A cake with a lighter carbon footprint…?

As a follow on from my carbon footprint of Nigella Lawson’s Madeira cake, I took some of the excellent recommendations to find a new favourite cake.

Replacing the butter with sunflower oil, and replacing a single cake with individual cup cakes led me to try Nigella’s carrot muffins…

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What is the carbon footprint of drinking alcohol, and how can we reduce it?

Food miles for fruit and vegetables are widely discussed, but few people have the same perception of alcohol miles. Alcoholic drinks consumed in Britain have been calculated to be equivalent to 1.5% of the UK’s total carbon emissions, through growing crops, preparing the product, packaging, transporting, cooling and consuming.

The types of alcoholic products we choose has significantly increased the carbon footprint of our drinking habits over time. Below are several ways of reducing the carbon footprint of consuming alcohol.

1) Drink it British-style…Enjoy it at room-temperature.

Almost 50% of the carbon footprint from beer-drinking is associated with storing and serving your drink in a pub or at home.

In 1960, 99% of beer drank in Continue reading

Reducing biodegradable waste… using a hot bin

Around a year ago, Cardiff Council seemingly ran out of money and most basic services were cut. There were no bags for compostable waste anywhere for months. I have a pet rabbit, so he gets through a fair amount of sawdust and straw. I had a compost bin, but it was constantly full and it couldn’t possibly process the volume of waste our house was producing, with all the garden waste too. Then a rat moved in to the compost. So I investigated online, and found a HotBin. This is a very well insulated compost bin that allows air to flow freely through the composting material, super-charging the speed that the matter composts down. It also stated the added benefit of being rat-proof, plus it could take all food waste, including cooked meats (which the rest of the household eats).

The price was a major consideration. It would mean buying when I’d promised to reduce consumption. However, I couldn’t bring myself to throw green waste in to the landfill bin, so I took the plunge and ordered one.

A year later, I still think this is the best thing ever. I now dig out the compost from the base every four months and move this to the old compost heap to finish maturing until I need to mulch the garden. (Digging out the hot bin would be a great task for any budding archeologists.) I spent the day yesterday spreading the best compost I have ever made, soft and black and crumbly, with evidence of crushed egg shells and dark brown meat bones as the only sign of food waste.

Setting up the bin was easy, with steam being produced within a few days. My only wish is that I had a greenhouse, as I reckon if this was located inside, the amount of heat this bin produces could keep a winter greenhouse or polytunnel a few degrees warmer to keep salads going for longer. (Although it can smell if it starts to go anaerobic, so it may make the greenhouse a less pleasant place to be. I just use a stick to stir holes through to keep the air flow moving.)

There is more information on the website, HotBincomposting.com

Seeing as my council may soon take all food waste for anaerobic digestion, and garden waste for composting, is it worth having my own waste treatment system? I would say at the moment, definitely. The cost to the council to treat the waste will be at least £35/tonne, but they will be able to generate power from the biogas. When they get the digester started, it may be different. But for now, I get superb compost and no hassles when the council don’t collect the waste.

Avoid consumption: How to reduce dairy consumption in 10 steps

Dairy products are high carbon. Cattle produce methane, plus cattle eat grain grown on land that should be growing rainforests. The main argument for eating dairy is as a source of calcium to reduce the risks of osteoporosis. Further guidance can be found here.)

We need to dramatically decrease our dairy consumption to allow others to share in this, but also to avoid dairy cows being bred in areas where there is no natural food source. For further info, I highly recommend reviewing this FAO Report.

The UK has good conditions for growing grass-fed cows, but they are also fed on imported soy and other protein-rich grains. I love cheese, and I really struggle reducing the amount I eat, so instead of going completely vegan immediately, try some of the simple ways to reduce the amount of dairy products you buy: Continue reading

Reduce Waste: Take your own Tupperware

For years, I have been going with a group of friends every week to eat at our favourite restaurant. The food was superb, but the volume of food was so huge, it was wasteful leaving it, so I ate till it hurt. To avoid this, I started taking half home each week, with the resultant foil boxes and cardboard lids and plastic bags going in the bin. After a few weeks deciding if food waste or packaging waste was worse, we all decided to take our own plastic boxes. The restaurants prefer not dealing with excessive food waste, I don’t overeat in the evening, I get a free lunch the next day, and there is no packaging waste.

You may think this is weird, but try it (just ask as you’re doing it). Restaurants would prefer you to enjoy your meal and come back than go out for food rarely.

As an alternative, if you know you are not going to eat it all and won’t take it home, ask for a smaller portion.

Being vegetarian will not necessarily help…

My top priority for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has always been my vegetarian diet, as meat is one of the biggest causes of global warming, and inequality across the world. If you were going to give anything up, in order of preference for GHG emissions….

  1. Beef consumption – estimated at 32 kg CO2e/kg of beef, if you are choosing random bits of beef from anywhere in the world, and a lot of our beef eaten in Britain comes from Argentina. British beef is still one of the worst things you can choose to eat, at around 12.14 kg CO2e/kg.
  2. Lamb consumption – estimated at 14.61 kg CO2e/kg for UK lamb, this is still producing methane.
  3. Pig products – 4.45 kg CO2e/kg, so lower carbon than the beef or lamb, and it is improved when they are battery farmed.
  4. Turkey – 3.76 kgCO2e/kg
  5. Chicken – 2.84 kg CO2e/kg, so lowest of most meat products.

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