diamond geezer

 Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why I can't save the planet

The UK has set a target to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010. If we can each cut our own emissions by 20%, then collectively we'll meet this target and save the planet. That's the idea behind an online challenge [here] devised by the Energy Saving Trust (an upstanding government-funded body). So I had a go, only to discover that apparently I can't save the planet after all. And here's why.

The EST website proposes 10 things that we should all do to save energy, which I've listed below. Each of these has a percentage saving attached. You select the 10 actions you can commit to, and they total up your percentage saving to see if you've hit 20% or not. Here are the ten pledges, and I've duly ticked all those I could sign up to myself. All two of them...

Only boil as much water as I need [0.2%]
(But I do that already, so I can't save any more energy on kettle-boiling)
Turn down my thermostat by 1°C [4.0%]
(But I don't have a thermostat, and I barely have my heating on anyway)
Turn appliances off standby [1.1%]
(I turn off most of them, but not all. Could do better)
Install cavity wall insulation [14.1%]
(But I don't have cavity walls, I have Victorian brick)
Top up my loft insulation to 270mm [6.3%]
(But I don't have a loft, there's another flat above mine)
Replace 3 light bulbs with energy saving light bulbs [0.3%]
(But most of my bulbs are energy saving already, so I don't have three more to change)
Install a condensing boiler [10.7%]
(But my flat is rented, so installing a boiler is my landlord's responsibility not mine)
Buy Energy Saving recommended appliances [1.4%]
(But I don't want a dishwasher, and it's my landlord's fridge, and I don't need a new TV)
Wash my laundry at 30°C [0.2%]
(OK, I can do that most of the time, although my 'cotton' wash doesn't go down that low)
Leave my car at home for short journeys [1.5%]
(But I don't own a car, so how can I leave it at home?)

My total pledgeable saving is a miserable 1.3%, which falls shamelessly short of the 20% target. But I couldn't have hit 20% even if I'd tried. I don't have cavity walls or a loft, and without those two big percentages I'm doomed to fall short. And I'm saving lots of the things they'd like me to save already, so I can't pledge to change my behaviour to save more. The list seems to be aimed at wasteful families living in modern semis with a car parked out front, and these households can hit 20% easily. The rest of us, no matter how green our lifestyle, are doomed to fail.

So, well done to the Energy Saving Trust for concocting an over-simplistic exercise which completely misunderstands how percentage savings work. Their over-accurate figures can't possibly be correct for all of us, can they? And if we've been good and cut most of our carbon emissions already, then we can't cut them again, can we? Sigh. Why not see how you get on, either on the EST website [Commit now! Commit now!] or by ticking the appropriate boxes above to discover your total. Will your household be able to save the planet? Somehow I doubt it.

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