When we use gas or oil for cooking or heating, we are burning fossil fuels directly and emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. However, whatever fuel we use for heating, hot water or cooking, we still increase our carbon footprint. In some cases, electricity can create more greenhouse gases than gas, although this is decreasing as the UK electricity grid brings more renewable power sources online. The very complexity of the figures make this area ripe for confusing debate – the kind that stops us from doing anything.


Rather than get caught up in the moving discussion on which form of fuel is “better”, we can focus on looking at ways that we can reduce our consumption by 20%. In this period of steeply escalating prices there is more than one reason for doing this.

Find out from your bills or from reading your meter how much gas (in cubic metres) you used over November (some cold days) and December (more time at home). Divide by 2, to get a figure for a high consumption month. (Don’t go by the price of gas, this is increasing steeply and will make it impossible to compare consumption). Multiply the monthly consumption by 0.8 to get a new target. It’s not possible to get to a lower consumption in one step, it may take several iterations to do this – be patient.

Ways to reduce gas use – this is not a to-do list, it is a series of ideas – you can see which ones fit or come up with your own

  • Shorter and less frequent showers (or even a cold shower?)
  • Lids on saucepans
  • Make sure that the gas is not going up the side of the saucepan
  • Turning the thermostat down
  • Turning the heating off at night and when everyone is out
  • Not using hot water unnecessarily when cold would do e.g. hand washing, when it’s the time with the soap that counts not the temperature of the water
  • A modern boiler is very efficient, if it is well maintained and serviced regularly. In some cases, a service could be a good investment.
  • If you own your home and have an old boiler, it may be worth considering replacing it (and looking at alternatives to gas)
  • Anything you can do to insulate your home better – draft excluders, thicker curtains and blinds, better glazing, loft insulation, etc.
  • Any other ideas you have that fit your family’s lifestyle

After a month, reread the meter, take the reading from the end of December away from the new one and see the effect. It may take time to work out which ones produce the most reduction and to really make a difference to those bills and, more importantly, to the carbon footprint.