Securing my Planets Future

This is the third and (hopefully) last post in this series on “Securing my …”. The first post looked at how I was taking steps to secure my digital assets while the second concentrated on securing me for a healthy future. This final post is far more grand in its scope as I am looking at securing the planet. If you are a climate change denier or even a skeptic then look away now!

Does the Planet Even Need Saving?

Yes, it does, move on.

How Can One Household Make a Difference?

That’s a reasonable question and one that I am constantly asking myself too. How can I make a difference on my own? The only answer to that has to be that over time lots of others like me will also realise that something needs to be done and start to make small changes themselves. Of course, this on its own will not be enough but it is a start. What is really required is government intervention but they have shown that when it is a choice between the planet and their own political survival they will always choose the latter.

What are we doing?

I use we in the header above because Helen is along for the ride too but I think that she would admit that I am somewhat the driving force behind this and she’s just along for the ride.

Saving Energy

Reducing our energy usage has a double whammy of being good for both the planet and our pockets given that energy prices are going up so much.

Firstly, we made some small changes by looking at everything plugged in and asking whether it needed to be. If the answer was yes then the next question was did it have to be on all the time? If the answer to this question was no then we looked at how we could achieve keeping it on only as and when needed.

For many appliances, this was done through timer plugs but we also have a media server that was on 24/7 whether we were using it or not. This presented a slightly different challenge in that access wasn’t needed on a schedule but as and when. Fortunately, I was able to bring my development chops to bear on this problem. I built a secure webpage that allowed me to stop and start the server remotely. Problem solved!

The other area where I was able to use my development skills was in the monitoring of usage. Our energy supplier, Octopus, has an API that allows you to get access to your data in near real-time which allows me to chart our usage over time. We have been doing this for almost a year now so have enough data to be able to start making decisions based on it.

The next changes we looked at were a bit more major and costly. Firstly we replaced our aging gas cooker with a brand new electric induction equivalent. The next change we made was to order solar panels and a battery storage system. We’d toyed with doing this years ago but while our house is south-facing the roof is not and back then it wasn’t deemed worthwhile. In the intervening years, the technology has come on and the price has dropped so now having panels on a west-facing roof, while not as good as south-facing, still is going to be a benefit. As you can see they are having an almost immediate effect…

I appreciate that we are in a fortunate position to be able to make changes such as these when many are not. This is an issue that the government is going to have to tackle. Offering a rebate of up to £7,500 on an air-to-water heat pump when the Energy Saving Trust (EST) estimates it can cost between £7,000 and £13,000 to install one isn’t going to work for many – me included.

Saving Water

Water is another precious resource that needs careful management. It’s clear that the UK water companies aren’t going to, they’re too busy lining their shareholder’s pockets, so we’ll have to do it.

The first thing we have done is to install more water butts in the garden taking the total capacity to 600 litres. Using a watering can rather than a hose ensures that you don’t use more water than necessary and going back to refill them countless times is great exercise!

Another high water consumption area is the washing machine and so we are washing our clothes less often than before. There are obvious exceptions to this but generally things like jeans go a long time without hitting the drum!

These and other changes have seen a reduction in our home water consumption and therefore our bills too.

But what about water consumption by others? Can we influence that too? Well, you can – the question is to what lengths are you willing to go to make that change?

The table below shows the amount of water that is required to produce one kilogram of particular foodstuffs. I’m gutted to see that chocolate tops the leaderboard board as I’m not quite ready to remove that from my diet completely. However, the next three items altogether total 31,815 litres of water and so seem like an ideal candidate to remove. I’ve talked about removing red meat from my diet before so I won’t go through it here but I am continuing with it.

IME food waste report

FoodstuffQuantityWater consumption, litres
Chocolate 1 kg 17,196
Beef 1 kg 15,415
Sheep Meat 1 kg 10,412
Pork 1 kg 5,988
Butter 1 kg 5,553
Chicken meat 1 kg 4,325
Cheese 1 kg 3,178
Olives 1 kg 3,025
Rice 1 kg 2,497
Cotton 1 @ 250g 2,495
Pasta (dry) 1 kg 1,849
Bread 1 kg 1,608
Pizza 1 unit 1,239
Apple 1 kg 822
Banana 1 kg 790
Potatoes 1 kg 287
Milk 1 x 250ml glass 255
Cabbage 1 kg 237
Tomato 1 kg 214
Egg 1196
Wine 1 x 250ml glass 109
Beer 1 x 250ml glass 74
Tea 1 x 250 ml cup 27
Taken from this report: How much water is needed to produce food and how much do we waste?

Saving Resources

Another area we are looking into is using less physical resources – the old Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Everybody should be recycling as much as they possibly can. Councils are keen for you to do so as they are encouraged financially to do so by central government. However, even better is to reduce what you use so that less goes out each week.

For us, this includes composting more food waste with the remaining cooked stuff going into the food bin provided by the council. We also reuse things such as ice cream sticks (they make great plant labels) and toilet roll inners (as seed planters).

While on the subject of loo roll, I recommend who gives a crap who produces completely plastic-free toilet paper and donates 50% of their profits to clean water and sanitation non-profits.

The other area I’d like to reduce our consumption of is petrochemicals and this seems to be a very hard one to crack. So much arrives in plastic bottles and while it is possible to get rid of some, buying shampoo bars for example, many more items are just almost impossible to find in alternative packaging. In these cases, the best we can do is ensure that the packaging is at least fully recyclable.

What Else?

There is still plenty of scope to do more, travel for example. We could travel less by plane and are actively looking at how we can do more by train and still reach some interesting destinations. While it is pleasant to travel by train we also need to balance it with the time it takes.

Of course, we still rely on gas for our water and heating and I would like to remove that from the mix by moving to a heat pump of some description but, as I said, I’m put off by the cost and other factors. We’ll switch eventually but probably not until the existing boiler needs replacing.

That’s our journey – over to you!

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