Environmental things at home

It’s great to see so much consensus, in a political sense, at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Montreal. The BBC’s headline says it all. “UN poised for new climate talks “. So they’ve agreed to talk about climate change. Or they’ve successfully talked about talking about it. Cynicism aside, it’s an amazing thing, really, to see any kind of agreement because of the diversity of countries, the diversity of level of development and the diversity of agenda that brings.

In the end, though, it really comes down to us. Individuals. The threat to a countries economy that major policy changes might bring mean that those changes are always slow coming. Political change is always going to be slow and cumbersome. So it’s you and me, really.

Shannon and I have started making some slow changes at home. It’s small stuff, but each step gives me a little buzz. I thought I’d outline a few of those changes, and list a few more that I slowly want to make.

Cars first. Fuel in the UK costs quite a bit more then in the US. Probably 3 or 4 times as much. So there’s a financial as well as environmental incentive to be efficient. We have two cars. One is an Estate/Station Wagon. One is a Smart Car. The Smart runs on regular petrol, but because it’s so light and the engine is so small it gets us a solid 50 miles to the gallon. The Audi A4 Avant is diesel, so even it gets 48 miles per gallon average. Diesels are amazing on fuel efficiency and they’ve totally lost their “smelly” reputation here in the UK. They now account for 50% of auto sales.. I noticed today that even an SUV like the Honda CR-V can get 42 mpg if it’s a diesel.

Light bulbs are the next thing we’ve had a go at. I’ve been gradually replacing all the bulbs in the house with energy efficient (compact fluorescent) equivalents. These are pretty expensive, but last far longer then normal bulbs and use far less electricity. They’re a little bulkier, and I’ve had trouble replacing a bulbs in a few light fittings that are a bit tight, but most of the lights we have on most regularly (including outside lights) are switched over now.

I’ve become a bit more conscious about switching electrical items off rather then leaving them on standby. This is actually pretty tough, both because there are certain devices (e.g. Media Centers and Sky+ devices) that HAVE to be on all the time and because there are some devices that you simply can’t turn off easily. The Playstation 2 seems like the worst culprit for this, with no off switch. I have to pull the power cable to turn it off fully, which discourages me from actually using it. I manage to remember to turn the TV and DVD player off at night as part of my “going to bed” ritual.

Shannon and I have made quite a bit of effort with recycling. We do glass, paper and aluminum through our curbside (home) recycling service. Paper is a bit of a pain because Runnymede Council won’t take envelopes or cardboard. Little steps. We take plastic bottles down to the supermarket, and I’m slowly making plans for a compost bin. We have plenty more that we throw out that I suspect we can gradually find a decent alternative to.

We’ve become very conscious, deliberately, of the number of times a day we’re offered plastic bags when we shop. Even if you go to the supermarket and buy just one item it seems to easily end up in a plastic bag. I think people associate it with security, making it clear that the item hasn’t been shoplifted. We’ve bought 3 reusable, tough bags from Sainsbury’s, our local supermarket, and try and avoid disposable plastic bags like the plague. It’s become sort of a game, and we’ll often get weird looks from shop assistants when we say we don’t want a bag. I think we probably save 2 or 3 bags a DAY just by saying know and carrying a few extra, loose things back to the car. We try and avoid bagging stuff in the vegetable sections, too, since you just end up with a bag within a bag.

That’s sort of where we are now. I’ll cover things we still want to change in a later post (although there are an infinite number of improvements you can make to your life if you keep trying).


King Kong