Thursday, 6 November 2008

Thursday 6th November 08

Our wedding anniversary... 9 years married, 15 years since our first kiss... aaahhhhh xxx

I took out little 'un to school and came back and spent some time with Gill, but then went into the garden to put some mature compost into sacks for our friend Alison who's making raised beds. Whilst doing this, I was thinking of something which I did yesterday which led me to feel quite upset and angry.

I had recieved an email from The Carbon Account reminding me to input my gas and electricity meter readings, so my graph of carbon emissions could be updated. I do this at the beginning of every month, and the website software calculates/estimates my annual carbon footprint. I really like this way of presenting the information, as I can see the different levels of carbon emissions from different activities over time. For instance, in August, as we were away for a week, our household emissions visibly dipped very slightly. So, yesterday, I read the meters and put in the new figures, and I decided to do something I had vowed to do back in September when I was expecting a visitor from America. I do not fly, for reasons of high carbon emissions being incompatible with my low carbon lifestyle. When my friend flew over last year to see me and other friends in the UK, I was a bit upset about it as I was contributing to the problem by agreeing to see this friend, and if I hadn't of agreed to spend some time with her, she might not have travelled. So when she indicated she'd like to come and see me again this autumn, I was not that happy and tried to put her off. However, she was intent on visiting and quite pushy and forceful, and I'm not the sort of person who tries to prevent people doing what they want to do. So she flew over and I agreed to spend some time with her. I also said that I would take moral responsibility for one of her flights, carbon-wise. So yesterday, I inputted a single journey from Manchester to Atlanta into my Carbon Account figures and was ASTONISHED to see how much carbon was emitted! My annual electricity emissions are about 250kg and annual gas emissions are just over 60kg... but the one way flight emitted a whopping 1947kg, making 86% of my yearly emissions. I was angry and upset. Not only has this wrecked my lovely graph (which you can see by going onto the site, clicking on 'people' and forwarding to the 'J' section and clicking on the pic of me and Caroline Lucas... you can see how much the spike of aircraft emissions dwarfs my household footprint by clicking on the small-print which says, 'Your emissions (including flights- click here to exclude them)'.

Interestingly, perhaps fortuitously, the visit dd not go well and I won't be seeing the American lady again. This is not due primarily to the fact that to see each other she has to fly, it's because we didn't get on. But the flights thing is an issue and I look forward to next November when that emissions spike disappears from my graph..... It will take longer for those carbon dioxide molecules to go from the atmosphere though, and I apologise to anyone who cares about this planet for re-igniting that friendship (we met as teenagers) and being part cause of those emissions (actually 1947 kg times four, nearly 8 tonnes). Dreadful! I won't even begin to think about my parents who have decided to visit New Zealand. Flying completely wrecks any good we do by recycling or using the bus rather than the car. If you fly, you cannot call yourself 'green', as if you do you are a complete hypocrite, and this is how I feel about myself for agreeing to see this friend. I'll try to put the whole sorry episode behind me.

Barry came to deliver the press and crusher, looked down the garden and drove away with the compost for Alison.

I continued to work in the garden in the drizzle... lovely!

Gill went to town on the bus to get shoes and came back with boots.

I went to school at 3 to help with Green Thumbs. I took a small group and we prepared a mushroom kit in a box.. a layer of straw with mycelium running through it, and a casing layer on top. We then had a good chat about decomposition, and all the types of organism which help... fungi, bacteria, slugs, worms, woodlice... my fave subject!

Home to a happy household, children voluntarily doing homework (a first for everything!) and all peaceful! Totally wow!

I made tea on the woodstove... slices of crook-neck squash, grown in the conservatory, and sweet potato from Country Fresh, and chestnuts from Poppleton Road.. all this along with my son's salad created at school today, yum!

A happy evening too, spent quite a bit of time on the phone with a helpful caller from Tiscali, trying to help me sort out a problem I'm having with emails bouncing back from certain email addresses, many thanks to Anup from Maharashtra who was very good to talk to, professional, and he got the problem more or less sorted (ie the problem is not with Tiscali, it's with, probably, The Phone Co-op... so will contact them next!)

But also had a good game of Scrabble with Gill. I won, just.


Anonymous said...

couldnt your friend or you have paid for carbon offsetting? how would that affect your graph?

Compost John said...

Good question, and it shows how carbon offsetting can make some people feel it is 'ok to pollute', and shows how offsetting may have somewhat 'muddied the waters' in the debate.

What carbon offsetting does is to install low carbon technology (such as solar panels which generate electricity for lighting, replacing kerosene lamps which are fossil fuel and pollute the home with smoke) using the money from people who have already polluted, by flying, driving etc etc. Carbon offsetting does not remove the carbon from the air that the polluter emitted.

Offsetting companies do often give advice on reducing emissions, and state that they will offset your 'essential' emissions after emission reduction. So I'm not totally against what they do, but if their services mean that we in the West think we can continue to behave in exactly the same way as we have been doing, they are part of the problem.

So, The Carbon Account graph relates to the actual emissions emitted, not any offsetting done. I recently participated in a public meeting about offsetting and I drew the (short) straw and had to do the 'pro-offsetting' argument. So from that perspective, paying someone to put in low carbon technology is better than not paying for that technology, and those actions can help make the polluter feel just a little bit better about their dirty habits. But far better than that is to NOT POLLUTE IN THE FIRST PLACE! If you choose not to pollute, you can still give money to an offsetting company if you wish!

So I don't know if my ex-friend paid into an offsetting company or not, and I doubt that I'll ever know. I have never paid into an offsetting company even though my actions emit perhaps a tonne of CO2a year, from burning gas, the infrastructure connected to my electricity use (even though my units used are all generated with renewable technology through Good Energy Ltd) using public transport, the food I eat, embodied energy in my bike construction and repair, etc etc.

My 'offsetting' activities are in helping others to cut their emissions and my recycling activities. The compostable materials I recycle would have been driven to a landfill and emitted methane from that landfill. The aluminium cans I collect from the streets are sold for melting down, replacing raw bauxite smelting which uses far more energy than recycling existing cans. My blogs, column, Facebook advice and York Rotters activity all help/encourage others to go greener, so reducing the overall C footprint of the readers etc who change their lifestyles because of the info I give.

I hope this helps you understand the benefits and problems connected with offsetting.