The complexities of trying to be environmentally friendly

Thanks to Michelle for pointing to this thread on the subtleties in the comparison of the environmental friendliness of 3 kitchen appliances. The basic question is this one:

“My roommates seem to be constantly boiling water for tea. We’ve got a gas stove, a microwave, and an electric teakettle. However, we don’t know which option is most efficient. Any ideas?”

The answers highlight the complexities in trying to make decisions about “doing the right thing”. The answer to this question is not as simple as “which appliance consumes the most electricity”. The excellent comment thread quickly get into issues of energy use during construction, energy use during standby, wasted energy through heating too much water, wasted energy because tea doesn’t need boiling water it needs warm water, energy use during transportation and so on.

Health and dietary issues are just the same. They’re just as frustrating and complex to try and make decisions about, and just as fraught ethically. BBC Radio 4 were commenting this morning during my drive into work on Prince Charles’ assertion that banning McDonald’s was the answer to childhood obesity problems. The Daily Mail did a comparison of a Big Mac to an organic Cornish Pasty from the Prince’s own food range and found the pasty wanting. You hear about this kind of failed comparison all the time when trying to do the “right thing” with buying food. Is it better, for example, to buy organic food, or food that doesn’t have as many carbon miles in it?

I tell you. It’s a confusing world that we live in.

On boiling water for tea

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