Sustainable living

Bang for buck: climate actions ranked

See what’s more impactful than living car free, going vegan or composting

enviro inspo people on mountain

What do you think is more impactful: living car free or selecting a renewable electricity plan?

How about going vegan compared to composting organic waste at home?

Only 2 out of 5 of the activities Australians believe will reduce their carbon footprint actually have the most impact, according to UTS Business School, Australian Ethical, and Lonergan Research.

Most of us overestimate the impact of living car-free, going vegan and powering off devices.

And we underestimate the impact of choosing a renewable electricity plan and switching our financial investments to ethical funds.

While all these actions are useful – and you can feel good about doing any of them – some are way more potent than others.

Top actions

  1. Installing solar panels at home
  2. Switching to a renewable electricity plan
  3. Switching superannuation or financial investments to ethical funds
  4. Live car-free
  5. Switch to an electric or hybrid car
  6. Composting organic waste at home
  7. Switching to vegan or vegetarian diet
  8. Powering off devices (for example, TV and computer) instead of leaving in standby mode
  9. Avoiding 1 domestic flight
  10. Drying clothes on a line or rack instead of using a dryer

Bang for buck ranking: actual impact versus perceived effort

This chart shows the potential carbon impact of these actions versus the perceived effort required.

Sourced from the Australian Ethical ‘A little goes a long way’ report
Sourced from the Australian Ethical ‘A little goes a long way’ report

Perceived impact versus actual impact

While all these actions are positive for our carbon footprint, this chart shows how Australians overestimate the impact of some activities and underestimate others.

Sourced from the Australian Ethical ‘A little goes a long way’ report
Sourced from the Australian Ethical ‘A little goes a long way’ report

Sleeping giants of opportunity

In terms of creating the most impact, and being easy to do, there are 2 sleeping giants of opportunity:

  1. Switching to a renewable electricity plan
  2. Switching your superannuation and investments to ethical funds

You can do both actions in less than 15 minutes with a few strokes on a keyboard.

You don’t need to change your daily routine, quit a delicious habit or train yourself to remember anything new.

A quick tip on your electricity plan: To be sure you’re buying accredited renewable electricity you need to opt in for 100% GreenPower.

It’s often an extra box you need to check in the sign-up process.

People often mistake carbon offset plans, the ones large electricity companies usually shout about, for renewable energy plans. They’re very different.

To check if you’re on accredited GreenPower you can usually find it itemised on your bill.

Learn more about accredited GreenPower, find providers and tips for shopping around.

Delve deeper

To learn more about the results of the UTS Business School and Lonergan Research study, read the report. It’s well-formatted, so it’s easy to digest and understand.

The report also breaks down the environmental footprint of different foods – dark chocolate has a dark secret – and reveals the impacts of video streaming and various commuting methods.

It’s also interesting to note nearly half of Australians underestimate by how much we still need to reduce our carbon emissions.

The image below shows the current average Australian carbon footprint (purple circle) and what we need to get to keep global warming below 2°C (green circle). We need to make that big jump by 2030.

Sourced from the Australian Ethical ‘A little goes a long way’ report
Sourced from the Australian Ethical ‘A little goes a long way’ report

What will you do next?

Which of the top 3 most impactful environmental actions will you do next – install rooftop solar, change to a GreenPower electricity plan, or switch your superannuation/financial investments to an ethical fund?

Published 9 February 2023, updated 20 June 2023

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