Archive for Life-cycle analysis

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 »

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Pup friction

puppiesForget, for a moment at least, whether there is a tiger in your tank. Instead think about whether there’s an ancient tree in your puppy. Well, sort of.

piece in the New York Times yesterday drew attention to the increasing love affair that Americans have for soft toilet tissue and the threat that poses for old growth forests.

Toilet paper can be made from recycled material with ease — it uses less water to convert paper into fibre than it does to mash up wood pulp. But to get the soft, fluffy whiteness that many of us currently prefer requires the use of virgin wood pulp — the fibres are, well, softer, stronger and longer.

A spokesperson from Kimberley Clark — seemingly one of the worst culprits — said that “only” 14 percent of the wood pulp used by the company comes from the Canadian boreal forest.

This isn’t a new issue. Both Greenpeace and the WWF have been campaigning for years against the destruction of forests for the production of toilet paper. What’s changed is the current global economic slump. People have a raised awareness for the benefits of recycling and re-use: now is the time to switch to 100% recycled toilet paper. It might not be quite so luxurious an experience, but it’s a very easy way to prevent destruction of carbon storing old growth forests.

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 »