Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Green Leccy

I've finally switched electricity suppliers from Juice to Ecotricity as the latter is rated much higher in the Green Electricity Marketplace. No-one on the list seems to be retiring all their ROCs, but Eco-tricity do invest in new wind energy.

Want proof? Check out this great vid of a turbine installation from

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

It's... Buy Nothing Day

... and I've already bought a paper, some bread and cat food... I've decided that none of that counts!

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Ban the bag? Catch a Grip!

The humble carrier bag has had a bad time of it recently. From Gordon Brown's first big green speech to 'Dragon' Peter Jones to the good folk of Modbury, the message has gone out loud and clear "Save the Planet! Ban the bag!".

Unfortunately the facts undermine this totemic issue - plastic bags probably make up a measely 0.1% of our carbon footprint (less if you're as rich as Mr Jones and spend your life jetting around the world). What's in them is far more important - our grocery shopping accounts for between 20% and 33% of our footprint, depending on how you count it. Other huge chunks are taken up by heating our homes, our personal transport and cooling our offices.

I've got nothing against trying to reduce the number of single use plastic bags, but it is completely missing the point if the public starts to believe that's all there is to saving the world. Ditto switching off your phone chargers - worth doing, but a piddling amount of energy in the grand scheme of things.

I know I've said it before, but I think it's worth saying again. If you want to make a difference you need to:

As you can see above, it's not that hard, yet we're continually bombarded with misleading information. No wonder it is taking a long time to change the public's behaviour. Harrumph etc...

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Food Carbon Footprint Calculator

I've posted plenty of times about the fact that food is one of the biggest contributors to our carbon footprint (20-33% depending on who you ask). Unfortunately most 'carbon calculators', including the UK Government's, do not count food.

Fear not, because someone, and it's not clear who, has developed a Food Carbon Footprint Calculator. Warning: it's very thorough and you might want to collect some info over a week first.

My food footprint was 1.375tonnes CO2 per year compared to an average of 2tonnes - mainly 'cos I shop local and organic were poss. Veggies and vegans will obviously fare better.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

The hardest time of year for a greenie?

It's a cold dank morning here in the North East of England and it's got me down green-wise. The heating is on, the compost heap has gone into hibernation for the winter, the solar panel has packed it in until the sun comes out, the car starts looking a better option than the bicycle, and suddenly the idea of a 40inch plasma TV for evening entertainment doesn't seem so ludicrous after all. Never mind the tat-tastic festive season on the horizon.

On the other hand, this year's chutney is made, the organic veg bag is full of great soup making ingredients, and, errrmmm, that's about it really...

Roll on Spring!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tread Lightly With the Guardian

Regular readers will know that I quote regularly from the Guardian Environment website. Well they've now launched a new community site, Tread Lightly, to encourage people into a low carbon lifestyle so that they come together to save the planet.

People who sign up will find a different pledge every week that, if they act on it, will help them reduce their CO2 emissions. The pledges are all quite simple, achievable things: like changing your light bulbs for energy efficient ones, take showers not baths, recycle all of your newspapers this week, turn down your heating by one degree and recycle your glass this week. You will get gentle reminders of your pledges, plus a running total of your achievements and a forum to discuss the issues.

And there's more: a competition to win a G-Wiz car and a free bag giveaway. Anyone who completes a pledge by the end of November will be automatically entered into a competition to win a G-Wiz electric car. Anyone who completes 12 pledges by the end of February 2008 will be sent a free Tread Lightly cotton shopping bag. .

Sounds like a good idea to me so I've agreed to support it on this blog. And they're not paying me!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

We're all green now...

According to the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), being 'green' is now a socially acceptable norm. The 2007 Attitudes and Behaviour Toward the Environment survey polled 3,600 people in England on topics including general attitudes toward the environment, energy, water efficiency, and recycling.

Apparently the main motivation for an environmentally friendly lifestyle is guilt about harming the environment. So maybe we should stop all this "save the planet and save money" stuff that misses the point and ignores the dreaded rebound effect.

What did worry me was the following paragraph:

"Out of nine specific behaviours, the change that most people thought would have a major impact on reducing climate change was recycling more, followed by changes to car usage, and cutting down on the use of electricity and gas in the home. At least half thought each of these would have a major impact. Between half and two fifths felt the same about taking fewer flights, improving or installing insulation at home, and cutting down on water usage at home. Least often seen as important were behaviours to do with food – wasting less and buying locally – thought to have a major impact by less than one in three people."

This is almost completely the wrong way round - food is probably the biggest individual issue, then flying, then driving/home energy and recycling comes last.

Looks as if the message is getting through, but in a garbled form...

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Food Carbon Footprint

I've discussed the environmental impact of food before - some people say it is responsible for up a third of our carbon emissions. Yesterday's Observer has some figures for just how much carbon different meals can produce on their way to your plate:

Carbon Heavy: meat, veg & wine from the southern hemisphere: 10 000g per serving

Carbon Average: organic european meat, veg & wine: 3 000g per serving

Carbon Lean: local vegan organic food, organic local beer: 200g per serving

I think that speaks for itself!

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Biodiesel watchdog set up...

The ENDS Report is reporting that the Department for Transport has set up a watchdog, the Renewable Fuels Agency, to help ensure that biofuels used in the UK come from sustainable sources. This is timely with the new Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) coming into force in April 2009, which will require 5% of all vehicle fuels sold in the UK to be biofuels.

Biodiesel seemed to go from eco-saviour to eco-demon in record time. Originally held up as a carbon neutral solution to transport emissions, the pressure that growing the crops will have on food prices or pristine habitats. Uber green George Monbiot is particularly critical of the industry and his comments are worth reading.

Of course, as everyone agrees, making biodiesel out of old cooking oil is AOK - remember Darryl Hannah licking her fuelcap? I've never seen an analysis of how much fuel could be produced from this source, but if you can get it, take it!

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Green Living Conferences

There seems to be a sudden rash of sustainable living type conferences and exhibitions recently - the latest being the Ethical Shopping Conference in December.

I missed the Sustainability Show at the end of October because I had a client commitment and I haven't heard how it went. If any readers were there, please let the rest of us know your opinions in the comments.

About 18 months ago I went down to London village to see a similar show, but it was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales. Interestingly the Sustainability Show was free entry, so obviously they had a more sensible business plan.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Farmers' Markets Rock!

I love our local farmers' market - chutney, cheese and cooked pies tend to fill my bag - but unfortunately it only opens one day a month. All local food, less artificial crud and quite a lot of organic produce too. What more could you ask for?

There's an interesting article in the Guardian today about pressure on farmers' markets around the country to expand as they're being such a commercial success. The big issue seems to be whether to dilute the strict 'local' rules with products like marinated olives.

I'm in two minds about this:

1. As an environmentalist, it is great to know that the produce is local, but

2. As a consumer, if I'm on a foodie tip, I like to buy lots of fancy foods and more exotic things like chilli-stuffed olives matches the good cheese and preserves.

This might sound cynical, but I suspect that as with any successful niche offering, the markets will inevitably dilute their underpinning ethos. The question is whether selling a lot of 'pretty good' produce (in environmental terms) outweighs selling a much smaller amount of 'excellent' produce'? Everyone will have their own answer.

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