Top ten things you can do to tackle climate change

  • Walk, cycle or take public transport
  • Switch to a low-carbon energy provider
  • Insulate your home and install solar panels
  • Plan ahead to reduce food waste
  • Switch to an electric car if you can
  • Plant a tree
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle
  • Shop, eat and enjoy leisure locally
  • Choose energy efficient appliances
  • Talk about the changes you make

Average Surrey resident's carbon footprint

Do you know what your carbon impact is? Select a category below to find out more.


All forms of powered transport produce emissions including cars, buses, trains and planes. Some forms are environmentally worse than others, for example taking a journey from  London to Edinburgh by plane would create 144kg of CO2 whilst a train would produce 29kg. Equally some types of transport can be ‘greened’ e.g. switching from a diesel car to an electric will reduce more emissions as we begin to generate electricity from renewable energy.

Within Surrey, travel accounts for the biggest proportion of our county-wide and personal emissions, equivalent to 2.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year and, unless we make changes, this is forecast to increase.

Aside from the environmental impacts, congestion on our roads also has an economic impact. Despite offering excellent transport connections, the county carries almost twice as much traffic than average for the rest of the South East and it is estimated that congestion and associated delays on Surrey roads cost the local economy £550 million a year.

How we travel also affects our health. A report by Sustrans estimated that switching from private car use and increasing walking and cycling in the UK could lead to savings of £567 million each year from air quality improvements and would prevent 8300 premature deaths each year.

On average, Surrey residents use public transport less than surrounding regions, averaging only 23 bus journeys per year, compared to an average of 38 in the rest of the South East. Unsurprisingly, around 19% of Surrey residents commute on the train into London Waterloo Station.

Increasing the number of journeys we take by foot or bicycle, and reducing the number of car journeys we take, will help to reduce our emissions.

Tip 1

Cut down your car travel. Look at working from home or taking more public transport. If you do need to drive, consider car sharing or joining a car club. Want to know more? Visit Surrey County Council’s webpage on car clubs to get started.

Tip 2

Look at active travel options – this means walking or cycling, rather than using 'powered' forms of transport. Not only is this better for the environment, it’s better for you too. Find a local cycling group and suggestions to help get you started on your bike a on the Cycling UK website. You can also discover an ideal cycling route a on National Cycle Network on the Sustrans website.

Tip 3

Reduce your flying by spending your holidays in the UK or use rail or ferry links instead. An international train journey can be an experience in itself! Not sure where to  start? The Man in Seat 61 website is a great resource for planning international train travel.

Tip 4

If you can, switch to a hybrid or electric car. You can compare the running costs here. The government now offers  subsidies for buying certain electric cars and motorcycles. Visit the GOV.UK website to find out which low-emission vehicles are eligible for a plug-in grant.

You can also get grants towards installing charging points at your home, just visit the GOV.UK website for more information.

And for those of you with range anxiety, you can see the UK’s growing network of charging points on the Zap website.

For the transport sector, we have a three-pronged approach which aims to reduce emissions while providing a more comprehensive transport network for residents. The three priorities are 1) reducing journeys, 2) encouraging use of public and active transport modes and 3) supporting the uptake of zero emission vehicles. Combined, these will help improve our air quality and the health of our residents. Delivering these aims will require significant improvement and investment in our public transport infrastructure.

Within the council, our aims are to:

  • Ensure all council-owned vehicles, including bus fleet, are zero carbon by 2030 at the latest. We’ve already started, with 9 fully electric buses operating on the  Guildford Park and Ride since February 2019, and we’re working on a project to increase the number of electric buses in and around Farnham.
  • Invest in initiatives and infrastructure to increase the uptake of walking and cycling as well as schemes to reduce our reliance on cars.
  • Invest in the development of the infrastructure required to support the transition to zero emissions vehicles, such as electric vehicle charging points.
  • Improve connections between train stations and other transport hubs, to help reduce the number and length of car journeys needed.
  • Trial pilot schemes in urban centres e.g. pedestrianisation and car-free zones that promote active transport.

In support of our strategy around transport in Surrey, we are asking that the Government implements the policy recommendations laid out in their ‘Road to Zero’ document, an ambitious roadmap towards delivering zero-emission transport across the UK.

To support our drive to increase the infrastructure for electric and hydrogen vehicles, we are asking that the Government continues and expands the provision of funding for alternative energy stations.

We are also asking for clarification on the Airports National Policy Statement along with further information on their approach to airport expansion and decarbonisation plan.


The homes we live in are responsible for about 31% of our carbon emissions, or about 1.4 tonnes of carbon per person per year. About 50% of this is from heating (including heating rooms and heating water in our homes) and the other 50% is split between appliance use and lighting.

There are two main ways to reduce emissions from your home. The first is to reduce energy consumption (either through energy savings or by efficiency actions) the second is to change the source of your energy to a renewable one.

Within your home, you can take steps to improve your energy efficiency including insulating your house, choosing low-energy consumption light bulbs and appliances, and turning off appliances when not in use.

The amount of emissions from energy used in our homes has decreased by about a third since 2005. This is a result of decarbonisation of the national grid, which has come about through an increase in renewable energy generated in the UK, particularly from offshore wind. However, further work is needed to achieve our goal of zero carbon. For example, we could increase local production of green energy.

The South East region is ideal for generating energy from solar PV (photovoltaic) panels, due to the greater amount of sunlight hours. However, Surrey has, proportionately, significantly less capacity to produce energy from renewable sources than other parts of the UK.

As well as within your home, if you have a garden, there is a great benefit in planting trees in helping to offset your carbon usage. A tree can absorb approximately 1 tonne of carbon dioxide by the time it's 40 years old. Not only do trees help improve air quality, they also produce natural shade, can protect against flooding and provide a barrier against noise pollution.

Tip 1

Make sure you turn off appliances when they are not in use, don't just leave them on standby.

Tip 2

Get your home insulated. This will help reduce your carbon consumption and also save you money on your energy bills. Get help and advice on the Energy Saving Trust website.

Tip 3

Switch to a green energy supplier for your home. Visit the Money Saving Expert website for advice on how to save money and make the switch.

Tip 4

Think about installing solar panels on your roof, if you can.

Tip 5

Plant a tree in your garden, or if you haven't got space for a tree, consider a hedge or living wall.

Tip 6

Get a water butt for your garden. While this might not seem an obvious one, all the water that comes to your house through the pipes is drinking quality. That means it's taken chemicals and energy to process it and pump it to your house. You don't need drinking-quality water to water your garden. Using rainwater will help reduce your carbon consumption and help save water.

Tip 7

If you are a low income household, check if you're eligible for an energy efficiency grant. Head to the Action Surrey website for information about current energy efficiency grants for Surrey residents.

Within Surrey County Council, we're looking at getting our own house in order. This means we're aiming to have all council-owned buildings net zero carbon by 2030. We will also be driving change through our procurement practices and supply change to reduce carbon emissions in our operations.

We're also going to look at increasing our capacity for generating renewable energy in the County, with a focus on solar photovoltaic panels, and look at how localised, smart energy systems can provide low carbon energy to businesses and residents.

We will be looking at our planning policies to improve the energy efficiency standard of commercial buildings. We will be promoting residential development that is sustainably located, and supports local renewable energy generation and vehicle electrification.

We will also be looking at in the energy efficiency measures which are needed to upgrade existing housing to make them more energy efficient and to identify funding which can be used to support residents to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Head to the Action Surrey website for current energy efficiency grants for Surrey residents.

As part of our climate change strategy, we are asking the Government for a number of actions and decisions to support us in achieving our aims.

This includes putting the teaching of climate change, its environment, social and economic impacts at the forefront of our education system, to become a core component of the curriculum for all ages.

We are asking the Government to make it explicit that planning authorities have the right to reject applications where there are identifiable and material climate change impacts. And for local authorities to be able to set higher standards for energy conservation in building regulations. We would also like to see a revision of planning restrictions that currently inhibit development of renewable energy.

We are also asking for the decarbonisation of the national grid to be accelerated, and for a review of the legislation on locally-generated renewable energy, to make it more financially viable for communities to develop their own.


Research has shown that emissions generated by our food systems could account for as much as a quarter of all human emissions. That includes 12% from agricultural production, another 9% from farming-induced deforestation, and a further 3% from processes such as refrigeration and transport.

In addition, UK households currently throw away £12billion worth of food a year, while an increasing number of people are relying on food banks. Promoting local food production can help to reconnect people to their local food systems. Every £1 invested in local food is shown to return between £6-8 to society in the form of benefits including training and skills.

Changing your food shopping and eating habits can have significant benefits to our environment, whether that's reducing your meat and dairy consumption, choosing to buy locally produced food, wasting less food or even growing your own!

Tip 1

Reducing your meat and dairy consumption, even swapping one meal a week, will have a positive impact on your carbon footprint.

Check out some delicious meat and dairy-free recipes on the Vegan Society website.

Tip 2

Buy your food locally if you can, as this will help to reduce the impact of transportation. Look for local farmers' markets or shops that sell locally-produced goods. Why not check out the Local Food Britain website for inspiration.

Tip 3

Try to buy food that includes less packaging, for example you could get your own reusable fruit and veg bags or shop at Zero waste shops. Take a look at this interactive map of zero waste food shops in Surrey.

Tip 4

Minimise your food waste by only buying what you need. But if you do end up with food waste, make sure you use your food waste bins as peelings and leftovers can be used to produce green energy.

Learn about what happens to food waste in Surrey on the Surrey Environment Partnership website.

Tip 5

Grow your own! You don't need a huge garden or an allotment, you can grow things in pots, baskets or even on your windowsill! Check out the Royal Horticultural Society website for a step by step guide to growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs.

As part of our climate change strategy, we're working with the agricultural industries, partners and research groups to promote sustainable localised food systems within Surrey. We're also looking at how to reduce carbon in our food consumption patterns through our procurement practices and within our communities.

Within Surrey, all food waste is treated at an anaerobic digestion facility. This uses microbes to break the food down, producing methane, which is used to generate energy, and a soil improver which used in agriculture. We are trying to encourage all residents to separate their food waste, to ensure as much as possible goes into the anaerobic digester.

Within our climate change strategy there are a number of areas we are working with central government to change regulations. We expect that the Government will continue to fund and promote the delivery of the waste and resources strategy, which looks at encouraging circular economy principles across the UK's goods market.

We are also asking our government to publish their National Food Strategy that outlines how we will balance the economic potential of our farming communities with the need to tackle climate change and provide localised food sources.

Consumer goods

Consumer goods includes everything you buy that isn't food. This includes clothing, toys, electronics and household appliances. Energy goes into producing raw materials (growing cotton, drilling for oil and producing plastic, or mining for metals), as well as the manufacturing of the items, the transport to get them to your home and, if they are electrical, the energy used to power them. Reducing how much you buy that is new, rather than second hand or repaired, can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.

In addition to the items themselves, the waste they produce also creates emissions, whether that's disposing of packaging or when the item itself has reached the end of its life. The most recent data available shows 55% of waste collected in Surrey is recycled, composted or sent for re-use, which is one of the highest in the country. But recycling rates have plateaued in recent years, so the focus needs to be on reducing waste where possible (particularly getting rid of unnecessary packaging) and encouraging more of a circular economy. Read more about circular economy on the Ellen Macarthur Foundation website.

Tip 1

Reduce what you buy that's new, ask yourself if you really need that extra piece of clothing or that new gadget. Can you repair or refurbish an existing item instead? Check out Tip 4 for ideas on how to do this.

Tip 2

If you need clothing, consider buying second hand. Charity shops are great for clothes, but also look at eBay, Facebook Marketplace and companies like Re-Fashion that are now selling secondhand clothing online.

Tip 3

For home and garden items like furniture, sporting equipment or toys, see what you can find in one of Surrey's five Revive re-use shops!

Tip 4

If you need help repairing an item, get in touch with your nearest Repair Café to see if someone local to you has the skills to help. Visit the Repair Cafe website to start your search.

Within Surrey, we're working with our partners to develop practical, innovative and effective methods for increasing re-use and recycling rates. We're also looking at the carbon impact of refuse collection to understand how this can be reduced, for example by introducing electric road side collection vehicles.

We're also looking at how we can reduce waste, working with local authorities and businesses to increase producer responsibility. And we'll be asking residents to look at how much they consume, what they consume, and consider how they can produce less waste.

We are engaging with other local authorities and cities in the UK Circular Cities Network to share best practice and learnings for promoting circular economy principles in our regions.

We are asking the government for continued reform of our Producer Responsibility systems (including packaging waste regulations) to incentivise producers to take greater responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products and help develop a market for those products which are reused.

This interactive graphic has been created by Surrey County Council to explain climate change and what we can all do to reduce our emissions. The data has been taken from our climate change strategy, which contains full references to studies as well as the complete details on our commitments, actions and what we're asking the government to do. The percentage numbers in the graphic show the carbon footprint of an average Surrey resident.

If you would like more information, you can read the full climate change strategy.

For ease of use, this graphic looks at four main categories of carbon emissions – travel, home, food and consumer goods. These categories represent our consumption based-emissions, that is the emissions from the goods and services that we consume as individuals, and therefore have the potential to reduce.

Each section explains how carbon emissions are generated, what residents can do to reduce their emissions, and what we're doing as a council to address this area.

In some sections, we have included links to external websites to provide further information for residents. This does not constitute an endorsement of products or services and we advise residents to do their own research.