How much carbon will you pledge to save this National Science Week?

ABC projects, Media releases, National Science Week

See how much carbon you could save with just one small change and join our national online challenge to cut carbon emissions.

Media release: Wednesday 12 August

Talent available for interview and quotes

Put on a jumper when you’re cold, cut your shower time, eat roo or fish instead of beef, cycle instead of driving. These are some of the small changes that you, your household or your school can adopt to reduce your carbon footprint.

Sign on at Carbon Counter, a countrywide challenge produced by the ABC Science for National Science Week. See what savings your lifestyle hacks will make and pledge to make a difference.

The Carbon Counter project – which launches onWednesday 12 August– invites individuals, households and schools to pledge small changes to day-to-day energy, food and transport use with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas production.

A running tally of the tonnes of carbon saved shows the collective impact of you and your fellow challengers.

How much carbon could small hacks save?

  • Turning off the beer fridge in the garage could save as much as 400kg of CO2 each year – as well as cutting your power bill.
  • Choosing fish instead of beef once a week adds up to about 90kg of carbon saved across the year. 
  • Each year, Australians waste an average of about 300kg of food per person, or one in every five bags of groceries. Because rotting food generates greenhouse gases, cutting your food waste could save 118kg of CO2 per year.

Carbon Counter was put together by the ABC Science unit in consultation with sustainability experts from around Australia.

“If we were all to use electric public transport, cars, taxis, bikes or scooters, we could reduce Australia’s total emissions by more than 10 per cent,” said Dr Jake Whitehead from The University of Queensland. “And this could be increased even further if we used the spare energy capacity of the batteries in these vehicles to store excess renewables for use at other times”.

Associate Professor Karli Verghese from Melbourne’s RMIT University likes simple hacks for shopping, such as making a list and sticking to it to avoid buying too much perishable food.

“Because if you waste food, you waste all of those resources that went into producing it, in addition to any greenhouse gas emissions generated when that wasted food ends up in landfill,” she said.

Melbourne environmental consultant Dr Joe Pickin recommends dressing to suit the weather instead of turning up the heater or air-conditioner.

“Individual actions definitely add up – the enormous amount of household solar energy shows us that,” he said.

Professor of sustainability Peter Newman from Curtin University in WA said the cost of many household and transport hacks – such as photovoltaic cells and electric scooters – had decreased enormously in price over the past few years, making them much more affordable.

“All these technologies are also now much more efficient, and adopting them genuinely makes homes and cities much more liveable,” he said.

Environmental scientist – and ABC Gardening Australia presenter – Dr Josh Byrne also emphasised that carbon-saving tips and tricks lead to hefty improvements to creature comforts.

“Certainly, making these changes will reduce carbon emissions, and push down power bills, fuel costs and so on,” he said.

“But research is showing that what’s really driving change is the discovery that these things also result in increased comfort, better diets and better health.”

Carbon Counteris the online project for National Science Week 2020, undertaken by ABC Science with funding through the Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia strategy.


Talent available for interview and quotes

Dr Jake Whitehead, Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellow and Tritium E-Mobility Fellow, The University of Queensland.

Jake is an expert in the field of future mobility policy and the electrification of transport.

“Now is the perfect time to consider purchasing or hiring an electric bike, scooter or other micro-mobility device to get to/from work or to/from public transport.”

“The costs of these battery electric devices continue to fall; there are plenty of options to choose from; and we are seeing Councils around the country looking for innovative ways to support their use.”

“They are a clean, affordable and convenient alternative to driving to work, and can make the daily trip a fun exercise for the entire family.”

Associate Professor Karli Verghese, Principal Research Fellow in the Industrial Design program of the School of Design, RMIT University.

Karli’s research interests include life cycle assessment, packaging, sustainability and food waste.

“No matter what foods we eat, we need to be more mindful and respectful of the resources and inputs that went into growing, harvesting, and producing our meals.

“And with this in mind, that what food you do purchase, that you ensure you eat what you have purchased and prepared, while not wasting it.

“We can all make a difference. Being more connected with where our food comes from, how best to store and prepare it, and not wasting it, while sustaining ourselves. Every mouthful matters.”

Dr Joe Pickin, Director, Blue Environment. 

Joe is a waste specialist with a PhD on the environmental economics of waste and over 20 years’ experience as a researcher, analyst and consultant. He has a broad understanding of waste issues and particular expertise in data, modelling and carbon emissions from waste.

“Control your temperature with clothes, use 100% renewable power, buy considering overall costs, not just the purchase price – includes running costs and replacement costs when something breaks.

“Whenever you’re thinking to buy something, consider how long before it becomes waste and what you’ll do with it when it does.”

Professor Peter Newman AO, Director, Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute. 

Peter Newman is the Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University .He sat on the Board of Infrastructure Australia and is a Lead Author for Transport on the IPCC.

“Electro-mobility is happening very quickly across the world. It’s happening on all levels, from amazing trackless electric trams, down to personal transport devices such as electric skateboards and scooters.

“That means things can scale up, from local to city to regional transport networks, all electric. Of course, there are no electric planes yet – but we’ll get there.”

Dr Josh Byrne, Research Fellow, Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute, and presenter of ABC’s Gardening Australia

Josh is an environmental scientist, sustainable design consultant, TV presenter and research fellow at Curtin University’s Sustainability Policy Institute. He led two national research projects for the CRC for Low Carbon Living related to mainstreaming high performance, low carbon housing.

“In understanding the demand for sustainable housing, it’s important to recognise its attraction. Yes, with a well-designed sustainable house you can cut energy usage and reduce emissions, but you also improve comfort. This brings dividends for health and wellbeing.

“The cost savings and the carbon savings are substantial, but that’s not what is driving demand. It’s comfort.”

Bernie Hobbs, award-winning science writer and presenter.

Bernie Hobbs is a science writer and broadcaster, best known as a popular judge from ABC TV’s The New Inventors. Bernie has won awards for the kids TV show the experiMENTALS, and for her infamous greenhouse website Planet Slayer – where you find out what age you should have died at so you don’t use more than your share of the planet.

“That old, decrepit spare fridge sitting in your uninsulated garage is probably guzzling electricity. Turning it off between parties is an easy way to cut carbon. And you’ll probably save enough money off your electricity bills to fill it with beer!

“You may not think you’re doing much when you’re taking shorter showers or starting a compost bin. And let’s face it, we need governments and businesses to do their bit. But it’s important to remember that there are millions of people like you acting to address climate change. Carbon Counter is all about making our collective action visible.”