Rain was forecast. It didn’t surprise me that the sun was high in the sky. It was a friend’s 40th and we were on a circular stroll through the ancient Ashridge woods, from and to the homely Valiant Trooper in cossetted Aldbury. Lovely food. A friendly conversation with a couple I’d just met lead me to realise I’ve not covered how I reduced my emissions in this blog.
I was chatting to Will and Anne, friends of the birthday boy. I’d barely had time to christen them “Will-I-Anne” (oh, I am a funny man) before we got on to the inevitable subject of what we each “do”. Will is a TV producer and Anne a financial solicitor. I had more trouble describing what I “do”, but inevitably it lead to a discussion about climate change.
I described this blog and how I’ve been trying to show that a low impact lifestyle is thoroughly fulfilling and worthwhile. They asked the obvious follow-on question – what would I recommend that they do to reduce their own emissions?
For me, it’s been a roundabout journey. I guess it really started only a handful of years ago around the time I got involved with Transition Town Berkhamsted. I was concerned about climate change but hadn’t really made any concerted changes in my own lifestyle.
It was probably setting up and running an Eco-team that kick-started me into action. The idea is for a few friends to measure their energy, petrol-use, gas, water and even to weigh your rubbish and recycling, and then to progressively look at reducing each in turn. We’d go through a few hints and tips for each and implement them. I learned about the 10-second rule for idling cars, put a hippo bag in my toilet cistern, got a new boiler and the solar panels installed, started using washable nappies (not me, the baby), and looked for produce without packaging. I saw a huge decrease in my consumption – of about 30-40% for each of gas, electricity, water and rubbish.
So first step I’d recommend would be to measure your foot-print to find out where the major problem lies. It’s the same way a business might approach the job of reducing costs or a computer programmer might look at making a process more efficient.
Once you’ve worked out what the big hitters are in your lifestyle, you’ll need to work out how to cut them out. It is likely though that the biggest changes you can make concern your travel habits and how much stuff you buy. One holiday at home rather than flying is going to be worth an awful lot of recycling.
Don’t get me wrong, I did make those obvious little changes that save money and avoid waste, such as getting cavity wall insulation or replacing high-energy light-bulbs. That’s just not the whole job done, by any means.
Turned out that Will-I-Anne had made quite a few changes in their lives already, but were not convinced that making further changes on their own would be worth it – they argued that it needed central co-ordination from government rather than individual action. Though they did amiably agree that just because government aren’t forcing change does not devolve you of responsibility.
In the end they decided that they would offset for their remaining big emission habit – flying to Oz to see relatives – by paying someone to sequester some carbon dioxide for them. While it would be better to avoid the emissions altogether, at least this will mean that their emissions now are lower than they would have been. If everyone offsets the capacity for offsetting will be reached and the price will go up, then they will need to look again at their habits.
I hope that helps.