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Sunday, August 05, 2007

I probably shouldn't find this funny...

... but I do.

Obligatory disclaimer...

Walking to the shops ‘damages planet more than going by car’

Walking does more than driving to cause global warming, a leading environmentalist has calculated.

Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes. Provided, of course, they remembered to switch off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.

Ok, I don't take this article too seriously, but it does bring up a few good points, particularly this list at the end.

Shattering the great green myths

— Traditional nappies are as bad as disposables, a study by the Environment Agency found. While throwaway nappies make up 0.1 per cent of landfill waste, the cloth variety are a waste of energy, clean water and detergent

Having used both with my own children, I found pluses and minuses for both. With Eldest, we used cloth for most of the time she was in diapers. Exceptions were when we were traveling. My daughter, however, started out larger than average and stayed that through most of her toddlerhood. Which means she grew out of the fitted cloth diapers we had shortly before she was toilet trained. We had a choice - spent a couple hundred dollars on larger cloth diapers that she would only use for a few months, or go with disposable. We went with disposable.

With Youngest, we started out with cloth, but quickly switched to disposable. She reacted to cloth diapers in a way I'd never seen with Eldest. Her skin turned bright red and puffy under the cloth diaper, but no where else on her body. When we put her in disposables, it would go away with a couple of hours. If we put her back in cloth, the redness reappeared even faster than it went way. We never did find out why it happened, and she's never had that reaction with anything else since.

One of the big concerns with cloth diapers - the amount of energy, water and detergents used to clean them, was partially offset by the fact that we've always used environmentally friendly detergent - environmentally friendly right from manufacture, to how it reacts with other cleaners, and finally to when it breaks down after use. That doesn't do much about the amount of water and energy used, though.

Disposables are more expensive in the long term, no question. The big concern mentioned most frequently about them is that they all end up in the garbage. There's a perception that disposable diapers take up a large amount of landfill space - when asked, people estimated as high as 45% of garbage in landfills are made up of disposable diapers! While I never imagined it that high, I too believed that disposable diapers took up significant amounts of landfill space. I was wrong. In reality, they take up very little space (I believe it's less than 1%, but I no longer have the references for that) .

Then there's the issue of manufacture, and from what little I know about both, neither is particularly good for the environment.

— Paper bags cause more global warming than plastic. They need much more space to store so require extra energy to transport them from manufacturers to shops

— Diesel trains in rural Britain are more polluting than 4x4 vehicles. Douglas Alexander, when Transport Secretary, said: “If ten or fewer people travel in a Sprinter [train], it would be less environmentally damaging to give them each a Land Rover Freelander and tell them to drive”

— Burning wood for fuel is better for the environment than recycling it, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs discovered

The recycling of paper products are a whole 'nother issue I'll be blogging about later. Sadly, recycling paper is one of the failures of recycling programs.

— Organic dairy cows are worse for the climate. They produce less milk so their methane emissions per litre are higher

— Someone who installs a “green” lightbulb undoes a year’s worth of energy-saving by buying two bags of imported veg, as so much carbon is wasted flying the food to Britain

— Trees, regarded as shields against global warming because they absorb carbon, were found by German scientists to be major producers of methane, a much more harmful greenhouse gas

Sources: Defra; How to Live a Low-Carbon Life, by Chris Goodall; Absorbent Hygiene Products Manufacturers Association; The Times; BBC

An interesting thing about methane, which is many times more potent a "greenhouse" gas than CO2. It seems that methane concentrations in the atmosphere had been increasing a great deal until 1992, when it began to slow down until they finally stopped increasing at all in 1998. The Satanic Gases discusses the methane issue in detail, and it's worth checking out.


  1. Great post! It amazes me that this always happens. What is bad never ends up being that bad and what is good never ends up being that good. I will have to tell my walking partner that we are hurting the environment by walking and it would be better to sit home on the couch :)

  2. *L* I'm sure there's be something environmentally unfriendly about sitting on the couch, too. (Have you ever thought of what our couches are made of? Or how they're made?)

    There's one thing I can say with absolute certainty. We just don't know what we don't know, and the more new things we discover, the more I realize how little we actually know!


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