Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Carbon footprints

Suddenly everyone seems to be talking about carbon footprints. It's great. I'd spent years despairing that people would ever take environmental concerns seriously and suddenly, like a Mexican wave, global warming has become a mainstream issue. Customers have started declining bags, people in Waterstone's head office are talking about reducing wastage and my local council are going to penalise anyone who doesn't recycle.

I decided to find out what my carbon footprint was and take steps to reduce it. On the plus side I have energy-saving light bulbs, a small house and don't fly (well, very rarely). On the minus side I drive 200 miles a week, have a wife who obsessed with turning the thermostat up to 23c and only recycle my wine bottles. How bad am I?

I have looked at several carbon footprint websites and I'm still none the wiser. One carbon footprint 'calculator' has asked me very specific questions about my gas consumption whilst another is content to make assumptions based on fairly nebulous criteria. The average carbon footprint of people in Britain is around 9,500kg (19,000 in America; 1,200 in India). According to the CF calculators, my footprint could be anywhere between 5,500 and 9,500, which is quite a large margin of error.

If someone like me who is informed and sympathetic about green issues feels baffled and cynical about these calculators, then what is the ordinary person in the street going to feel? I'd like to see a calculator that is easy to use but detailed enough to account for everyone's unique circumstances, so that they can identify the areas of their life that need changing.

In the meantime I aim to do the following:

  • Only buy organic products that haven't been flown halfway across the world
  • Stop buying beef
  • Compost our food waste
  • Have showers instead of baths
  • Persuade my wife to wear a woolly jumper when it's cold
And I would love to be able to do the following

  • Ban all 4x4s (SUVs) unless the owner lives in the countryside
  • Have a VAT rate of 50% for food that has travelled more than 5,000 miles
  • Ban the sale of patio gas heaters
  • Offer tax incentives to anyone who installs energy-saving measures
  • Make biodiesel available at filling stations
And finally (and this is nothing to do with the environment), I would ban the wearing of Crocs.


Sara said...

Oh you meany...I adore my crocs...what's wrong with them? They are light weight and comfortable and you can easily wash them so they are hygenic and smell nice. I am a little wary of the whacky acid house luminous colours, my own are black, but they are ace for standing up in the bookshop all day in.

Oh, you were talking about something much more important weren't you, and I have to go and comment on shoes, oops.

Nowhere Girl said...

I agree that crocs should be banned. Or, perhaps, in the spirit of reducing carbon footprints, recycled?

But I like your ideas of how to reduce your carbon footprint. I'm inspired to shop organic and not buy beef too. But I don't know if I can give up my baths and take showers instead. I don't have a car and rely on public transportation, could that be an acceptable trade-off?

Steerforth said...

That would depend on how luxurious your taste in baths and public transport is.

dovegreyreader said...

Sorry will have to keep my Crocs the rest might be negotiable but hopefully we get to keep our 4x4.

Ego Super Omnia said...

great post! ill vote for you! :p

is your bookshop in sussex? my wife is giving a lecture at the university of sussex in september. i was wondering if i could get a book discount? haha

is it in the city center or whereabouts? cheers.

Ms Baroque said...

Why not - Crocs are like plastic bags for the feet, anyway. Do old ones biodegrade?

Ego Super Omnia said...


Leebot said...

I am totally with you on all of the above. As for the crocs? *sob* bless you!!!

Steerforth said...

I love the fact that out of all the things I've written about, it's Crocs that gets the biggest response!