Just back from hols. Lots to do. Happy New Year everybody - I am filled with optimism for the New Year. Let’s make it a Planet Positive world!!
Earlier this year, concerned about my growing family’s impact on the environment, I was engrossed in the nappy debate; disposables or reusables? (see blog) Finally, with a little help from my GreenParent.com friends, I opted for second hand reusable nappies, washing at 40 degC and line drying. Unfortunately, my experiment did not last very long as the hassle of handling and washing proved too much for us. Yes I feel bad, but one has to be real and recognise one’s practical limits – Reusable nappies are not for us – sorry!
But all is not lost and there is hope on the horizon offered in the form of Knowaste.
Knowaste is a Canadian company which potentially provides an alternative and acceptable solution. The company is providing the UK’s first absorbent hygiene product recycling facility which will not only recycle an estimated 750,000 tonnes of nappy waste produced every year in the UK, but also provide a treatment system for the large quantities of feminine hygiene products (a market in the UK worth £298m a year) and the ever growing adult incontinence pad market.
The first Knowaste plant will open in West Bromwich in mid 2010 for collections from the Birmingham area with four other plants are planned by 2014 for Manchester, Liverpool and London.
The Birmingham plant alone will prevent 36,000t of nappy waste, feminine hygiene products and adult incontinence pads from going to landfill each year with the ‘waste’ being reused to produce resalable, clean and hygienic sterile plastics and an energy source capable of fuelling the plant, with excess energy sold to the national grid.
Not wanting to take their word for it, dcarbon8 are currently carrying out a full LCA according to ISO 14044 and working to measure the environmental impacts of the treatment of the waste, in comparison to other forms of waste disposal for UK operations.
But I understand for the dc8 team that Knowaste is not stopping there as they have recently launched a new company called SmallPlant Building Products which plans to use the plastic recovered from the recycling plant to manufacture roofing tiles and systems. Who would have thought that nappies would end up on your roof!!
Is it an good solution, is it ‘acceptable’. Well we will find out and I will publish the data whatever the answer but on the face of it, they could provide an option to the increasing number of parents, like me, who really do care about how nappies are disposed of BUT cannot or are unable to cope with the real practicalities of dealing with the reusable nappy.
Orgiva is a sleepy town in southern Spain. I count it as home turf and this is a proposal to make the first town in the world to go Planet Positive.
For those of you who are interested you can down load it planet-positive-orgiva
Happy reading. If it does not come through, then email me at email@example.com
Enjoy what remains of the day!
16th May 2009
Updated information from dcarbon8 about Ziga’s nappies for those of you who want to follow
Summary of Study by dcarbon8
To ensure that informed decisions are made right from the start, Planet Positive/Dcarbon8 is determining which is the most carbon efficient nappy for Ziga.
The information that has been used is taken from two studies by the Environment Agency in 2003 and 2008, and calculations made by the Women’s Action Network for reusable and disposable nappies.
Initial studies by the EA showed little difference between the disposable and reusable nappies. However, this was questioned and shown to be unrepresentative by WEN, as the majority of carbon emissions from reusable nappies were a resultant of the laundering energy. Less efficient machines, and increases in tumble drying would create greater emissions.
The EA released an updated study in 2008 which focuses largely on different washing/drying options. This showed that by using the most effective methods of laundering, CO2e emissions can be reduced by 40%. In addition steps by disposable nappy manufacturers had been taken to reduce the overall material usage and emissions.
Below is a summarised table of the options:
CO2e per nappy
Number of nappies for 2.5 years
CO2e over 2.5years
Reusable with average laundering
Reusable with high efficient combination
Someone from GreenParenting has agreed to send me some used nappies which I hope to get this week, so I will let you know how it all goes.
I have decided to carry out an 18 year carbon experiment andto take my son, Ziga, Planet Positive.
Below you will see my first pass at a table for collecting data but I need some help in calculating his footprint and living Planet Positive.
I have already started collecting the data on a weekly basis but need some help in finding out some footprint data as well as getting some tips about where to buy low carbon products.
Key questions that I have
1. Should I include a partial footprint of his mother to cover his food from the breast?
2. What about the embodied footprint? I have noted some of the key items that he is using. Does anyone have any data on these?
3. At what age does he become responsible for his footprint?
4. Should I include a share of the carbon costs of hospital, health visitors, and doctor’s surgery visits?
5. What about his share of the embodied carbon of the car and other things that he shares?
6. What metrics should I be using for him and does anyone have any target data base information. I could use UK data but of course this does not take into account embodied information.
Food Milk, Water
Misc Nappies, Cotton Wool
Hot water for cleaning/steaming
House Share of heating, Share of power, Car trips for him
Clothes Baby grows, vests, shoes, hats, coat
Equipment Prams, cot
Thoughts and links to useful websites would be great and If anyone wants to join me on my journey
please let me know!
9th February 2009
I have a love hate relationship with Aga’s. Some of my earliest and fondest memories as a child are my visits to my Uncle and Aunt’s farm in Somerset. Mainly Cattle but a few pigs who ate the waste food from the kitchen. My most vivid recollections revolve around the kitchen and the big Aga that sat as a centre piece. Whatever the time of year and whatever the weather the Aga was on, keeping the kitchen warm and cosy. I remember coming in from the cold with uncle Roy after milking the cows and we would all huddle around the Aga basking in its warm radiance. Then Auntie Tui would pull out rolls of bacon that had been slow cooking for an hour, quickly fry up some eggs, make tea from the kettle from the hob and then we would all sit down to a well earned breakfast and family chatter and laughs- Magic!
More recently my step mother redid her kitchen and decided that she wanted to replicate her childhood memories of the country at their new place in London. We had a somewhat heated discussion over this for it has always struck me that an Aga is great in a cold, damp farmhouse with no central heating but a total anachronism in the middle of a city,in a well insulated modern kitchen. The house has central heating and so there really is no need to have it on all the time. In fact it gets so hot in summer that it has to be turned off. She put it in anyway - fair enough!
I was reminded of this argument by a Radio 4 programme (You and Yours) yesterday which featured a discussion between George Monbiot and an Aga representative. George has similar views to mine, but backed up with more salient facts such as ‘An Aga produces 6 tonnes CO2e per year almost as much as the average household in total’! The argument from Aga was that whilst, yes, it used more energy, it was in fact a lifestyle choice and people should be allowed to choose.
This issue goes straight to the heart of what Planet Positive Living is all about. Yes it is about making choices but more importantly it is about making the right choiceand unfortunately having an Aga is not one of them. I apologise to all of you who already have or who are thinking about getting one, but I see no justification, on any level, of choosing such a cooking system for our modern way of life. Slow, energy inefficient and a throw back to a time gone by - unless you live in a drafty kitchen in which case you should get it insulated!
Aga, I am sorry to say it but like the big American car companies that have singularly failed to move with the times, your time is up and your business is ultimately doomed to failure. Or as Darwin ( 200 this week) might say - Adapt or Die!
29th January 2009
Some interesting news from the NHS today; they are introducing a low carb diet. Not the type of diet that reduces your calorie uptake ( although this might be another upside), but a diet that will have a lower carbon footprint.
So this got me thinking, what is a low carbon diet? In my previous emails I had assumed that anything vegetarian would be better than meat, but according to the Low Carbon Diet Calculatorthis is not the case. Naively I chose a cereal meal above a cooked meat feast ( see sample meals) and found to my surprise that the meat meal had a lower footprint than the cereal. On further analysis it seems that I had chosen a high processed cereal and that is much worse than bacon and eggs.
The site has a number of useful tips including some of the following
Seasonal and regional
move away from beef or eggs
Avoid ‘flown’ in food
If it’s processed or packaged - skip it!
It’s a great site and you can create your own meal, although it is light on many of the things that I eat. But a great site none the less.
So, given that Steve’s pigs are local AND seasonal, then perhaps he is OK?
26th January 2009
I have been offline for a while supporting Leanda (my partner) in the birth of our new son ( no name yet). It reminded me of a drunken conversation I had some time ago at a wedding I attended. I was sitting next to a 30 something woman whom I was regaling about my eco-credentials. We were having a great conversation about saving the planet and doing the right thing and I was feeling quite virtuous until she asked me how many children I had; ‘Four’ I replied ‘and one on the way’.
It was like the a bombshell had hit; her support for my efforts evaporated in front of my eyes as she called me a hypocrite and worse. ‘How could I justify, even for one moment, having more than one child when our planet is under such strain;surely if I was the true environmentalist that I claimed then I would have refrained after my first or second child’.She called my reckless and irresponsible and then told me that she and her husband had decided not to have any children as this was the true eco-path.She then got up and left me in disgust, leaving me to ponder my position.
I must admit that I was shocked and at first incredibly angry. I mean how does she know that one of my kids will not be the person to save the planet by finding the solution to cold fusion, or become another Mother Teresa or even the next Jonathan Porritt?
But I guess she does have a point. The world does have limits and from her perspective I am being grossly selfish in my procreation; by having more kids I am denying others access to resources in the future.
But what do you, my blog colleagues all think? - Am I being selfish, should I feel guilty or is she being over righteous and does saving the planet go as far as denying our right (?) to have children?
Your thoughts would be most welcome
15th January 2009