Archive for category CO2 tip of the day

If there’s one thing you do in March, go see The Age of Stupid

I first read about it a while ago, but now it’s really here, and time to create a buzz. The Age of Stupid, a full-length docu-drama about climate change, has its ‘people’s premiere’, showing simultaneously in cinemas across the country on the 15th of March.

The film, brainchild of Franny Armstrong, and Executive Produced by the energetic, Oscar-winning John Battsek, stars Pete Postlethwaite as a man living alone in a climate change wracked 2055, looking back at ‘archive’ footage of 2007 and asking the obvious question: why didn’t we do something when we had the chance?

I haven’t seen the film yet, but will absolutely go - and pay to do so as its highly original business model needs all the support we can give it. I have no doubt, however, that the reviews from a huge range of people speak the truth when they say it is a movie that has to be seen.

There are those who complain about the ’scare-tactics’ of climate campaigners, saying that this approach is more likely to get us turned-off than inspired. From the various clips I have seen of The Age of Stupid, I think that this film is more cerebral than that. It’s not just pointing out that the way we live today could bring about major climate change. It’s also pointing out quite how unnecessary, inefficient and abusive to our planet our way of life is.

Anyway, here’s the trailer as a taster. From May the 1st onwards, you can organise your own screening to raise money for your own green causes, and I for one will be encouraging every one I know to watch.

The Age of Stupid: final trailer, Feb 2009 HD from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

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Reducing emissions - the ideal way to fight the Credit Crunch

Just in case anyone has had their head in the sand for the first 5 months of this year I just wanted to confirm officially: things are getting tighter financially, and it’s going to get worse. At any rate, that’s my reading of what I see going on around me in the UK. Mortgages (if you can get one) are going up, petrol is going up as are other fuel bills, food is going up, house values are going down…

So what should we do about it? Well we can do the classic thing and moan a lot and wait to be helped by the government, or we can look at our lives and see how we can ’slim down’ our expenses, cutting out the unnecessary costs in order to leave us more to spend on the things we can’t do without.

There have been several articles in the papers recently wondering whether a recession will cause businesses and consumers to give up on their efforts to cut their CO2 emissions as there are more important things to worry about. I think that this is a complete contradiction in terms for both businesses and consumers. Reducing your CO2 emissions will always save you money, and in some cases it will cost you nothing or next to nothing.

Above all, there are all the obvious things you can do, many of which are covered in my Reduce Your CO2 Tips of the Day. Most of these apply to offices and to homes and nowadays it’s often offices who are the main culprits, committing such sins as leaving monitors, printers and even lights on all night. Businesses also have an advantage in that, if you own your offices, investing in solar or wind power will have an immediate effect on overheads whilst being considered an investment that adds value to the company. At home, it’s simply a matter of changing your behaviour, for instance by doing the round of all the sockets every night to switch them off, or not day dreaming in the shower!

Many of us know about these relatively simple actions, and to me they should not be presented so much as something we HAVE to do because the world is in danger (although this may be true). First and foremost, they are common sense. Why waste money? Why spend more money heating your house than is necessary? If there’s one thing that winds me up, it’s the comments of global warming naysayers about conusuming for all their worth, because they can, and because it won’t have any effect anyway. Let’s put aside the effect bit, and simply look at what they are proposing: let’s spend as much money as possible where we don’t need to, just because we can.

Ok, enough ranting. Reducing CO2 emissions is about becoming more efficient, and in many cases with little or no effort. Right now this is what everyone needs to know, and it’s what I’m saying to anyone who will listen. What would be really good, would be if governments tried out the same message. Let’s stop talking about more or less green taxes and where they go. Let’s cut down on the doom and gloom, which causes huge divides of opinion, apathy in some, and panic in others. Let’s just concentrate on using our common sense and sitting back to enjoy the fact that by saving money on our energy bills we have stopped the credit crunch from affecting us.

 Oh, and we’ve reduced our CO2 emissions in the process….

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Reduce your CO2 tip of the day (20): use the stairs - it’s good for your health!

Ok, so this is slightly tongue in cheek, but in the everlasting battle to make us more aware of the things we take for granted, the things that generate CO2 emissions, everything counts. Lifts use electricity. Many of us use lifts every day. Do we actually need to use them?

Here’s a concrete example: I work on the first floor of an office building. That’s one flight of stairs, well actually one split into two, but still just a little walk, although everyone says that the steps are a real pain being long but not high thus forcing you either to make little strides as you go up one by one, or huge strides as you go up two by two. Every time I arrive in the building I have a choice: awkward steps or one floor in the lift. That’s an opportunity to take the lift around 800 times a year, to use electricity unnecessarily 800 times a year, instead of taking just a little more exercise (in my case probably needed).

I reckon that there are many of us in a similar situation, so my Reduce your CO2 tip of the day is very simple: before you get in the lift, ask yourself whether or not you really need to, or whether in fact a couple of flights of stairs would be just as easy, and could do you good!

One afterthought, that occurred to me whilst writing this: why don’t we make all escalators stop when noone is on them. Outside rush hour, many escalators run for no reason at all. Adding those infra red sensors that start them up automatically would certainly cut power consumption and therefore CO2 emissions.

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Reduce your CO2 tip of the day (19): insulate, insulate, insulate

Whilst all the actions we can take to reduce our CO2 emissions are important, many of them have a relatively small impact on the 6 tonnes per year of CO2 emissions generated by the average UK household. Upgrading your fridge to one with an A+ energy rating will for instance save around 64kg of CO2 emissions per year according to the Energy Saving Trust.

This is not the case for CO2 tip of the day number 19. Insulating your house properly can save over a tonne of CO2 emissions every year - and dramatically reduce your heating bill at the same time. These figures are based on improvements made to a badly insulated 3 bedroom house, but anyone living in any form of accommodation of any size can reduce their emissions by ensuring their home is well insulated. The UK has a terrible record on insulation, so (forgive me for dreaming a moment) if we all followed as many as possible of the following recommendations, the effect on our CO2 emissions would be dramatic:

  1. If you have a loft, insulate it. Installing insulation 270mm thick or more could save a tonne of yearly C02 emissions in a 3 bedroom house.
  2. Wall insulation can have an even more dramatic effect. The cheapest approach is cavity wall insulation, where a special product is pumped into the cavity between the inner and outer walls of your house (most houses built since the 1920’s have cavity walls). This can save anything up to a tonne of emissions and costs around £500 for a three bedroom house.
  3. More expensive and more complicated, but with a possible emissions reduction of up to 2.5 tonnes is external or internal wall insulation.
  4. Double glazing is no longer a taboo subject either. There are now high quality solutions for every style of house, with the possibility to save around 750kg of CO2 emissions.
  5. Most of us have curtains, but when do we close them? More often than not, when we go to bed! During winter, close your curtains as soon as possible when it gets dark, in order to keep a maximum of heat in. If today you have blinds, but you are looking to improve your heating efficiency, it is well worth considering curtains.
  6. Draught proof your doors, etc. As much as 20% of heat loss in a typical home is via ventilation and draughts, but this is an easy to solve issue. Any number of products exist for blocking draughts on the sides and bottoms of doors, and equally around less obvious areas like cat flaps, or bathroom ventilation.

There is much discussion at the moment around the best way to encourage consumers to reduce personal CO2 emissions, with all the political parties weighing in with their latest proposals. One point that has emerged in various surveys, is that the public is more likely react to a ‘carrot’ approach than a ’stick’ approach - that is to say, most of us agree that we will work on this problem if we are incentivised to do so, rather than if we are punished for not doing so.

To my mind, insulation is an area where incentives could easily be put in place, with some form of reduction in stamp duty or even tax relief on mortgages for houses with low emissions. In spite of the current rumblings in the financial markets, the UK housing market remains strong, and people move relatively regularly, making this an incentive for important improvements that could have a major effect on emissions, and that could have a real and immediate effect on UK CO2 emissions.

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Reduce your CO2 tip of the day (18): Use less paper

The concept of using less paper has been around for a long time, it’s just the reasoning behind it and the importance of this reasoning that has evolved. In the beginning it was ‘protect the rain forests, use less paper’, but for most people the rain forests were the cradle of life, rather than the CO2 absorbers they are known as today. People certainly did not connect using too much paper with dramatic changes in our future lifestyles.

Funnily enough, however, I get the feeling that we worry less about using paper today than we did 10 years ago - it’s certainly the case in the very wasteful office I am currently working in. Maybe we feel that recycling has solved the problem. Maybe we have the impression that the ‘paperless office’ is reality, and that, because we send hardly any faxes and letters but use emails instead nowadays, we are using less paper. Maybe we think that enough trees are being planted elsewhere to compensate for those that are cut down to make paper.

Only it’s not as simple as that. Demand for paper continues to increase, so we are cutting down more and more trees. The manufacture of paper also uses water, chemicals and energy. On average, only 50% of paper used is likely to be recycled, and huge amounts still end up in landfills or even being incinerated. Paper is bad for the environment.

What’s more, the famous ‘paperless office’ is, in my experience, a myth. Email is such an easy form of communication, that we send more and more of them…… and then we PRINT THEM OUT! We produce beautiful powerpoint presentations that look great on screen and then we PRINT THEM OUT IN BLACK AND WHITE! Our screens are bigger and better, but to check our documents we PRINT THEM OUT! In many countries, the law still requires HARD COPIES of invoices. We continue to generate reams and reams of paper in a totally inefficient and unnecessary manner.

And at home, its not much better. Junk mail….. need I say more? Bank statements, credit card bills, phone bills, utilities bills, KITCHEN ROLL (sorry, I’m in a mood for capital letters today), useless receipts, product instructions in 10 languages taking up 10 times the paper.

Maybe it is possible to find a way to produce all the paper we need combining new and recycled paper, whilst maintaining the number of trees globally, although I doubt it. But is that the point? If we’re not producing CO2 by killing trees, we’re doing so by producing paper, burning paper, or letting it decompose. It all counts.

And with a little effort, just a little effort, we can make a dent in this problem, both at home and at work. At home this will save us time and money. At work it will make our businesses more profitable. In all cases it will reduce CO2 and save energy.

Here are my tips for using less paper - there are of course many variations:

At work

  1. Only print if you really need to. Just ask yourself the question each time you think about printing a document.
  2. If you need to print, why not print on both sides of each sheet of paper? Most printers have this function nowadays.
  3. If you are printing a word document for internal use, why not print two pages on each page? Again most modern printers have this function.
  4. If you are printing a powerpoint presntation for internal use / review, print several slides per page. Up to 6 is in general perfectly readable.
  5. If you have a pda that you synchronise with your pc and the screen is big enough, why not take the email or document with you and view it on your pda when you go to that meeting?
  6. Recycle all office paper. Step one is reusing paper internally if only one side has been printed on. Step two is ensuring that paper is kept and collected for recycling.
  7. If your suppliers / clients are willing to work this way, ask to send and receive invoices by email. Same with contracts, although you may need a signed copy somewhere along the line.

At Home

  1. Don’t buy and don’t use kitchen roll. It’s so easy, it’s so available, it gets used for everything and nothing, lasts no time, and goes in the bin so gets sent to landfill or incineration. Use soap and a sponge. It’s more hygenic anyway.
  2. Join the mail preference service and opt out of receiving junk mail. No more 0% credit card offers!
  3. Bank online and ask to stop receiving paper statements. You still have access to all the information you need, but you don’t receive several pieces of paper each month that you probably don’t read anyway. What’s more taking this action contributes to a whole chain of CO2 reduction: the bank buys less paper, and does not use energy to print the statement. The mail service does not use energy in delivering the letter. You don’t even have to send the paper for recycling or worse, you don’t have to put it in the wrong bin and send it for incineration or burning where it generates yet more CO2.
  4. Same goes for phone bills. You can now receive this information by email. If credit card companies don’t do it, they should.
  5. Recycle all the paper you don’t need. Everyone has a recycling service now, but it’s amazing how much paper still goes in the wrong bin.
  6. When you buy a new electrical product, take all unnecessary instructions and put them straight into the recycling bin.
  7. If you have a choice, ask NOT to receive a receipt unless you need one.

These are all things that are easy to do, so why not avoid being forced to make much larger concessions in the future, and take action today. I promise it won’t change our day to day lives, but it might help change our future.

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Reduce your CO2 tip of the day (17): sensible green driving habits

Today’s tip of the day is prompted by my discovery of a new site launched by the UK Department for Transport called ACT ON CO2. Its goal is to provide information on how to reduce pollution from cars, and it provides a very useful search engine to help you find the top 10 least polluting cars in 14 different categories, including ‘Performance’ (the Subaru Impreza wins with a mere 244 g/km2 of CO2 emissions!).

This site is great if you are looking for a new car - it even tells you how much your tax disk will cost - and I for one intend to pay a maximum of £30 for my tax disk rather than the £300 now asked for the big polluters! However for most of us, buying a new car is not the immediate solution to our green problems - if we could all afford to go out and buy  a new car today, we could reduce CO2 emissions by a huge amount over night! IF.

Time to stop dreaming then, and to look at the other things we can do to reduce our CO2 emissions when driving. Here are my sensible green driving tips - I say ’sensible green’ because they are mostly just that. In adopting these habits you will drive more sensibly, generate less CO2 emissions and save money at the same time:

  1. Stay within the speed limit. This is probably the most obvious tip of all, but still needs to be said. I think we’ve got better at observing speed limits in town, but who doesn’t put their foot down from time to time when out on the open road? If we stick to speed limits at all times, we will reduce co2 emissions. As an example, it can cost you as much as 25% more fuel if you drive at 70 mph rather than 50 mph.
  2. Change gear at 2,500 revs. Sticking that bit longer in every gear will give you an extra second on your 0 - 60, but will it really get you there that much quicker? Keeping the revs down reduces your emissions.
  3. Avoid harsh acceleration and braking. Harsh acceleration means your car is doing more work than necessary. Harsh braking means your car will have to work harder to get back up to speed again. Try to drive smoothly.
  4. Use air conditioning sparingly or not at all. Aircon is powered by the engine. Therefore using your aircon means you use more energy. Your petrol goes down much quicker, and you generate more emissions.
  5. BUT try not drive with the windows open either. I think there’s an opportunity to relaunch a product here. Remember those plastic slipstream thingies you could attach to your front windows so that air was channeled more efficiently to cool the inside of the car? Isn’t there a opportunity to produce something that lets us drive with the windows open without reducing drag and thus increasing our emissions? Anyway that’s the problem, and the conundrum. Aircon uses petrol, whilst opening the windows increases the work the engine has to do, and so uses more petrol….
  6. If you are going to be stationary for more than 2 minutes, switch off the engine. This one is crucial when sitting in the queue on the motorway on yet another bank holiday. If you’re not moving, don’t waste petrol. The car has to work hard when first heating up, but once it’s warm, you can switch off an on without generating massive additional co2 emissions.
  7. Don’t drive around with unnecessary heavy things in the car. I reckon you can work this one out without more explanation, although maybe a special mention for anyone who has a roof box for going on holiday who forgets to take it off as soon as they arrive / get back home. These things have a huge effect on your petrol consumption!
  8. Check your tyre pressure. Squashy tyres mean more work for the engine - oh, and you use them quicker too.
  9. Get your car serviced regularly. A properly serviced car is a more efficient car. I know services cost money, but not nearly as much as breakdown recovery and even a new car.
  10. Only use the car if there is no other solution. Over 25% of UK car journeys are under 2 miles in length. Are they all really necessary?

In the long run, the only real way to reduce CO2 emissions from cars is for us all to drive more efficient cars, but this is going to take time. In the meantime however, we can all work to drive our current cars more efficiently. It will make a difference.

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Reduce your CO2 tip of the day (16): look after your fridge / fridge freezer

Fridges and fridge freezers are some of the biggest power consumers in the home. Considering that they are on all year round, this is not totally surprising, but an average fridge freezer will still generate up to twice as much emissions as your TV and four times as much as your kettle (unless you are a serial tea drinker!). Many are also extremely inefficient, and consume electricity unnecessarily, continuing to consume at the same level even though full power is only needed to start up the motor and pump fluid around the system.

It is therefore very important to look after these appliances and to use them as efficiently as possible, and here are Reduce Your CO2’s useful tips for generating a minimum amount of emissions with your fridge, fridge / freezer or freezer:

  1. Make sure that your food is cool before putting it away. It’s pretty obvious science really - if you put warm food in the fridge, the fridge will have to work harder to cool it down.
  2. Make sure that all freezer compartments and freezers are regularly defrosted. A defrosted freezer needs less effort to keep things cool than one clogged with ice.
  3. Dust the element regularly. The element works on the principal of removing heat and sending it out into the air. If covered with dust, the heat will take longer to leave the element.
  4. Buy yourself a Savaplug. This specially adapted plug can detect once the fridge / freezer’s motor is up to speed and then reduces the amount of electricity used to the necessary level. Savaplugs don’t work with all fridges and fridge / freezers so do check the list of incompatible appliances on their web site.
  5. If you replace your fridge / freezer, try to buy an ‘A’ rated appliance, which can halve your current appliances emissions.

Fridge / freezers and freezers are very important to leading an efficient ecological life. We have become an extremely wasteful society, and intelligent use of your fridge / freezer or freezer means that you throw away far less food and therefore generate less waste. What is important is to use these appliances efficiently and to use as little energy as we can.

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Reduce your CO2 tip of the day (15): buying a new car? Check out the emissions

September and another UK number plate change is approaching, and this means that for a fair amount of people, thoughts are turning to changing the car. Whether you are intending to take the decision by September or later on in the year, it is crucial to add an additional criterion to your car selection process: what are the CO2 emissions in g/km2?

This is a measurement scale that we all need to learn by heart. We should look up the typical emissions for our current cars, although we should bear in mind that these figures will be affected by age, insufficient servicing, badly maintained tyres and non green driving habits. We should then all aim to buy a new car with at least 20% lower emissions.

Better still, we should go as far as we can and look at the following list of cars with emissions of 120 g/km2 or less, provided by the VCA. There are already 36 of them according to this list, and more are on their way - in particular the Volkswagen Blue motion which is out this summer with only 102 g/km2. What’s more, they are not all super minis, and they are not all as expensive as the trendy Toyota Prius, certainly the dearest of the bunch, and they will save you money on petrol and on your tax disc too!

Whatever you do, do try to cut your emissions every time you buy a new car. If we all do this, the CO2 reduction targets set by our governments will become far more realistic, our remaining fossil fuels will go that little bit further (until we can phase them out totally), and in this time of spiralling petrol prices, we will go that little bit further for that little bit less.

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Reduce your CO2 tip of the day (14): get rid of the tumble dryer

Tumble dryers are one of the worst culprits in the home for CO2 consumption. They consume energy both in the power needed to make them ‘tumble’ and in the power needed to heat them up.

According to recent figures from the Energy Saving Trust, we use our washing machine on average 274 times a year, and our tumble dryer on average 148 times a year. Let’s say we’ve finally understood that we can wash our clothes just as well at 30 degrees, reducing by over 20 percent the power consumed to heat the water used. Good, that’s a start. However, the next, far more effective step is to eliminate the power-guzzling tumble dryer.

All you need to do is pick one of the following options:

  1. Got a garden? Lucky you, you can hang your clothes out to dry! They will smell great, and what’s more they will be much easier to iron. Ok I know, there is this thing called rain…. in that case, garden or not, on to option 2.
  2. Get an indoor clothes hanger, or if you have the space, install pulleys. It’s simple, efficient, and it saves energy. Also, having your clothes hanging around reminds you to put them away!!!
  3. If you really must use a tumble dryer from time to time, try to combine use with the above solutions, and, if at all possible, replace your current dryer with a low-energy model.

I get the feeling tumble dryers are a bit like mobile phones, and cars for that matter. Once you’ve got one, you can’t live without it. As someone who’s never had one I can assure you: tumble dryers are unnecessary, energy guzzling appliances, plus one more thing in the home to go wrong and cost you money. Air dry your clothes save energy, and save money. You won’t notice the difference either.

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Reduce your CO2 tip of the day (13): change to a green electricity supplier

Green or renewable electricity suppliers are approved electricity suppliers who buy the power that they supply from renewable energy sources: wind farms, hydroelectric power stations, solar photovoltaic installations, and, in the future, wave power and others… Some of them also use nuclear power, which I know is not everyone’s idea of ‘green’ electricity, but fortunately there are enough suppliers to enable you to pick and choose.

Switching to a green electricity supplier means that the energy you consume is CO2 neutral, that is to say that it has been generated without producing CO2 emissions. It doesn’t mean you should go ‘woohoo’ and consume all you want, but it does mean that you are emitting less CO2 than someone whose electricity comes from a coal-burning power station. Surprisingly enough, renewable electricity costs about the same as well, or at worst 10% more expensive, which you can offset if you change all your lightbulbs to energy saving ones.

The UK’s open energy supplier market (and it’s the same in many European countries too) means that it is extremely easy to switch your electricity supplier nowadays. In fact, all you have to do is to click on this link to visit Energy Linx, who compare all the different available prices, show you the options (including their sources of green electricity) and help you set in motion your transfer online.

Switching to a green / renewable electricity supplier has to be the easiest move you can make to reduce your co2 emissions. If you combine it with following all of our other reduce your co2 tips you will save money as well, and ensure that there is enough renewable electricity available for all the other converts. This one is a given: DO IT NOW!

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