Travelers climb on board a bus.

Switching to a car-free lifestyle is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon impact. Credit: Getty

Climate change

Thousands of studies reveal the best ways to cut your carbon footprint

To lead a climate-friendly life, kiss the car goodbye.

Ditching cars altogether is one of the most effective steps that people can take to shrink their carbon footprint, according to a sprawling analysis of changes that individual consumers can make to cut their carbon emissions.

Household activities account for about two-thirds of the heat-trapping gases that are released globally. To identify which strategies are best for reducing household emissions, Diana Ivanova at the University of Leeds, UK, and her colleagues analysed nearly 7,000 studies on the topic.

The scientists quantified the choices that lead to the steepest carbon cuts for three types of purchase: food, housing and transport. For food, adopting a vegan diet has the biggest impact. For housing, adding solar panels, or otherwise generating renewable electricity, saves the most emissions.

The biggest savings overall are in transportation, especially if consumers go car-free, shift to a battery-powered electric vehicle or take fewer long-distance flights.

Adopting all of the 10 most-effective options would cut emissions by 9.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year — a big impact, especially in higher-consuming, high-income nations.