What pet should I choose for a low-carbon lifestyle?

Pets can provide great solace and companionship, but they can also have a huge impact on your personal carbon footprint. The main reason for this is the huge volume of meat they can consume. When deciding on a pet, think about the pointers below…

  1. Choose pre-loved, rather than new. Pre-loved pets may be fed in a rescue or rehoming centre anyway, and so will already have their own carbon footprint. (The truth is that the rescue centre will very rarely have space, and so any pet that is rehomed just allows another pet not to be put down, so in reality, the carbon will not be reduced by rehoming, it will just save a pet from being put down.) 
  2. Choose a vegetarian, rather than a meat-eating animal. Rabbits are the perfect pets for being friendly, house-trainable but not too demanding on an owners’ time. Vegetarian pets can cost very little to look after. (Although I am biased, my pet rabbit is currently nuzzling his head under my foot as I am typing.) Gerbils, hamsters, rats and guinea pigs are potentials, or you could consider chickens, as they will provide you with eggs for the table with very low food miles and can be friendly.
  3. Consider their environmental impact. Cats will have lower carbon footprints than most dogs, but it can have a big impact on biodiversity by killing garden birds, amphibians and small mammals. Only choose a dog if you don’t have to drive it to go for a walk. My rabbit produces waste that can be added to the compost heap and is very good for the garden. They can also reduce how much you need to use a lawn mower.
  4. If you must have a dog, supplement meat dog food with some vegetarian foods to reduce its’ total meat consumption.
  5. Consider becoming a volunteer at your local rehoming centre before or instead of getting your own dog, as all those dogs need plenty of walks. If you can’t face going to the rehoming centre when it is pouring with rain and cold outside, then would you be wanting to do that with your own dog?
  6. Choose smaller breeds over larger dogs, to reduce the volume of meat required.
  7. If it is a choice between having children and having dogs, it is probably still better to go for the pet option.


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…

Continue reading

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

Shorter hair for a lower carbon footprint?

Hair dryers are notoriously energy hungry, so surely shorter hair that is quicker to dry could reduce carbon without changing your lifestyle…

Through laziness, I had become ‘the one with the long hair’. This is an acceptable and safe description, and through fear of ending up with a worse descriptive characteristic, I’d stuck with it for my entire life so far. But I wanted to know how much extra carbon my hair costs. I use a hair dryer on work days, so I cut half of it off to see if I use half the energy.

Pre-haircut hairdrying would take 4.5 minutes.
Post-haircut hairdrying takes 1.5 minutes.

Hairdryer is 2 kW
Average UK grid electricity for 2013 was 0.44548 kg CO2e/kWh

Energy saving is 0.1 kWh per use (2 kW for 0.05 hours (3 minutes))

I dry my hair every other day, which adds up to 18.25 kWh/yearGiving a grand total of 8.1 kg CO2e saving per year.

It’s not exactly going to save the world as we know it, but it is a reduction for no effort whatsoever. Although, losing all my powers may be a price too far!

BOOK REVIEW….Oil: A concise guide to the most important product on earth

Author: Matthew Yeomans

ISBN: 1-59558-028-X

This is Matthew Yeomans’ essential guide to a product that now rules every aspect of our lives. The book aims to highlight the enormous influence we have allowed oil to have on our standard of living. In so doing, we are provided with the knowledge of what the future holds if we can’t break free.

The book commences with a race through the last 150 years of oil growth and dependency in 30 short pages. The aim is to show that this timeframe is a blink-of-the-eye in terms of human Continue reading

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