Oxford to Zero

Zero Carbon Communities


The science is clear. Major scientists are signalling a “code red” for humanity unless there is urgent action to meet our climate crisis. We have followed the science in the to beat the pandemic and now we must follow the independent science to protect our planet and all our futures.

Oxford City Council has published a list of nine practical actions that communities and citizens can take to make a difference in the face of climate change.

Nobody wants to feel overwhelmed, told what to do, or made to feel guilty. With this campaign we’re engaging citizens who overwhelmingly say they want to do their bit to help the planet. We see these changes as a springboard to getting into new routines that make a big difference. 

How to reduce your own carbon footprint

The actions on the list have been shaped by the independent science-based Zero Carbon Oxford roadmap which explains what needs to happen and by when for Oxford to play its part in meeting the climate crisis.

The little sustainable changes proposed to people’s day-to-day lives have been informed with insight from Professor Nick Eyre, the Council’s scientific advisor and a major global climate scientist. Combined, these small steps will add up to a big impact on the city’s carbon footprint.

1. Leave the fossil fuel car at home, or help to reduce air pollution by driving an electric car

Transport Emissions accounts for 17% and 68% of Oxford’s total Carbon and NOx emissions. Fossil fuel vehicles dirty our air and harm our health as well as the planet.

With public transport such as buses and trains, and improvements to cycle lanes and footpaths in the city, there are alternatives to owning and driving the car.

Switching away from the car not only helps reduce emissions, it can also help to improve your personal fitness and wellbeing.

If driving is unavoidable, consider using one of Oxford’s car clubs or switching to an electric vehicle. Oxford has well-established car clubs, high cycling rates and an extensive bus network. We also have several projects to increase electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the city.

2. Rethink how you travel for shorter journeys

If going car free is not possible for you all of the time, and there will be some situations for some people where it is not, why not rethink how often you need to use your car and the journeys you choose to drive.

Most of our car journeys are relatively short. Recent robust research shows that swapping the car for walking, cycling or e-biking even for just one day a week makes a significant impact on personal carbon emissions in cities.

One, full, double-decker bus can take up to 75 cars off the road. Having fewer private cars on the roads will mean less congestion and less time lost sitting in traffic, and ultimately quicker and more reliable journeys.

With journey planning smartphone apps available at your fingertips, you can calculate how long your journey takes when travelling by bus, bike, or walking.

3. Fly less to reduce the growth in aviation

Greenhouse gases and other emissions from air travel are a growing cause of global warming. Unfortunately, there are no easy technical fixes and urgent action is needed to reduce emissions from flying.

Taking fewer long haul flights and opting for the train, rather than the plane wherever possible will help reduce emissions.

4. Reduce energy use and save money at home

The majority of Oxford’s emissions comes from buildings. Getting to net zero means we have to reduce energy consumption in our homes.

Even small changes can help reduce bills and carbon emissions, such as putting on an extra layer (rather than turning up the heating), turning off lights and appliances, replacing light bulbs with LEDs, and installing a water-efficient shower head. You can also consider switching your energy supplier to a green tariff, which can help support the growth of renewables.

However, net zero also requires better energy efficiency, with improved insulation and draft proofing of windows and doors. It means a switch away from gas to low carbon heating like heat pumps. If you rent your home, you could consider lobbying your landlord to make sure the property is energy efficient.

We are taking action to reduce emissions from buildings, with its stringent planning rules and its plans to retrofit much of its own housing stock – prioritising the least efficient houses - by 2030.

5. Eat less meat and dairy

Avoiding meat and dairy is one of the biggest ways to reduce your personal environmental impact – and it can also be better for your health. Why not join the growing number of people in the UK who are eating less meat?

This means having fewer or smaller portions of meat (especially red meat) and switching to non-dairy alternatives where you can. Trying to choose food that is grown locally can also help to reduce emissions.

6. Reduce, reuse, and recycle

Tackling household waste is a clear way to reduce your carbon footprint. Following the approach of reduce, reuse, and recycle means you can decide which approach works best for your lifestyle.

Reduce: Reducing the amount of items going to waste means being mindful about the type of products you buy and use on a daily basis. Instead of a single-use plastic water bottle, why not buy a reusable bottle. You could also visit a local refill shop and use old containers to store your pasta, rice, and cleaning products. There are many options available, which can help you to live a zero waste lifestyle. 

Reuse: Reusing items and giving them a new lease of life is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. Sowing up the holes in your socks, or repurposing old t-shirts in to tea towels are examples of what you can do. Alternatively, swapping your unwanted items to friends and family, or donating items to charity is another way you can extend their use while also decluttering unwanted items.

Many apps and websites have now been created which allow you to share extra food, drink, and clothing items with other people within your local community.

Recycling: Recycling your waste such as food and packaging ensures your waste is processed in a way which benefits the environment, rather than going to landfill. Recycling helps to reduce our energy and water use and helps preserve the world’s finite resources.

7. Make your garden or local community wildlife and pollinator friendly

We are lucky in Oxford to have many green spaces around the city, which benefit health, absorb carbon dioxide, and reduce the impact of extreme weather such as flooding and extreme urban heat.

If you have a garden, you can help by replacing paving with grass and planting trees or wildlife friendly plants. If you don’t have access to a garden or balcony you could get involved with community volunteering groups to help improve green space locally.

8. Contact your politicians

In 2019, Oxford held a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change with a representative sample of local residents. The Assembly found strong support for ambitious action on climate change at a local level. Since then we have committed to reaching net zero across its own estate and operations by 2030 and as a wider city by 2040. You can contact your local councillor if you want to find out more about our plans on climate change.

Additional funding and policies are also needed from central government. The government’s own advisors, the Committee on Climate Change have warned that more action is urgently needed to get on track for net zero. You can contact your local MP if you want to find out more about the steps they are taking in Parliament to support additional action on climate change.

9. If you can afford to, use your money to support the climate

Some banks and pension providers still invest in fossil fuels, which means our money can be used to make climate change – and our future – worse.

You can find out more about where your money is invested by writing to your bank or pension provider. There are also a number of greener banking options that you can consider.

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