Thursday, 20 August 2015

Finding extra motivation for a low carbon life - managing your waistline.

Many low calorie drinks are low in carbon emissions too.

When it comes to everyday choices, it can be difficult to opt for low carbon emissions every time. Granted, energy saving reduces our bills too but that isn't top priority for everyone. Saving the planet is a nice idea but not as labour saving as running a load through the tumble dryer, and not as exciting as Formula One racing. On the other hand, the low carbon choice can have other advantages. For example since I loathe airports and I get sick in cars I much prefer travelling by train. Also, I have long known that wine and beer are high in carbon emissions but I still found it very difficult to cut down - until I realised it was also vital to help keep my waistline under control.

Yesterday I listened to a webinar from Resource Efficient Wales about changing people's behaviour to reduce their carbon footprint. (The speaker was Joseph Williams from the Carbon Trust). We got a lot of good tips such as:
  • Target areas where you can expect to make a significant impact and have a reasonable chance of success.
  • For big changes, do a little at a time. For example, don't turn the thermostat down from 25°C to 20°C in one go - try 24.5°C first.
  • Target the right people. For turning off lights overnight, talk to the security staff; for reducing waste paper, find out who does the most printing and why.
  • Put reminders in the right place. To remind people to turn off lights, put the sticker by the door not on the light switch.
However the one that stimulated this post was:
  • Find the right motivation for the people you want to change.
The example given was trying to persuade policemen to turn off their computers at the end of the day. It turns out this particular group weren't too fussed about environmental impacts or saving money but they were very concerned about security. As well as saving energy, a computer that isn't running is safe from hackers and reminding the policemen of this was a good motivator for them to shut down.

Fortunately, there are often positive side effects  to low carbon choices. When it comes to diet, for example, meat (especially beef or lamb) and dairy are high in carbon emissions but reducing meat consumption is both healthy and more fun. I find a partly vegetarian diet much more varied and interesting than meat/potatoes/veg all the time. Plus, as I mentioned, I do like a glass of wine or two, and worrying about the carbon emissions alone wasn't enough to persuade me to cut down. It was worrying about my waistline that was the final straw.

The table and chart below show carbon emissions and calorie counts for a range of drinks. When I don't drink beer or wine I switch to water or tea or sometimes fizzy drinks (actually ginger beer rather than Coca-Cola) or fruit juice. Fruit juice isn't brilliant in terms of calories and is worse than wine for carbon emissions. However the carbon impact comes mainly from pasteurising and refrigeration. If you buy whole fruit that doesn't need refrigeration and squeeze it at home you reduce the carbon emissions. Also, if you squeeze it yourself you will be less tempted to have another glass.

Carbon emissions and calories of various drinks, relative to beer which is the worst. See table below.

mug of tea (no milk)210
mug of tea (whole milk)5320
250ml mineral water (half a 500ml bottle)800
can of Coca-Cola170139
150ml orange juice45066
150ml orange juice squeezed at home9466
1/3 bottle of red wine347170
pint of beer (bottled)500182

Data on carbon emissions are from How Bad are Bananas from Mike Berners Lee except for Coca-Cola from 'What's the carbon footprint of Coca-Cola?' Data on calories from

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