Problems are constantly in the news, but it’s rare that any solutions are mentioned. This can’t be good for our state of mind, individually or collectively. The coverage of global extreme weather events creates a sense of crisis. Climate change is driving more and more of these events, and there are plenty of calls for action. Yet little time or space is given to what we can practically do about it.
Focusing on how to overcome a problem usually makes it less scary. If the solutions start to look like will significantly improve our personal and financial situation too, then the whole thing can suddenly start to look like an opportunity. That opportunity is called the two tonne lifestyle.
What the heck is the two tonne lifestyle?
The two tonne lifestyle means simply producing two tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year from energy at home, in transport, and in food and other stuff we buy. CO2 is the main gas that is responsible for the recent increases in extreme weather events around the whole planet. Most of the greenhouse gases that are causing the problems with the climate come from burning oil, gas, and coal (although chopping down forests and farming also play a part).
Some of these sources of greenhouse gas are hard to measure, but the two biggest sources are easy. They are 1) our home energy and 2) transport. These two items also account for a large chunk of our essential day to day costs. So the two tonne lifestyle can be a route to reducing and eliminating our overheads, our personal debt, and increasing our wealth and our wellbeing at the same time. It can make us better off.
Opportunities. Lots of them.
A report in 2012 from the UK Institute of Engineering calculated that half of all the food produced globally was thrown away uneaten. There is probably a similar (or higher) waste factor in how we use energy too. We are throwing money into the air along with the fumes, but with a bit of planning and careful management, the two tonne lifestyle can save you £2,000 a year on fuel costs at current prices.
- If the average household energy bill (gas and electricity) is around £1,400 a year, the two tonne lifestyle’s is around £600-£900, saving £500 – £800.
- Vehicles fuel bills would be around £900 rather than the average £2,000 a year, saving £1,100. There will also be savings on top of this for vehicle maintenance such as new tyres, exhausts etc.
You will have a nice warm home. You might also spend less time stuck in traffic jams or getting frustrated with and/or scared by fellow road users. Result!
In the longer term, if you are debt-free and clever, you could invest your £2,000 annual fuel bill savings in a suitable account, where the wonders of compound interest have the chance to transform it into an £80,000 surplus over 20 years or so.
What difference will it make?
We all love the idea of clean, cheap renewable energy, but even the most optimistic scenario reveals that there is a huge gap between the energy we currently consume and how much we can produce through renewables. The two tonne lifestyle significantly reduces this gap to the point where large scale gas and oil imports, fracking, or nuclear expansion would probably not be required in the UK. We could divert many of the huge subsidies and tax breaks we currently give to the global fossil fuel industry into focusing on developing a more secure and sustainable energy mix of various, sensitively sited renewables and community-based energy, topped up with a greatly reduced amount of fossil fuels and/or nuclear as required. The two tonne lifestyle is also the perfect antidote to the feeling of helplessness we all get when confronted with such global problems as climate change. You become part of the solution, and that feels good.
It is said that you can always tell a Yorkshireman, but you can’t tell him much. I think that is true of everyone (not just those of us lucky enough to be men from Yorkshire.) Whether you choose to engage with this concept, and how, is of course entirely up to you. But it’s worth remembering that the two tonne lifestyle is a challenging goal, you don’t have to get there straight away. The journey of a thousand miles always begins with a single step.