How Bad is Spending a Pound? (Nov 2011)
“Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!” Luke 12:48
We live, work and shop in a carbon-fuelled economy. So practically every pound we spend releases carbon into the air somewhere. So it is not only the rich countries which are primarily responsible for climate change; it is also the rich individuals who are most likely to be carbon-profligate, not intentionally, but simply through living a normal middle- or high-income life.
If you are middle-income do not despair! Looking at the examples below you can see that some purchases are a lot more carbon-intensive than others. You can choose to keep your pound away from the more planet-trashing activities such as flying and leaving the lights on, spending it instead on insulating your home, solar panels or, if you really want to feel good, on a rainforest charity.
Here are the numbers: (Data and inspiration from How Bad are Bananas? – The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee – pages 59 and 192))
Minus 330 kg (i.e. 1/3 ton)*CO2e on a well-executed rainforest preservation project
Minus 70 kg CO2e on loft insulation
Minus 3 kg CO2e on solar panels
160 g CO2e financial, legal or professional advice
720 g CO2e on a car
930 g CO2e on a typical supermarket trolley of food
1.7 kg CO2e on petrol for your car
4.6 kg CO2e on a flight
6 kg CO2e on the electricity bill
10 kg CO2e or more on budget flight
- A banana is 80g CO2e and a return flight to Hong Kong is 3.4 tonnes CO2e.
- The average footprint of a person in the UK is 10 to 15 tons of CO2e, and it is necessary we reduce this to 2 tons CO2e. Half of the 10tons is “private” i.e. 5 tons — that we can control ourselves – petrol, heating, food etc, and half is “public” e.g. shops, schools, road building, and needs laws to help reduce these.
The fact that nearly every economic activity is bad for the planet has got to make you wonder whether the current accepted goal for high economic growth above all else is really the way to go. Tim Jackson’s book, Prosperity without Growth, suggests alternative systems. According to Mike Berners-Lee, “We could do with spending less time charging around earning as much as we can to buy things we don’t really need.” Instead, let’s try to enjoy what we have got and separate our self-esteems from our salaries.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…..But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,” Matt 6:31,33
*CO2e is short for carbon dioxide equivalent which is the overall contribution to global warming of carbon dioxide plus all the other global warming gases emitted such as nitrous oxide and methane.
Data and inspiration from How Bad are Bananas? – The Carbon Footprint of Everythingby Mike Berners-Lee
Optimum Population Trust say that investing £1 in Family planning projects in developing countries could save 250kg (1/4 ton) CO2e