One of the benefits of the Copenhagen climate discussions must be how it brings the notion of decreasing individual carbon emissions to the front of mind. Over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed amazing conversations about how we can reduce our individual carbon footprints. The Guardian’s 10:10 campaign has also been instrumental in fuelling (ahem) those discussions too.
Any government agreement to reduce emissions will realistically mean everyday changes. I personally don’t think that a government can legislate for that. We must take the initiative ourselves and I’ll be signing up for 10:10 and more importantly actually plan to meet the commitment. As I strive for that, here are some of my thoughts:
A 10% decrease is actually easy.
I think the useful lesson of 10:10 is that a 10% decrease need not mean much effort and means absolutely no hardship if you boil it down into very useful chunks. Here are some examples. It’s not using the car for the school run once every two weeks. It’s turning the heating down a bit. It’s fewer, longer holidays. The simplicity annoys hardcore greenies but it is clever presentation.
Coming off a low base.
When I look at my record, I feel pleased with where I’m coming from. I don’t drive and have never kept a car: public transport for me! I’ve taken the decision to give up flying (I’ve not flown at all in 2009 and since March 2007 I’ve only flown once). I don’t have children.
It’s tricky for tenants.
It’s reasonably easy to deal with lightbulbs, but when it comes to home improvements it is difficult for those who rent accommodation to make many of the suggested improvements, like insulation, lagging, double glazing. This does seem like an area that government and local authorities can influence: legislate for all landlords to maintain minimum green standards. It can’t be tough.
What about recycling?
10:10 encourages composting (I have a wormery and I’m so grateful to the worms for their hard work) and suggests we buy better quality goods so they last longer. But it doesn’t really mention recycling: why is that? I understand that no use or reuse is better, but I’m getting a sense (from this and other sources) that recycling might be a pointless waste of energy.
Hats off to 10:10 for illumination regarding the energy cost of producing clean water. I had no idea and have tried to be more sparing ever since I found out how much energy goes into to purifying, pumping and providing tap water. But it’s absurd that I have no financial incentive to save water: I rent, don’t have and can’t install a water meter. Moreover, I play a flat fee and certainly use less water than the family of four in the flat above me who pay the same. That needs to be sorted out
It’s also astonishing that we use our precious, pure water to flush the loo rather than “grey water”. I’d personally like to know about a clever way for chaps to recycle, or rather utilise, urine. I live in a town centre location and think pouring urine on my modest garden on a regular basis may not be that clever (although am willing to try). There must be a cleverer way of dealing with it? Thoughts please.
Freezing out the fridge and freezer.
I experimented with this by turning off my fridge freezer for the whole of last October. I live alone, go to the shop daily and barely use my freezer so it wasn’t real hardship. Perhaps most vitally, I don’t like milk. It made me wonder whether we need this energy-guzzling machine as much as think we do. Especially if it’s a bit chilly outside.
We need to get serious about micro-generation.
I would invest in a turbine or solar panel if a) I was permanently placed, b) I could meaningfully flog my surplus into the grid at a generous rate aimed at recouping my investment. Saving 10% and then producing 10% of my own would be real progress. I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to produce and not just reduce.
Understanding one’s carbon footprint is hard. Utility bills aren’t enough. I need more numbers. Please.
Booze, cheese and meat:
These are my massive failure. I like meat. I love cheese. I enjoy wine and beer and whisky and cider… hic. The production of all of the above creates loads of CO2. I can’t commit to giving them up totally but I will strive to consume less. I expect I may fail.
10:10 must surely lead to 20:11
If we accept that reducing 10% in 2010 is vital. Then 20% on 2011 must follow on from that. That’s a harder commitment.
I’ll report back in a year and tell you how I got on.