Thursday, 28 June 2007

another planet?

If everyone in the world lived like me we'd need 1.9 planets.

One Point Nine! Almost a whole other planet. So I am using/consuming nearly twice as much as Earth can sustain. I've been greedy while thinking I wasn't!

Planet-based measurements certainly bring home the impact of your lifestyle. Yes, I've been playing with online carbon calculators... I also discovered my ecological footprint. It's around 3.2 global hectares. The UK average is 5.3. Worldwide there are only 1.8 biologically productive global hectares per person.

My carbon footprint is around 6.3-7.5 tonnes annually of carbon dioxide emissions (varies according to calculator). The UK average is 10.22 tonnes. But I've nothing to be smug about – when my car-driving travel pattern is used my total annual emissions rise to... 9.5 tonnes! Discovering this stunned me. Even upset me. I was sure I was doing way better than most – after all I work mostly from home and only used the car a few times a week. Of course living rurally means going anywhere will be quite a way, but even so...

Seem it's been a blessing to have had to give up driving for a year – I have been forced to make hard choices and changes in what I can and cannot do. For instance I didn't submit work this week for an exhibition at Cube 3 in Plymouth because it would have required four trips to the city (meaning four lifts in a car big enough to take my work). But that wasn't so much about carbon as time, expense, and the arranging of four separate lifts.

Breaking down the figures my electric/energy footprint is 3.2-3.6 tonnes (depending on the calculator used) made up of 3.48 tonnes heating, hot water and lighting and 0.38 appliances (national average 4.56 heating/hot water/lighting and 1.56 appliances).

My house/studio are all electric, and at the moment living by myself means I can't halve the heating aspect. My energy footprint is based on 100% non-renewable electricity even though I buy from Ecotricity. Less than 5% of electricity currently produced in the UK is from renewables, and although Ecotricity's tariff supplies me with 26% renewable it seems more appropriate to work within the national share of non-renewable – ie 95%. So I left it at 100%; some calculators already factor in the renewable. Apparently demand for green energy is outstripping supply... explains several new applications for wind farms around this windy moor.

My land-based travel is 0.6-0.7 tonnes (not driving) or 3.0-3.6 (driving) – isn't the difference stark! The national average for all travel is 4.1 tonnes. I haven't flown since 1999.

My industrial/consumption footprint is 2.5-2.9 tonnes - though being subjective are only rough guides, as the calculator websites admit. It depends how much new or second-hand stuff you buy, whether you repair before re-buying, how local your food is and so on. I haven't adjusted anything particularly in my favour, just made myself average. Around half of CO2 emissions come from industry and commerce to support our everyday lifestyle. Works out at five tonnes a person.

The government's target is for a 60% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050, to around 4 tonnes per person, and about 7 to 7.5 tonnes (26-32%) by 2020. But George Monbiot has concluded that for a 50/50 chance of avoiding more than two degrees of global warming we need an 80% cut in global emissions by 2050 with 91% per capita being the British share. The Tyndall Centre affirms this by demonstrating that "even a 30% chance of not exceeding the 2 degC threshold require[s] the UK to cut its total carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 and in the region of 90% by 2050."

Down to one tonne a head in the next 40 years? Three tonnes by 2030? Substantial doesn't begin to say it. But I believe we can get there!

So, where from here?

Alongside energy and water use tables I have started a travel table. And now that I have conversion figures courtesy of the Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN) I can calculate my CO2 emissions alongside them. The SMMTCO2 website has given exact CO2 emissions for my car, a Peugeot 306 hatchback, of 176 grams per kilometre.

Heating is another important area to address. Batikking does require warmth – for waxing and when drying dyes. So do I to feel comfortable enough to work! Being too hot is a less of a problem, anyway I'm quite content with an electric fan (for now).

These are only the first steps towards calculating the carbon cost of making batik and making my practice sustainable. It's going to take more research to figure out specific costs and even more to discover externalised costs from industry and sourcing materials. I also need to consider offsetting my "excess" carbon – not to make me feel OK but as a constructive contribution to address my part in climate change.

COIN lists and ranks a range of carbon calculators. I used's, COIN's own,'s,'s and, not listed there, the UK government's new one, ActOnCO2. It is so over-designed it looks like carbon emissions don't need to be taken seriously. Why does everything have to be entertainment these days? But dig deep enough and you find a methodology paper which gives more specific information – I congratulate DEFRA for this openness, and for asking for feedback.

No comments: