Sunday, March 22, 2009

Carbon Footprint

Following on from seeing the Age of Stupid premiere at the weekend I decided that it was about time we worked out our carbon footprint.

I googled "Carbon footprint calculator" and there were a lot of choices, I also remembered that the Energy Saving Trust had a calculator.

With my electricy and gas bills to hand I clicked the "household" options for each of the following.

Energy Saving Trust - Carbon Cutter
Easy to use calculator in three sections, Household, Appliances and Your travel. The Household bit is all about energy bills and energy saving measures like double glazing, loft insulation. I decided to fill in the details for energy use in KWhs rather than amount paid.
The Household results for a year:
Household: 3.27 tonnes of carbon
Applicances: 8.3 tonnes!
Travel: 1.02 tonnes.
Total: 12.59 Tonnes.
I strongly suspected that the appliances section was wrong, so completed it again to see if I've filled anything in incorrectly. It came out with the same result which is over 4 times the national average. I was furious. I don't leave any appliances on standby (the electricity use was already accounted for in the first section), and we don't have half the appliances they were asking about. The Transition Housewife emailed the Energy Saving Trust (EST) team. It turns out that there is a major programming error in that part of the calculator which they are now going to fix. Not good EST, but good that they reacted quickly to our feedback. I'll update this post when they've put it right.

Direct Gov - Act on CO2
This calculator has exactly the same questions as the EST one, but is an interactive "flash" version.
On that site the household results (for a year) were:
Household: 3.26 tonnes of carbon
Applicances: 0.61 tonnes
Travel: 1.28 tonnes
Total: 5.11 Tonnes.
Act on CO2 results for the Transition House

WWF Footprint calculator
The World Wildlife Fund's calculator is slightly different. When you have completed it, it works out how many planets the world would need if everyone lived in the same way as you (not the household).
WWF Footprint calculator results for the Transition HouseThe first sections can be completed quite quickly and cover; Food, travel, home and stuff. You can then go on to refine your answers and (hopefully) lower your footprint score.
My score for the year was;
Food: 1.04 tonnes.
Travel: 2.09 tonnes.
Home: 2.09 tonnes.
Stuff: 1.74 tonnes.
Total: 6.96 tonnes or 1.63 planets.
A commercial site, that would like to sell you ways of off-setting the carbon that it calculates. The 8 sections are quick to complete and include: welcome, house, flights, car, motorbike, public transport and secondary (buying organic, local produce etc). The transport section had the option of including "radiative forcing" in the calculation for flights.
The results for our household for the year were:
Household: 0.45 tonnes.
Flights: 0.6 or 1.73 tonnes.
Car: 0.83 tonnes.
Public Transport: 0.05 tonnes.
Secondary: 2.96 tonnes.
Total: 4.89 or 6.02 tonnes.

Most of the sites say that for a UK household the average carbon footprint is around 10 tonnes per year. Depending on the calculator, we are between 5 and 7 tonnes. Of course none of the calculators are exact and the questionnaires are designed to be short enough to glean some info, but not so long that you become bored and give up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Food forest front garden

Our front garden is a north-west(ish) facing slope with very little growing in it. It used to have a laburnum tree but it had been suffering for a few years and last year didn't produce any flowers so we've taken it out. Turned out the roots were completely rotten. The front garden was looking even more bare than usual - just grass, a small pyracantha, a pot containing lily-of-the-valley and some lupins. That is until a few days ago.

The Transition Housewife and I have been discussing what to do with the front garden for a while now. She wants to terrace it on contour to create a series of lavender planted steps that will retain rain water and "look gorgeous". I want to plant a forest garden.

Hazel treesSo we're going to do both. We found some hazel hedging plants at a local nursery that were only £1.25 each, much cheaper than buying standard hazel trees, so we bought 10. We've planted the trees out on contour so that the terraces can be cut into the garden when we've worked out how to make sure the "steps" don't collapse.

I also have to find out what food plants are shade loving and can grow under the hazels.

I suspect in this suburban area our plans will raise a few eyebrows, there is a bit of a culture of mowing the lawn on a sunny afternoon. We'll see.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ash forest

Ever since I took my wife away on a weekend green woodworking course she has cornered just about everyone we know to find out if they have a piece of ash she can have to make into the pole part of a pole lathe.

We have two ash trees at the bottom of the garden, unfortunately none of the branches are straight enough or long enough for the desired pole. The trees do, however, have a lot of seeds left on them from last year. So I've been wondering how long and how many seeds we would need to create an ash forest.

Ash seedsAccording to Ray Tabor's book "The Encyclopedia of Green Woodworking" for ash there are approximately 13,200 seeds per kg and you can expect a 50% germination rate.

I collected 1.675Kg of seeds from the lower boughs of our trees. If 50% of them grow we will have just over 11,000 trees, enough for 4.4 hectares (10.9 acres) of land (based on a 2m spacing)!

At the moment though the seeds are in a container in the kitchen. I'm going to plant them in a mix of compost and sand in cardboard boxes (the kind that fruit is packaged in - free from the local co-op), I just need to collect enough boxes. Then the boxes will be stored at the bottom of the garden.

It takes up to two winters for the seeds to germinate, so this time next year I will expect lots of ash seedlings. At least it gives us time to find suitable land to plant them out on.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rubbish rubbish weigh in

February 2009 rubbish weigh-in
800grams for February. How did that happen?

Even more plastic in the bin than last month. A lot of pitta bread plastic packaging. I perhaps need to rethink my work packed lunch (generally something in a pitta rather than a more traditional bread sandwich), or find a way of re-using or recycling the packaging. The transition housewife says it's not suitable for plarn.