Did you know that the apparently simple choices that we make every day can be leading to increased CO2 emissions? In simple terms, our choices can release CO2. It’s not all about the “big bad fossil fuel companies” as really the whole system relies on our choices, and it’s easy to see this is true.

A new smartphone

When we desire that new smartphone, especially when our current phone is still working, we’re actually releasing CO2. It takes a lot of energy (not to mention raw, natural ingredients) to create a smartphone and over half of the world’s energy is currently coming from oil and gas. So we release CO2 when we get that new smartphone. And don’t forget that using a mobile requires a network of cellular towers and banks of computers running 24-hours a day in the background to deliver those cloud services, run those games, stream that music, and monitor just about everything you do. It’s a big deal for the world.

New clothes

In the same way, when we want new clothes even though our old clothes are still good, we release CO2. Desiring that new fashion item, made by our favourite designer label who have the clothes made in bulk in a far part of the world (somewhat out of sight) and then shipped all over the world, we forget the amount energy and natural resources this system is using. Again, we’re releasing CO2.

Illustration by Ella Dawson – http://elladawson.co.uk

Streaming music or a movie

It seems so easy these days doesn’t it? We can stream any song we like and any movie we like for not too much money. It feels so convenient. But behind the scenes, we’re releasing a lot of CO2. The word “stream” seems so nice and natural, just like “cloud”, but what’s really going on here is that vast amounts of computers are running non-stop, all day and night, in innumerable data centres (warehouses full of computers) all over the world. That’s what needed for our convenience, and that uses an enormous amount of energy. Next time we stream something, will we remember that there are other options that would release less CO2?

our choices can release CO2

Illustration by Ella Dawson – http://elladawson.co.uk

Driving fast

To move a car, it takes a lot of energy and hence, most of the time, there is a significant CO2 release associated with it. Now, if we move that car faster, we use more energy and release more CO2. So when we’re trying to go as fast as we can on the roads, checking for the locations of speed cameras so we don’t get caught and hoping to succeed in cutting a few minutes off our journey, we’re actually just pumping out more CO2 into the atmosphere. Now, who’s fault is climate change? Is it the fossil fuel companies or ours for just driving too fast and ignoring the consequences?


Ah, flying. The convenience of the modern world – we can get almost anywhere in the world easily and without too much cost. But every time we fly we release CO2, and a lot of it. We have to be aware of this and reduce the amount we fly. If we don’t, the world will continue to be more and more polluted and eventually we won’t be able to live here any more. Then where will we go for holidays?

our choices can release CO2

This is a photo I took near my house (not too far from London) on a perfectly clear day. Everything you can see in the sky has come from jet trails and how it has spread on the wind. The pollution we make is obvious.

Our choices release CO2

Our choices really do release CO2. We use too much energy to make our lives “convenient” without being aware that it’s exactly this that’s the root cause of CO2 pollution that’s risking our atmosphere. If we’re going to save the world and ourselves, we’re going to have to stop using so much energy. This means using less, wanting less, taking simpler options and basically living more peacefully.

How can we protest about climate change, blame oil and gas companies, and expect politicians to do the right thing and strongly sign up with international agreements when, every day, we keep using more and more energy and accept this as being normal because we “deserve” modern conveniences. Both of these things cannot exist at the same time. We cannot reverse the damage of CO2 pollution without living more simply in almost all ways possible, and the best way to start is by just using less stuff.

Can we do it? Can we make choices that release CO2 less? Of course we can, it just takes awareness which is starting to come. We can do it, but it’s not going to be easy, but every single one of us can start today, right now.

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