Archive for Carbon footprint

Greenwash, Ecobuild, Disclosure

Letting the train take the strainBit of a mixed bag this, and perhaps the title of this post is a little too sweeping, but then we’re feeling a little incensed by a recent article in the Independent. In a spectacularly poorly researched piece of dross, Simon Usborne and Helen Brown attempt to “face the facts many ecologists would rather ignore”.

There’s a grain of truth in some of them, such as the notion that food miles aren’t a bombproof proxy for the carbon footprint of a product. Indeed, we’ve touched on the same subject. Similarly, it’s true to say that an ancient woodland isn’t sequestering carbon at the same rate as a fast growing, young plantation of, say, eucalyptus trees. Read the rest of this entry »


Strawberry surprise

Is far flung fruit better for the environment?

Is far flung fruit better for the environment?

We’ve alluded to the idea that “food miles” need to be treated with caution elsewhere. Here’s another example: the Co-operative Group’s annual sustainability report contains details of a “life-cycle” analysis (LCA) of the amount of embedded carbon in a humble 400g punnet of strawberries.

The domestic “Ava” offering, grown at Blairgowrie farm in Scotland, contains 850g of carbon. The alternative “Sabrosa” strawberries, from Spain, contain only 600g of carbon. If you’re basing your purchase decision solely on global warming impact you should buy the Spanish version. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m afraid I can’t let you do that…


Naughty computer!

You can’t make an omlette without breaking eggs, as the saying goes. And that’s exactly why the idea of the carbon footprint of the Met Office’s new supercomputer being an “embarrassment” is nonsense.

According to an article in today’s TimesOnline (we don’t read the emissions intensive paper version) the new number cruncher will spit out not just weather forecasts, but 14000 tonnes of CO2 a year. By any standard that’s a lot. Read the rest of this entry »

Wither the additionality?

Can upland sheep farms really be "carbon neutral"?

Can upland sheep farms really be "carbon neutral"?

According to a recent report, upland sheep farming is good news for the environment. A Northumberland sheep farmer commissioned a report looking into the greenhouse gas emissions from two farms. The report, produced by the Food Animal Initiative 2008, makes use of the Country Land and Business Association‘s CALM calculator, which was designed to enable farmers to work out their annual GHG emissions.

The two farms were found to have yearly emissions of 3.2 tonnes CO2e per hectare, which the report claims compares favourably with the national average of 4 and 6 tCO2e for other grazing LFA (Less Favoured Area) and lowland grazing systems, respectively. [Note, though, the recent Natural England study from which the report draws its background information actually gives an average value of 2.5 tCO2e per annum.] Read the rest of this entry »

The no-coal goal

Hopefully a thing of the past

Hopefully a thing of the past

In some parts of the world, tradition has it that naughty children find only a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings. They might not have presents to play with at Christmas, but at least the home fires will keep burning.

At Hogmanay, part of the Scottish tradition of first-footing (the first person to cross the threshold bringing luck, or ill-luck, to the household for the coming year) includes the presentation of a piece of coal to symbolize warmth.

And coal has hit the headlines this New Year. In an open letter to incoming US President Obama, Jim Hansen, head of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and wife Anniek stress both the urgency for action on climate change and the ineffectiveness of current policies. Read the rest of this entry »

A Christmas tree dilemma

real or fake?

Festive carbon quiz: real or fake?

For some, there’s nothing like a real Christmas tree. The muddiness of choosing a fine specimen (maybe even cutting it down), pushing it through that cool wrapping tube thing, struggling to get it home, cutting a further three feet off it to get it through the doorway, and finally making it stand up properly, are all part of the ritual.

The reward is a piece of “nature” brought indoors, infusing our festive memories with a richly resinous scent. Then in the New Year, the challenge of removing the by-then withering tree without losing every remaining needle into the carpet surely provides one of January’s earliest joys.

Other people just fetch the plastic tree down from the loft, plug it in, and pack it away again afterwards. Bah! Read the rest of this entry »