Carbon footprints - how much emissions for each pound you spend?

What’s the carbon footprint of … spending a pound?The most meaningful way to think about your carbon footprint is to consider the impact per pound spent

 The carbon footprint of spending a
–330kg CO2e on a well executed rainforest preservation project
–3kg CO2e on solar panels
160g CO2e on financial, legal or professional advice
720g CO2e on a new car
930g CO2e on a typical supermarket trolley of food
1.7kg CO2e on petrol for your car
4.6kg CO2e on flights
6kg CO2e on your electricity bill
10kg CO2e (or more) on budget flights

Unless you deliberately invest in something that reduces emissions elsewhere, it
is just about impossible to spend money without increasing your carbon
footprint. Every transaction causes ripples of economic activity and emissions –
though depending on how you spend you cash, the impact will vary widely.
With wealth, therefore, comes carbon responsibility. If most your money goes on
travel or home energy, that puts you at the most carbon-intensive end of the
scale. If you invest your cash it in forests and windfarms you are at the
opposite extreme, using your wealth to bring about a lower-carbon world. If you
stick it under the mattress, it is doing neither harm nor good.
Seen in this way, luxury items can sometimes look greener than lower-quality
versions – not just because they’re likely to last longer, but because they will
typically have a lower carbon footprint relative to their price. Buying a
designer shirt, for example, may not seem like a particularly green thing to do.
But if you have a limited amount of money to spend, buying one high-quality
shirt is likely to generate less carbon than buying three budget shirts.
On the other hand, the more profit being made on the thing you’re buying, the
more you are simply “passing on” your carbon responsibility to the person or
company you are buying from. At the extreme end of the scale, buying a painting
from an artist for £10m is an extremely low-carbon way to spend money – until
you ask what the artist in turn will do with that fortune.
Of the specific examples given above, flying is a super-high-impact way of
spending cash for two reasons. First, the aviation industry can buy its fuel for
around 30p per litre. Second, it then burns it at an altitude where it has, as a
best estimate, nearly twice the climate change impact that it would have at
ground level. So spending money on jet engine fuel is six times as carbon
intensive as spending the same money on petrol and putting a match to it.
Leaving the lights on is another of the cheapest ways of trashing the planet,
suggesting that for all the talk of higher fuel prices we are a long way from
establishing a serious financial incentive to go green. The petrol figure is
based on a true cost of 40p per mile for an average petrol car and takes account
of the extraction, shipping and refining of the fuel (but not the depreciation
or maintenance of the car, as you pay for that separately).
At the top of the list are two of the fairly limited number of options for
actually doing carbon-friendly things with money. As the figures show, these
options range enormously in their effectiveness – which is something not all
policy makers seem to have fully grasped.
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