Friday 29 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 24

Council your local council. Thank them for their recycling facilities but ask them if they could provide more.

A few days ago I said I'd do this with regard to food waste recycling; I shall now expand the remit a bit. I will do some research into what could be recycled but isn't collected via our blue bins, and will write to them. One that springs to mind is tetra pak drinks cartons - they can be recycled at the recycling centre, but are not collected. Same goes for clothes.

Thursday 28 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 23

Turn the taps off. In one day a hot dripping tap could fill a bath.

Since I got a new kitchen a couple of years ago and a new bathroom last year (after a fashion), my taps are all pretty good and don't drip - and I never leave them running or anything like that. The only thing that leaks is the shower, but it's more in a "spurting out spare water when the air pressure changes a bit" sort of way, rather than in a "needs fixing" kind of way.

However, I reused the leftover water in my water bottle to water the plants today, rather than just throwing it away, and I will try to do this from now on.

Types of meetings

After extensive research, I have discovered that meetings in work can be split into 2 types:

Wednesday 27 February 2008

How To: Knit Mittens

So while I have been away, smallcorner has taken up knitting - a noble pursuit, and one which will guarantee years of satisfaction.

You may recall that over the festive period, I made myself stripey mittens. I thought I would share the instructions for this with the world, so that you can all have stripey mittens too, but especially it is for the benefit of smallcorner.

I decided to do it diagramatically, because it is too hard to explain. Proceed as follows:

Carbon Fast: Day 22

Find one way to save paper today: reuse an old envelope or print double-sided.

At home we already have a box of old envelopes to reuse for shopping lists etc, and we reuse as much paper as is humanly possible.

So I shall have to move this one to work. I already have a pile of paper for reusing and double-siding, but I think I'll get a special box so everyone can share it (and it doesn't take up space on my desk).

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 21

Only run your washing machine when you have a full load.

This is another one I already do. I've also been cutting down on tumble drying, started using eco washing powder and got tumble drier balls which avoid the need for tumble drier sheets and hence create less waste.

So I can't think what else to do. I think I'll give in and pay the forfeit today.

Monday 25 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 20

Compost. Put nutrients from food back into the soil, not into a methane-emitting landfill site.

This one is a bit tricky. My local council have been promising for a couple of years that I will soon be able to put food in my brown bin with my garden waste, but so far there has been no progress.

I don't have room for a compost bin, nor would I have use for the compost.

So, here is the plan: I reuse as much food as I can by putting whatever I can out for the birds. I will also contact my local council and ask them to get a move on with the food going in the brown bins thing.

Sunday 24 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 19

Today there was a prayer to pray with those in the developing world who rely on a good harvest in order to feed their families, but who are caught in a cycle of floods and drought.

Saturday 23 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 18

Cut the air miles. Don't consume any food that you know has been imported by plane (apart from Fairtrade products).

This one was surprisingly trickly, mainly because most food doesn't say where it came from, or how it got to my local shops. The main exceptions are meat and vegetables, but I was able to get locally produced stuff there.

Assumming that all food produced in the UK is brought to Belfast by boat, rather than plane (which I think it is, by and large) made most things a bit easier to come by, but in the end I was able to source all my food for the day from producers and companies in Northern Ireland, without too many dietary adjustments.

Friday 22 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 17

Only fill the kettle with as much water as you need.

Another one that I already do. So let's find something similar that I can do instead. Save Cash and Save the Planet suggests various ways of using less hot water, of which one is to put the plug in when you wash your hands, so the water's not pouring down the sink. I shall do this from now on, and also I will turn the tap off when I'm cleaning my teeth rather than letting it keep running.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 16

Switch off lights as you leave the room.

I always do this, having been trained by my parents from a very young age to switch off everything (lights, tv, granny's oxygen supply*) before moving to a different part of the house for any period of time.

So, today we shall have to do something else, and I have just the thing. About the leaving mobile phone chargers on when they're not charging; I always disconnect mine when it's not in use, but when I'm actually charging the phone, quite often it gets left on for ages longer than it takes to charge, because I've no idea how long it takes (usually I leave it overnight). So today I figured out roughly how long my phone takes to charge (about 2 hours), so that in future I can remove it more speedily once it's ready.

* I made that last bit up

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 15

Snub plastic bags; take your rucksack to the supermarket. Ask your supermarket to remove unnecessary packaging.

Ah, the old plastic bags vs bin liners debate rears its head again. You see, when the Paddy Republic introduced its tax on plastic bags, they found that sales of bin liners went through the roof, because people used to use plastic bags for bin liners but now they were too valuable so they didn't do that any more. And bin liners are worse than plastic bags for landfill sites because they take longer to break down. The same argument applies here.

Now, I get round this by reusing bags as much as possible, and not taking those extra little bags to put fruit in and so on, and buying things with less packaging (Co-op are particularly good, so I shop there as often as I can), but if I know we're running out of plastic bags for bin liners, I go to the Co-op and get one of their biodegradable plastic bags for my shopping and subsequently, for my bin.

I'm not sure this is a great plan, but it's the best I can come up with.

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 14

Take a shower instead of a bath; you'll heat less water.

I don't generally take baths, so this is not so relevant. But I have been trying to have the shower a bit cooler and also to not stand under it for hours on end. This has been good for the planet, my gas bill and my skin.

Monday 18 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 13

Put the heat on your electricity and gas suppliers and ask them if they have a green plan. Make the switch and feel cosy.

I'm already on NIE's Eco-something-plan, but with Phoenix I have not checked. I will do so.

Sunday 17 February 2008

Carbon Fast: So What?

Since I started the Carbon Fast, I've had a number of comments on it, which have ranged from 'good plan, can I play?' to 'why are you doing that, global warming is all a big con?'.

Now, I cannot claim to have studied first hand the evidence for global warming, and therefore I have to rely on reports from reliable sources, and I have to say, it all seems pretty convincing to me. There is certainly an abundance of evidence that the climate is changing, and that is most clearly seen in poorer countries where people are much more vulnerable to even the smallest variation in the environment. As with many things, it is the poor who are hit hardest, although they live the least damaging lifestyles.

The question is not so much whether global warming is happening, but why. It has been suggested that the current increase in temperatures may not be due to the increase in global emissions since the industrial age, but rather part of a natural pattern which would have happened anyway; we know that in the fairly recent past there have been 'cold snaps' and 'warm snaps', and this could just be one of those.

I have yet to be convinced that this is simply a 'warm spell'... apart from anything else, I find it hard to believe that we could pump millions of tonnes of chemicals and pollutants into the atmosphere for a few hundred years and not expect to see some ill-effects. I'm also aware that science is not immune from bias and 'spin'; I have no first-hand access to the details of most of these studies, but I am naturally skeptical when, for instance, petrol companies 'show' that emissions from petrol cars are not harmful (this repeatedly happened for quite a while in the last century).

At the end of the day though, the reason I choose to live a 'greener' lifestyle is not because I've read about global warming and got the heebie-jeebies. It's not because I think I can save the planet by recycling my unwanted newspaper wallcharts. It's not because Tesco will reward me with Clubcard points for being a good girl and reusing my plastic bags.

It's because I believe that waste and wastefulness are not good things. God has given us all that we have, and all that we have is precious. It's not ours to just chuck out when we're fed up with it. Stewardship is a spiritual discipline which requires us to take note of all that we have, be thankful for it, enjoy it, and use it wisely. Even if there was no possibility that excessive consumption and careless waste were causing any harm to anyone, I still wouldn't think it was OK. I hate that aspect of our culture that always has to have the latest gadget and the most up-to-date fashion; not that I dislike modern technology or nice clothes, but when I buy them, I want to keep on enjoying them, and not change them for something better in a few months.

It's also because I believe that God's justice and mercy require me, as a Christian, to stand up for the materially poor, and to do all that is in my power to fight for them, as my brothers and sisters. I don't know whether recycling a baked bean tin is going to help someone in Africa, but I do know that it's not going to harm them, and therefore if there is any possibility that it will help, I can't not do it. It's not enough, of course, and there are bigger issues to look at, and more significant things to fight for, and I will do what I can there too, but since it costs me nothing to do this small thing, I don't see how I couldn't.

So that's why I am, and likely always will be, a tree-hugging, recycling, walking-everywhere-I-can greenie.

Sorry for the lecture, but I get passionate about this.

Carbon Fast: Day 12

"Tell politicians to take action on climate change today."

TearFund supplied a postcard for today's exercise (not shown), which I have sent off to Mr Peter Robinson MP. I love sending these things off to politicians, not least because I always get a posh reply on official Westminster notepaper, and in a fancy envelope.

Saturday 16 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 11

"Use local shops or farmers' markets instead of driving to out-of-town shopping parks."

This is something I generally try to do: I like to go to the fruit and veg shop, the butcher's and the baker's rather than straight to Tesco. However, I must admit that of late, I have slipped up a bit, and been doing all my shopping in Tesco more often than is strictly necessary.

So today I went to the fruit and veg shop instead of buying my fruit and veg in Tesco. I didn't need anything in the way of meat or bread though, but some day soon I will, and then I shall go the the butcher and baker. It is unfortunate that we have no candlestick maker.

Incidentally, kudos to The Soapbox for using yesterday's no-dishwasher day as an excuse to avoid doing dishes all day. See comments on previous post for details.

Friday 15 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 10

"Give your dishwasher a day off, or promote it to a Grade A Energy Efficient appliance."

I don't have a dishwasher, so this is a little tricky. So we shall turn to "Save Cash and Save the Planet" for an alternative dishwashing-related thing I can do.

Hmmm... couldn't find much. OK, one thing I need to do, which will help me reduce my Carbon emissions, is to get a new bike. So I will look into that today, and hopefully find myself something nice.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 9

Pray for TearFund's work to help vulnerable communities adapt to the changing weather.

Forgot to do this yesterday. Bad. I'll do it today, and pay a forfeit.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 8

"Unplug your mobile phone charger; it uses electricity even when not charging".

I never leave my charger plugged in, only when I'm using it. So I don't need to do this one.

However, I bought a draught excluder for the letter box in the front door, so that can be today's thing instead. Although it is the wrong colour, so I will have to take it back and exchange it.

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 7

Check that all electrical equipment is switched off when not in use. The TV alone will save 20kg of carbon dioxide per year.

So I did a check, and all is switched off, apart from the following: my radio alarm clock (obviously, the time would reset if I switched it off off) and the hi-fi (it loses all the preset stations). TV is never left on standby; switched the cooker off at the wall; pulled out the plug on my iPod player.

All good.

Monday 11 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 6

"Turn your central heating thermostat down by 1 degree"

A simple one today, and all completed. At least, I think. To be honest, I'm not that sure how my central heating thermostat works, but there's a little dial thing on the front with a picture of a snowflake at one extreme and the sun at the other, so I turned it a bit in the direction of the snowflake.

Sunday 10 February 2008

Things That Baffle Me: #1, Free Wallcharts in Newspapers

I am a grown up. Not an especially mature one, but a grown up nonetheless, and enough that I occassionally buy a newspaper. Am I alone in being mystified when they try to reward me for this by giving me a free wallchart of British Birds, or Famous Aircraft, or British Wildflowers, or Endangered Animals? I repeat: I who buy your newspaper am a grown up.

To whom do the newspapers think a wallchart of British Wildflowers might appeal? Let's begin our analysis by considering the entire British population (I say British, for this seems to be mainly a habit of Her Majesty's press; we may name and shame The Independent and The Guardian as two of the more violent offenders).

Presumably the people of Britain can be divided into two sections: those who are reasonably interested in British Wildflowers, and those who are not. Let us charitably assume that the former is the larger group; the latter we will consider no further. Of those who are at least reasonably interested, we can define two further subgroups: those who are interested enough to want a permanent, readily-available reference guide to British Wildflowers, with pictures and descriptions, and those who are not. I suspect that by this point we are into a minority population, although presumably still sizeable enough, if it's at the right price.

But now the paring down truly commences. Of that group, how many of them want that guide to be attachable to their wall, as opposed to being, say, a book for the coffee table? I would hazard a guess, not quite so many. And then we stray into the territory of the truly tiny subcategory: those who are interested in British Wildflowers to the extent that they would like a wallchart of the same, and who do not already own one. In other words, the not-just-nerdy-but-also-stingy.

And to this group cater the newspapers. How did they ever reach this decision? Was there a meeting somewhere at the head offices, where the guy in charge said "We're not shifting enough papers. How can we sell more with minimal effort and no expense?" and some bloke in Marketing said "I know! We'll find a specialist topic, in which a few people will have a passing interest, and we'll make a wallchart about it! People will flock to buy it!".

Of course, other suggestions have been tried: there are the interminable badly-produced DVDs of Hitchcock films and kids' shows. There are the coupons to save up to be redeemed (with £1.99) for a book ("worth £5.99!") at a shop which only has one branch in all of the North of Ireland (cost of book: £1.99 + 5 tokens which each cost 70p 'cos you have to buy the newspaper, plus 50p every day 'cos you can't resist a Dairy Milk once you get to the counter, plus £6.50 for the bus fare to and from Belfast to actually redeem said coupons, plus £3.50 for lunch and £75 for clothes because once you got into Belfast you thought you might as well make a day of it - total cost of book = £92.99. Unless you get there and discover you have one token less than you need, in which case you can leave off the £1.99 but you don't get the book. This is of little consequence since you realise afterwards that it's a kids' book and you read it for English class in first form.). There is a range of half-price tickets for admission to places in England; this works much in the same way as the book, except that it's much more expensive.

I don't want to be entirely cynical, though, because I have come across a few good free things in newspapers in my time. I'm a bit of a sucker for pull-out puzzle sections, for instance. Occassionally the DVD is worth having. Sometimes there are little recipe books, which tend to be a bit on the exotic side, but at least impress my parents (mind you, the last one I got was all about mushrooms: All The Different Types Of Mushroom You Can Get In Britain, And What To Do With Them. Come to think of it, maybe it was a wallchart folded up). A few weeks ago I ordered a Pilates DVD from The Times, for just the price of Postage and Packing. It arrived yesterday, but I haven't had time to try it yet. I suspect the results will not be good, but to be fair to The Times, they can't be blamed for sending it to Officially The Most Unbendy Person In The World, so I think I should not blame them entirely (I will of course let you know how it goes). And just yesterday, I got a free guide to The Origin of Species, which even includes an introduction from everyone's favourite scientist, Professor Dawkins.

So it is not all bad in the world of newspaper giveaways, but mostly it's not that great either, when you stand back and take a good long look at it.

Carbon Fast: Day 5

Talk about the Carbon Fast in church today.

This is where it would have paid to read ahead. Given that I didn't, I am again going to have to rethink today's action. I think what I will do will be to tackle the church website's carbon emissions. I was reading this thing on our web service provider's site the other day, where you can pay a few pounds a year to make your site carbon neutral, so, since I am The Webmeister, I shall take the initiative and do that.

Saturday 9 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 4

"Are you recycling everything possible?" Well, yes, I think I am. Hmmm. Which poses a problem, for now I have to think of something else to do.

Better than recycling, they say, is reusing, so I could look into that. Step 1: The large empty Quality Street tin sitting in the kitchen, which will be thrown out unless we have a use for it. Conveniently, at this point Dozavtra arrives and starts making comment about creating a First Aid box. We used to have a medicine cabinet, wherein lived emergency supplies, but it was removed during the building work, so now we have no convenient place to put its contents (TCP, the sterile gauze I got when they took my wisdom tooth out, a box of Lemsip and some plasters). Solution: Put it all in the conveniently waterproof Quality Street tin and stick a big red plus on the front, thus saving buying a special box and enabling us to reuse the tin, all in one fell swoop. With the money saved, perhaps we should update our emergency supplies...

Friday 8 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 3

Day 3: reduce your carbon dioxide missions when you travel. Now this is a bit tricky, since I have no intention of going anywhere today that I would even consider getting do by any means other than by foot.

So, rather than that, I've decided to tackle the low pressure in my car tyres, which 'Save Cash and Save the Planet' reliably informs me increases petrol consumption and is therefore A Bad Thing. So I will go onto the Interweb and see what the pressure should be; I will not go and get it done, since that would be an unnecessary journey, but next time I'm using the car, I'll call into a garage and see if I can't find a helpful person to do it for me (what's that you say? - do it Myself? ha! you jest!).

Post 100!!!!!!

Wow. 100 posts. Class!

Thursday 7 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 2

So, on Day 2, the suggestion is to check out your house for draughts (using a ribbon or feather) and buy a draught excluder if necessary. I don't even need the ribbon; sitting near our front door is like sitting on a runway as a plane flies overhead: we have a draught.

Now, rather than buying a draught excluder, I thought I'd look into making my own, since it would presumably be cheaper, and it could match my decor. Obviously I can't do that all in one day, though, but I will begin by looking up a pattern on the Interweb.

PS Why has my spell checker underlined everywhere I put draught? Is that not how it's spelt?

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Carbon Fast: Day 1

So, Day 1 of the Carbon Fast says: Remove 1 lightbulb and live without it for 40 days. Immediately here we run into difficulties, for there is no lightbulb in my house or car which: 1) I can safely remove and 2) I would notice the absence of. For example, I would be inconvenienced if I removed my bedroom light, but it would also be dangerous, because I'd fall over things. On the other hand, I could safely remove the light in the cloakroom, but I wouldn't really notice that it was missing, so I don't think that counts.

Therefore, I replaced my bedroom light with an energy saving bulb, which means that all our bulbs are now energy saving ones, apart from the aforementioned cloakroom light which is only on for about 5 seconds a year anyway and therefore hardly matters.

I feel bad that I have cheated already, so I have decided to have a system of forfeits. For every day when I don't manage to do what it says, I will put a pound in a box (I know a pound isn't much, but I'm off work on sick leave, remember, so I don't exactly have money to burn) and give it all to TearFund at the end. Also any money I save by doing any of the things I will give to TearFund as well.

The only exception will be when I don't do the thing because I have already done it; on those days I will find a way to do something else instead, and if I can't think of anything else or don't do anything, then I will pay a forfeit. I have a book called 'Save Cash and Save the Planet', which my good friend Philip gave me, and it has lots of suggestions, so I will use that.

Carbon Faster

Apologies for the gap in writing there. My laptop is banjaxxed, so I have to use my Windows (spit) '98 desktop, with its 1kb per hour modem and frequent crashes and I am not happy about this so I tend not to bother. Also the library computer won't let me update my blog. So I apologise, but it looks like blogging could be intermittent for a while until I get my computer problems sorted.

However. Today is Ash Wednesday, and therefore the start of Lent. I don't often give things up for Lent, mainly because it was never really part of the tradition I was brought up in, but over the past few years I've come to value the idea of preparing for Easter, so I have either given something up, or taken something up, or generally done something a bit differently. This year it all sneaked up on me a bit (Pancake day in the first week of February?!); I know they say Spring gets earlier every year, but surely it's not dragging Easter with it? That can't happen, can it?

So, this year I'm going to do the Carbon Fast which was the idea of the Bishop of Liverpool and is being promoted by TearFund, and you're all coming with me, for I shall update you every day on how it is going. I've already spotted several days when I can't do the thing they suggest (like changing electricity suppliers, for example), so I have decided that on those days I shall have to be creative and find a way to do something else.

I really like the Carbon Fast idea, 'cos it highlights a hugely important issue, it's fun, it doesn't involve me giving up chocolate, and it will make a real difference.

If you'd like to sign up to do it, info is here. You can even add yourself to a map, for those of you who want to be famous.