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28 November 2009 @ 23:21
In which I am cross at the Grauniad  
Those unfortunate enough to have exposure to my periodic episodes of wibble may recall that a while back a was very upset because, having taken the Guardian's carbon footprint calculator test, I found out that I have a much larger carbon footprint than the average UK consumer (17.6 to the average 15.4).

Now, before we go any further, allow me to briefly list some of the things I do to reduce my environmental impact:

- I don't own a car
- I walk to work (which is in Swindon, so you'll forgive me if I feel like I deserve a fucking cookie for not living somewhere nice and commuting)
- I live in a flat that is just big enough for 1 person
- I use energy saving appliances, and the minimum number of those - I have no toaster, microwave, tumble drier, or freezer and no gadgets other than a Kenwood Chef
- I don't watch TV, don't own a desktop computer (in fact don't own any computer at all - mine's a work laptop)
- I turn off all appliances at the wall when not in use
- I never turn my thermostat to over 19C
- I recycle all of my paper, cardboard, metal, glass, and plastic. My building doesn't have any recycling services from the council, so I do this mostly on foot to the bottle/paper banks
- I carry a folding shopper with me everywhere and use the very few plastic bags I do pick up as bin bags (I don't buy bin bags)
- I never throw books, clothes or homeware away; I either use them until they are fit for rags or give them to charity
- I've switched to buying 90% of my books second hand, in Oxfam shops or online (thanks, Sarah for the recommendations!)
- Last summer I started gradually taking meat out of my diet and now eat meat no more than once per week, and then only it it is certified organic and local (from the farmers market in Swindon or a farm shop in Downend where Alan lives)

So how, you'd be forgiven for asking, did I rack up 17.6 tonnes of carbon last year? Simple: I fly. Boy, do I fly. Approximately 4 times as much as the average person in the UK. And according to that calculator, this is the main contributor to my obscene footprint (though they had a few choice words for my reading and eating out habits, too).

Since that really put the wind up me, I have made all kinds of plans to reduce my flight numbers: we have 2 railway holidays and one trip to the Lake District scheduled for next year, so hopefully I will only have to fly home and for work, both of which are non-negotiable. Steps have been taken to tighten up the domestic discipline further. Eating out has been severely reduced. Xmas dinner is a nut roast.

But, far from letting me feel just a little bit good about myself for five fucking minutes, in comes the bloody Grauniad this weekend with it's "ethical living" special supplement, to tell me that, actually, the average carbon footprint of a UK person is 11 tonnes, and that even though civilian aviation contributes 2-3% of the total emissions in the world, it is nevertheless the number one thing you can be doing to hurt the planet, because it just is. And that even though there is no such thing as "ethical" airlines, it's the no-frills flights that you should really "stay away" from.

Which tells me two things:

1. They don't actually know what they're talking about anymore
2. This is really a moral issue for them now, with that competitive purity component to which the bar is set so high as to be unachievable, condemning everyone to a state of perpetual sinfulness

Oh, and 2a.: it's all got a strong class angle.

I'm not going to stop doing any of the above things just because the Guardian are a bunch of sanctimonious dickheads, but I'm pissed the fuck off that they've managed to take something that's been a life long commitment of mine, made decades before this whole business became a trendy "lifestyle" issue with raffia bags and special weekend supplements, and turn it into a rod for my back. Dipshits.
Bernardblearyboy on 28th November 2009 23:54 (UTC)
You could do a mash-up of Mail & Guardian headlines: "Bloody immigrants, coming over here and polluting our atmosphere with their jet-setting lifestyles"
The Lady (Marina): Fuck Youthe0lady on 30th November 2009 11:09 (UTC)
I was thinking very similar thoughts; it does seem as if the Guardian is on a drive to classify all things in the universe as "good/bad for the environment" (often both) in the same way that the Mail has been doing with "causes/cures cancer".
Ailbheailbhe on 29th November 2009 00:03 (UTC)
I had a go at their calculator, roughly, and got stuck on calculating travel. I'm way too tired to look up the maps. Google maps and some fudging upwards leaves me about 6-8,000 ish. If we hadn't done international train and ferry trips, it would be significantly less than half that. Clearly I should be avoiding ferries where possible.

(Anonymous) on 29th November 2009 07:54 (UTC)
In accounting the carbon, business flights should be accounted to the company's footprint, and not to yours. It's the company's decision on whether or not they need to send you somewhere, and it's the company's policy that determines what the appropriate form of travel is. So you should recalculate without necessary business flights to get what you *personally* are responsible for.
(Deleted comment)
The Lady (Marina): Fuck Youthe0lady on 30th November 2009 10:13 (UTC)
Unfortunately even without work related travel I still fly a fair bit more than average. Hence the commitment to fewer airborne holidays in the coming years. I'd still like it explained why that is the worst thing I could possibly be doing to hurt the environment, considering the relatively small impact of aviation compared to other industries (industrial manufacturing, for example).
The Lady (Marina): Fuck Youthe0lady on 30th November 2009 10:11 (UTC)
That raises another question for me - if my carbon footprint is defined as what I can eprsonally control, why did the Guardian's calculator add a percentage to my footprint that is supposed to cover "my share" of things ilke street lights etc.? I'd ban all Xmas lights if I could, why should I feel guilty about my share in them?
Sarahworst_witch on 29th November 2009 23:36 (UTC)
Well I just did mine for fun and came out at 10.08 tonnes. They are now saying that the UK average is 9.7 tonnes per person. Apparently my 'secondary' lifestyle accounts for 4.9 tonnes of that. My 16-year-old fuel injection petrol car is allegedly less damaging to the environment than my tendency to buy new clothes rather than second hand ones and eat meat more than once a week.

Well as I walk almost everywhere I need to get to and specifically rented a flat that allowed me to do that, I don't use my heating, don't leave appliances on standby, don't make impulse purchases for myself and don't go out socially I would love to know what the Grauniad think I ought to be doing to lower my carbon footprint. I suspect it would be something along the lines of wearing only fairtrade cotton clothes from a carbon offsetting retailer, and that's fair enough. If they would now like to explain to me how to do that when the money I earn doesn't cover my living expenses then we'll all be set for a happy, green, sustainable future.

The Grauniad really is a very class orientated calculator, http://carboncalculator.direct.gov.uk/index.html is the governemnt one that doesn't ask about shopping habits and gives me 4.12 tonnes against an average of 4.69 tonnes.
The Lady (Marina): Fuck Youthe0lady on 30th November 2009 10:53 (UTC)
Thank for the link, I've done the gov one and I'm still above average (6.6 tonnes), mainly due to having double the travel footprint of the average person. So some 10:10 type of personal goal on flights still seems to be in order.

It makes me even madder to think that the Guardian are putting people off making this sort of effort by making it seem more daunting than it really is! I don't understand what, other than moralistic holier-than-thou mileage, they think they're delivering to the public with their type of coverage.