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

Is it possible to clean the house and the body without dirtying the planet?

I have now been trying to reduce the clutter in my house for over 13 months and I have started reaching the end of cleaning products, shampoos and make up. I had a drawer full of plastic bottles, some of them probably a decade old, plus huge amounts of cleaning products under the sink. The majority of the products I owned were transnational mega-brands, mostly owned by Procter and Gamble. From now on, I will be 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.

Reduce Consumption: declutter your life

Step 1: Understand your enemy

Firstly, you must keep in mind the importance of space and the unimportance of stuff. I borrowed The Story of Stuff from the library, to help the process (see the video version here). The idea is simple. Continue reading

Help women in Cardiff refuges – donate unwanted toiletries for Project Shoebox

Sharing unused goodies with people who will enjoy it…

We Are Cardiff

Too much stuff in your bathroom cabinet? Project Shoebox are collecting shoeboxes filled with unwanted toiletries to make gift boxes for women in refuges in Cardiff and the South Wales area.

Good idea, right? Go into your bathroom right now and tell me you don’t have at least an entire shelf’s worth of stuff you never used. Half of it you probably haven’t even opened. Amirite?

This is a community project, which is an attempt to help the women who arrive at Women’s Refuges this Christmas. Many will arrive bruised, battered and with nothing more than the clothes they are standing in. And that is not cool at all.


Project Shoebox will collect together unwanted toiletries like shampoo, body lotion, toothpaste and brushes, put them all into shoeboxes, and make them into a gift to get these women started and remind them that people can and do care.


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Reduce waste: Get a ‘no junk mail’ sign

We live in the centre of town, and were receiving 2-3 pieces of junk mail a day. I never read them, they would just get binned. I felt guilty, as the local businesses were paying for this advertising for no reason.
In the UK, 2% of our waste going to landfill is mail. The paper and pulp industry is responsible for 5% of global industrial energy use, and is the fourth worst sector for releasing toxic chemicals to water and air. Recycling helps, but not using it in the first place would help more.

Assuming 17.9 g/letter received, the total carbon emissions reduced by stopping my junk mail is approximately 13 kg CO2/ year. Not a huge impact on my personal carbon emissions, but the volume of waste reduced is substantial, and it keeps my hall tidier, so I’d still highly recommend it, (particularly if you don’t read the adverts).

For further advice about reducing the volume of junk mail you are receiving, visit the Stop Junk Mail website, for some great advice and helpful links, including stopping the junk mail sent through Royal Mail, which will not be stopped by a sign.

See The Environmental Impact of Mail for further detailed calculations about the environmental impact the paper and pulp industry has.

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.

Reduce waste: Cardiff’s new Energy from Waste plant

Where waste goes does not appear to be a contentious issue, unless someone chooses your neighbourhood to locate it.

The UK exports over 1.5Mt of refuse-derived fuel to mainland Europe every year. When burned, this would be enough to power about half a million households. Energy from Waste uses materials that would otherwise have been sent to landfill, or transported for use in countries such as Sweden, Denmark or Latvia. The method links a waste management method with a non-fossil fuel energy source.

This month sees the commissioning of the new Viridor Energy-from-Waste plant, located in Splott. Residual waste from five counties will be transported here for burning. The process will still produce waste, in the form of ash, which will require disposal.

If we are truly aiming for a reduction in waste, then the plant will become redundant by 2050 at the latest.

I don’t know how I feel about the plant. But I know I still throw rubbish in my black bag, so I am responsible for the need for waste treatment and storage. By reducing black bin waste significantly and by considering the types of materials I will be throwing away, I will have an impact on the requirement to burn rubbish.

For further information, see Cardiff Against The Incinerator, and Viridor’s website.


Reduce demand: Join the library

I owned a Kindle for my train ride to work, but unfortunately it was trod on. I had to decide whether to buy a new one, or go back to a more dependable book.

There are opposing arguments for ebooks, see here. In the end, I decided to avoid all the discussions of ewaste, so I joined the library instead.

There are varying carbon footprint assessments for paperback books. 2.71kg CO2 for a book sold in America. I read a book a week on average, so by sharing my books in a library rather than buying, I could be Continue reading