The responsibility to combat climate change lies at all our doors. In a very personal journey, Alun Thorne explains how he discovered he can do more to help than he realised
I’ve discovered that our house alone emits nearly four tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. It came as quite a shock, I can tell you. I never really had myself down as a polluter, not a significant one anyway – I never throw litter and I haven’t poured oil over the garden since I was three.
But the statistics appear to have me bang to rights. According to my personalised report from the Energy Efficiency Advice Centre (EEAC), this two-bedroomed Victorian mid-terrace in the Black Country is adding to the atmosphere’s greenhouse gases by approximately 3.8 tonnes annually.
Not that I should be too surprised. As solid as these old houses were made, the high ceilings and wooden windows make them nigh on impossible to heat properly – I believe I’m on British Gas’s Christmas card list and, quite frankly, I’d rather not be. I had thought about changing suppliers as British Gas also supply my electricity but on investigation discovered that while there may be minor benefits short term, over the long term it is hardly worth the time you spend looking.
The reality is that the cost of energy is rising and if there are ways of saving cash then I’m all ears (I probably need to add a caveat here – if there are ways of saving cash I’m all ears, as long it isn’t going to take a great deal of my time and isn’t going to involve a huge outlay as my bank account is often emptier than a hermit’s address book).
So it was with a more prominent financial motive that I contacted the EEAC – doing my bit for the environment was right up there but still couldn’t quite compete with mortgage repayments.
Let’s face it, there’s nothing like a tornado down Sparkbrook High Street to encourage you to consider your environmental responsibilities but thinking and doing are completely different things. I suppose it’s a bit like recycling. There was a time in the not so dim and distant past when recycling was an activity carried out by the open-toed sandal brigade – many otherwise socially responsible householders just couldn’t be bothered.
But things are slowly but surely changing and recycling is no longer a dirty word – facilities have improved and probably a majority of households now recycle, at the very least newspapers, as a matter of course. At the office where I work there is culture of recycling and I doubt that we are alone with sustainability becoming the inescapable watchword of Government and business – companies as diverse as BP, HSBC and Drivers Jonas are publicly announcing their intention to become carbon neutral organisations while the massive projects that continue to regenerate our city and its surrounds like Masshouse, Park Central or North Solihull all have sustainability at the heart of their brief.
Whichever way you look at it, there is now an increasing social compunction to do one’s bit – a ten-minute drive to the coast from Birmingham might have its attractions but half my family live in Kent!
With this in mind I filled out the check list form for the EEAC which they run through their computer to produce my bespoke report. The questions were fairly straightforward, ranging from type of windows to number of rooms to heating system and so on. And so it was that my dirty secret was exposed. But all was not lost – there was potential for me to reduce my household carbon dioxide emissions by a tonne and if carbon dioxide is as light as I think it is then that’s a hefty chunk.
One of the first jobs is to lay another roll of insulation in the loft – not too expensive but damn itchy. Then there’s internal wall insulation – I remember when my dad had it done to his house and a man came round with what looked like an industrial ice cream gun. This is probably out of my price range at the moment but I’d be interested to see if the technology's moved at all. The final big improvement I could make to save energy is to install double glazing. Money or no money though, that’s a non-starter.
One of the main reasons I bought this house was its character which includes original stained glass in the front bay windows and if it came down to it, they are probably worth the savings I could make from double glazing. But it hasn’t come down to it because there are alternatives, a couple of which are a window draught-proofing kit and some heavy curtains. I have one and I’m working on the other.
And there are a host of other easy procedures to save energy, from turning down the thermostat by just one degree to closing curtains at dusk, to using energy-saving light bulbs. It is essentially common sense but has only now come to the forefront of my thinking since speaking to the EEAC – it’s the stats that do it! If I could carry out all the suggestions they reckon I could cut down on my emissions by 20 per cent and my energy costs by a little less.
My savings are likely to be considerably less as I implement what I can but at least my conscience will be clear. Well, clearer.
Alun Thorne works for PR and marketing firm Core Marketing.
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