Last year I discussed my carbon audit for 2008. I use The Carbon Account to keep as close a track of my personal carbon emissions as possible. This year I’ve been keeping a similar record, but the result is confused and a bit unimpressive: the bottom line is a CO2 equivalent of 2.3 tonnes (edited 2010-01-20.) You can see the graph or keep reading.
The most catastrophic event in terms of our energy efficiency was at the end of 2008, when our landlady removed the heavy curtains from our draughty, damp, heatleaking house and grudgingly replacing them with ones that were made of cloth as thin as paper. The buy-to-let phenomenon is a tremendous drain on the country’s energy, as houses in a state that an owner-occupier would never tolerate are left to moulder among tenants who are either uninterested or powerless to act.
As the graph shows, last winter saw a huge peak in gas usage at the old house, not helped by the cold snap (which also saw me working from home for two days.) Electricity usage (yellow) at the old house was a constant, high value that we could never reduce any further (nor get to the bottom of.) Working half from home (and not wanting to either drive or cycle on ungritted roads) did divert me onto a slightly tortuous bus journey for some of the colder days without snow, so overall our old house was by far our biggest energy expenditure.
The peak in car use over summer (see how the electricity usage refuses to go down!) was because we were buying, and then decorating and furnishing, a house. If we lived in Oxford and the house had been in Oxford I dare say most of those journeys could have been on alternative forms of transport. As it was, I once spent an hour waiting for buses which never turned up in order to do a half hour of decorating in preparation for some furniture or other arriving: had one turned up as I left for my car, the round trip would have taken me three hours including walking from the bus stop to the new house and back.
I don’t particularly like driving and would rather have avoided it, but it was an investment we decided to make so that we could move as smoothly as possible into the new house. In fact, we had cleaned the old house early, so that we might terminate our contract before its end. Our landlady had spent months contacting the letting agency every few days in an Alzheimerish frenzy to ask when her renters were moving out, so that she could sell the place, so we had high hopes. But then she disappeared for a month or so with no forwarding address (she’d sold her own house, also at the bottom of the market) and returned with some massive debt that meant she had to carry on letting the house out and couldn’t free up any time to sell it.
But, other than that, see how our investment has been repaid! The dip you see in October was when we were no longer living in Newland Street—had in fact turned off the electricity mains there to prevent that weird constant leakage—and hadn’t yet turned on the central heating at our new house.
There’ll be a spike in the car use around Christmas, as once again First Great Western have in their wisdom buggered about with the train services and we’ll probably have to drive to see K’s parents. But 2010 should see much less time in the car thanks to my easier commute into work, and a house which actually performs the function of keeping in heat should also mean we can aim for better than 10% carbon reduction in 2010 for our household, maybe even returning to the glory days of less than two tonnes of CO2 equivalent per capita. But we’ll hold off on burning that celebratory tyre for now.