Measuring household carbon

Allinson, D., Irvine, K.N., Edmondson, J.L., Tiwary, A., Hill, G., Morris, J., Bell, M., Davies, Z.G., Firth, S.K., Fisher, J., Gaston, K.J., Leake, J.R., McHugh, N., Namdeo, A., Rylatt, M. & Lomas, K. (2016) Measurement and analysis of household carbon: The case of a UK city. Applied Energy 164, 871-881. (Image from Shutterstock)shutterstock_85565086

There is currently a lack of data recording the carbon and emissions inventory at household level. This paper presents a multi-disciplinary, bottom-up approach for estimation and analysis of the carbon emissions, and the organic carbon (OC) stored in gardens, using a sample of 575 households across a UK city. The annual emission of carbon dioxide emissions from energy used in the homes was measured, personal transport emissions were assessed through a household survey and OC stores estimated from soil sampling and vegetation surveys. The results showed that overall carbon patterns were skewed with highest emitting third of the households being responsible for more than 50% of the emissions and around 50% of garden OC storage. There was diversity in the relative contribution that gas, electricity and personal transport made to each household’s total and different patterns were observed for high, medium and low emitting households. Targeting households with high carbon emissions from one source would not reliably identify them as high emitters overall. While carbon emissions could not be offset by growing trees in gardens, there were considerable amounts of stored OC in gardens which ought to be protected. Exploratory analysis of the multiple drivers of emissions was conducted using a combination of primary and secondary data. These findings will be relevant in devising effective policy instruments for combatting city scale green-house gas emissions from domestic end-use energy demand.