The real benefits of a greener Christmas…

At the end of November we weren’t looking a White Christmas – it’s Green, Green, Green all the way for us.  But it’s easy to preach the environmental mantra ‘Reduce – Reuse – Recycle’, use less energy, limit your carbon footprint.. blah, blah, blah, without saying how it really helps. So, with a little help from some numbers crunched by the bods at a couple of green-getting Government Departments – we look at how it helps to be more environmentally aware – and what’s in their respective Letters to Santa: the Zero Waste Economy and Energy Efficiency…

The Zero Waste Economy is a pretty ambitious ask, but then no-one who ever did anything big got anywhere by thinking small. Zero Waste means an economy where every waste product has another use. Think Manure to Roses, or, these days – car tyres to children’s playground surfaces and recycled plastic to fleeces, picnic tables and other furniture.

In 2008 the UK generated a staggering 288.6million tonnes of waste. Now being as there’s only 63 million people in our little Kingdom that’s 4 1/2 tonnes each. Of course – it’s not all the wheely-bin/dustbin liner household waste most of us methodically put out for collection every week – there are plenty of businesses, services and industries that generate waste on our behalf’s.

Across the whole of the UK the two biggest sectors – by weight – are the construction industry (35%) and mining and quarrying (30%). Comfortably in third place is commercial and industrial waste (just over 23%), with household waste in fourth only making up around 10% of waste overall – or 35 million tonnes. Yes, 35 million tonnes –  just over 1/2 tonne per person per year.

Now, you might think that a little Green thinking – like the ones we suggested – over christmas is just a bunch of bother. So here’s some maths.  If you saved 1kg per person over the Christmas and New Year holiday – that’s 63 million kg collectively. Or 63,000 tonnes of household waste.  63,000 tonnes that doesn’t have to go to landfill or be incinerated. And none of that includes the energy used to manufacture and move any of the things you’re saving on…

Which brings us neatly on to the other letter to Santa. Talk to any environmentalist and they’ll tell you energy is a really big deal, climate change this, global warming that. We’ll put it more simply. Think of the earth as a great big battery. The fossil fuels that we all depend on are the charge it holds. More and more people want to plug in, so demand (and prices) for the charge we have left are set to increase.

So – firstly we need to make the current battery last longer and get more out of what we use. To do that we need to be more energy efficient. Remember the Energy Saving Light bulbs we mentioned? Well look at this: a typical Kitchen (the most used room in the house) has 12 spotlights – usually halogen – at 50watts each. When they are all on that’s 600 watt consumption – or half a kettle. If you replace them with 5w equivalent LEDs you’ll be using just 30 watts – just 5% of the energy you were using before. Which means you’ll be helping make that battery be a ‘bit more bunny’ and last 20 times longer.

Secondly – when it is gone the time to recharge battery planet Earth is millions of years. That means we’re going to have to learn to live on and harvest a daily trickle charge – from the sun, tides, and the weather that mother nature throws at us. So those solar chargers might seem expensive now, but they could become essential in the future.

It’s not all doom and gloom. There’s some good news in the stocking this year: between 2004 and 2008 the waste created across the whole UK reduced by 11%. Just over one tenth.  In four years. Good work Britain! Keep that up and by 2050 we won’t be far off Zero Waste.

Renewable energy (the trickle charge bit) is going to have over £40 billion invested into it by 2020 and should be generating over 30% of our energy needs by then. If we can combine energy efficiency with renewable energy generation who knows – by 2050 we might manage to meet in the middle. And you’d be a billionaire almost overnight if you can find a surefire way of storing renewable energy.

We can’t store energy for you, but we can store other things.

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