ENVIRONMENTAL BLOG by Peter:
As human beings are confronted with their own demise and going the way of the dinosaurs we have started to realise how much damage we have been doing to Planet Earth -poisoning the planet with chemicals, eroding it with mining, destroying the balance of the climate by burning irreplaceable fossil fuel, condemning people to an uncertain future, even as we liberate some of them from ill-health, poverty and starvation. We can all do something to stop this by reducing our personal carbon footprint, but do we know how?
Here are some common misconceptions:
- Washing up by hand is better for the environment than using a dishwasher.
On the contrary, a modern dishwasher uses much less water, and thus less energy. And it heats the water more efficiently too.
- Glass bottles are much better than plastic bottles.
In principle, only if you reuse them, and even then, reusable plastic bottles have a lower carbon footprint.
- Hot-air hand-driers destroy the climate.
A modern blade-style hand-drier is said to produce the equivalent of 1.7 grammes of carbon dioxide per cycle. A fabric towel is less hygienic and needs costly washing. Paper towels, even recycled ones (as often used nowadays) have to be made, cut to shape, folded, packed and transported, at an estimated 34 grammes of CO2 per use. BUT scientists say that wiping ones hands compared to air drying them has a much better result on germ and dirt removal. Washing alone in soap and water does not destroy all germs, you would need water of such temperature to do that it would badly scald your hands, therefore wiping hands dry is significantly better in preventing virus and infections spreading. Which is why hospitals use paper towels in the main and not air dryers.
- Reading the newspaper on line is better than buying a paper copy.
This is very contentious; it would be prudent to check if your newspaper is printed on paper from sustainable sources, and paper is easy to recycle. I’ve read that it is estimated that the production, printing and distribution of a newspaper produces some 28 kilos of CO2 per year. But if you read them on line for half an hour a day, it is estimated your computer will have produced 36 kilos, based on you buying your electricity on a regular tariff. However the device you use has a vastly different impact. The 36 kilos is for a desktop PC which uses 150-250 watts, but a laptop computer only uses 25 to 50 watts and a tablet computer or a phone only 2-5 watts. So in many cases on line use of newspapers is much better for the environment.
- Using your washing machine’s fast programme saves a lot of energy.
The fast programme heats the water to just the same temperature, and the only saving is that the motor is running for a shorter time. The real saving is from reducing the washing temperature – washing at 30° uses a third as much energy as washing at 60°. If your washing machine (or your dishwasher) has an economy programme, use that.
- Eating soya products destroys the rainforest.
This one is true. The world production of soya is over 250 million tons, and over 200,000 square kilometres of rainforest are destroyed every year in Brazil alone to produce it. But only 2% of this soya is for human consumption. The rest is fed to animals – so it is eating meat that leads to the destruction!.
- Paper bags are better for the environment than plastic ones.
This one is true, but only in principle. As with bottles, the key is in reusing your bags. Reusable paper bags need longer fibres for strength, but producing them is still some 20 times more efficient than making plastic ones (or even bags of cotton, jute or hemp – crops that have the extra problem of requiring noxious pesticides). If a nylon or a cloth bag lasts twenty times as long as a paper one, then that is the option to choose. But whatever you do, reuse and recycle!
So the message is clear; to reduce our own personal carbon footprint we need to learn how to do so, get informed on the science of climate change and make those little adjustments to our own lives!
So as one year draws to a close and we enter into another, let’s all consider what we can do personally to help the planet.