Beth Kayser

What is the average carbon footprint per person in the UK?

3 min Read
Close up of a footprint in sand, surrounded by autumn leaves

The average carbon footprint per person in the UK, per year, is 12.7 tonnes CO2e.

Carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e, is the measure of all greenhouse gas emissions rolled into one

OK. What does that mean?

If you stepped onto the scales in the morning and weighed a tonne, you’d be a bit concerned. But in terms of carbon, is a tonne a lot? Or is it a drop in the ocean when you consider how vast the planet is?

Let’s put it into perspective:

Illustration of the average UK carbon footprint measured in days of domestic heating, car miles, and beef steaks
  1. Your heating would need to be going full blast for 80 days straight (although it would explode before you got there).
  2. You would need to drive 23,000 miles in the average car to emit 12.7 tonnes of CO2e (that’s once around the world).
  3. You’d have to eat over 1,000 beef steaks or 4,100 camemberts. But please don’t try that at home.

Pawprint’s carbon footprint data is powered and fact-checked by Mike Berners-Lee’s Small World Consulting.  Mike is an advisor to Pawprint and author of How Bad are Bananas?  The Carbon Footprint of Everything

If ‘miles driven’ or food isn’t helping you visualise 12.7 tonnes, how about the equivalent weight. It’s the same as:

  • 18 dairy cows
  • 10,500 bottles of wine
  • 25 million plastic straws

To deadlift that weight we’d need 25 and a half Eddie Halls (the world's strongest man, who lifts 500kgs).

Want to know what the average carbon footprint is, globally? Well, true Blue Peter style, here’s something we prepared earlier.

(Psst... also, is this carbon jargon making your head spin? Don't worry, it did for us too. Check out our carbon dictionary, which breaks down all the terms you'll need to know to become a true eco-warrior, from GHG to net-zero.)

So is 12.7 tonnes of CO2e a lot?

In terms of global annual carbon emissions of ca. 38,000 megatonnes CO2e, 12.7 tonnes doesn’t sound like much (Source: Edgar). But when you consider a population of 68 million people in the UK alone, nearing 8 billion worldwide, all of a sudden individual impact means something.  

If everyone in the UK reduced their carbon footprint by 100 kgs annually (the same as driving 180 less miles or eating 8 fewer steaks), we’d be 6.8 million tonnes of carbon lighter.

There are loads of easy and effective ways to reduce your footprint immediately. Why not try a flexitarian diet, and cut back on the amount of meat on your plate? Or switch to a green energy tariff and help transform the UK grid to 100% renewables? From tips and tricks on running a low carbon household and shopping for clothes sustainably, to calculating your carbon savings when switching to an EV, we've got you covered.

This is also where the Pawprint app comes in. Our online tool helps you measure, understand and reduce your carbon footprint, empowering you to fight climate change through everyday choices. For personal use, download the app via the app stores. If you're a business (obviously YOU aren't a business, but you know what we mean) click the pretty, pink button below.

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