vegetarian, which keeps her footprint down, and she cultivates a small vegetable patch in her back garden. Her family home is reasonably well insulated and her father fitted double-glazing several years ago. She recycles everything she can and composts vegetable waste.

Despite that, Laura has a high footprint – at 7.33 gha this is 35% higher than the average Scottish footprint and we would need four planets if everyone lived like her.

One of the reasons is down to the electric heating system in the house. However, if she switched to a renewable electricity supplier her footprint would fall below the Scottish average immediately. Her other problem is her reliance on the car as the local bus service is infrequent and parking is too limited at the nearest train station.

Tim lives in a ground floor flat in an Ayrshire town with his partner, Maggie. He takes the hour long commute to Glasgow daily, where he works as a training officer for a charity. Tim and his partner are committed to a low footprint lifestyle, having given up the car and using airplanes. Without the car, they seldom visit supermarkets and tend to buy from local shops and businesses. They are also vegetarian, which cuts down on their footprint significantly, and get most of their fruit and vegetables from an organic box scheme.

Not surprisingly, Tim has a low footprint of 3.55gha – 35% lower than the national average and coming up at just under a “two planet lifestyle”.

So why does someone like Tim, who is highly committed to a sustainable lifestyle, still need an extra planet to support his lifestyle? This is because it is impossible to live a one planet lifestyle without policy change. He would like to live nearer to work, but the housing in Glasgow is not affordable. He would like to buy produce with low food miles, but the information on the packages doesn’t show the true distance the produce has travelled to get to the shelves. These are the barriers we all face in trying to make our lives more sustainable.