Last year my personal carbon footprint was 2.3 tonnes. This year it’s 1.32 tonnes. What’s the secret of my success?
In one way, you might say we cheated: we left our draughty rented house over a year ago and bought a snug little terrace, which we’ve had re-insulated this year. In another way, you might say we really fucking suffered for this carbon saving: we spent more money than we make in years on a house, and then went through the hassle and expense of getting workies in to cock around with it. Take your pick.
Rented housing stock in this country is almost as much of a disgrace as the actual landlords themselves. The Alzheimer-ridden old crone we most recently rented off was the last in a long line of fumblyhanded shitbiscuits who divested themselves of even the rudimentary common sense they had been born with. Each owner in succession gouged and scratched away at what could have been a lovely and energy-efficient end-of-terrace cottage, under the pretence of the most laughable “DIY”, before passing it on to the next biscuit merdique.
Our (gratifyingly ex-) landlady once chased a letting-agency workman down the street, for “stealing” her broken brass-effect dimmer switch (which he had just replaced); yet she couldn’t get it together in two years to get some tools for the garden. There should have been some court order against her and everyone like her, never mind letting them make decisions about someone else’s home, whether or not they own it.
Such properties must now have an EPC in law, but the fine is a pittance and the agencies think of it as just being so much gold plating. Back when we were buying a house, the agencies had properties on the market (including ours) which didn’t yet have HIPs, and we just had to take a punt. Now that HIPs have been abolished, veering the market bias massively back towards the privileged, can EPCs last much longer? Surely the environment can go to hell, when what society needs (briefly, until the oil runs out and it’s too late to stop climate change) is a healthy, unfettered, careering, uncontrollable housing market!
Anyway. I digress. Other points of note are that the insulation, which happened over the summer, appears to have had an effect on our electricity consumption. This is probably down to the boiler pumps not having to work quite so hard. We also used the car for a trip—four of us—in late June/early July, which probably counted for 20% of our total carbon usage. The peak of gas usage in winter implies that our boiler is still one of our biggest carbon sins. It’s X-rated, so does need replacing at some point. Still, we also moved to Ecotricity in late summer, so some of that electricity will probably be from renewable sources (and possibly the gas from biogas: I haven’t got the figures in front of me right now.) I was rather hoping that might get subtracted; maybe that’s why our electricity consumption apparently dropped.
What I’ve most come to appreciate in 2010, though, is that a low-carbon lifestyle is hard. When government at all levels treats car uses like pure silk streams out of their behinds, opting to get into work a different way is difficult. Organizing changes to your household like switching electricity suppliers and having insulation installed (both of which, to her everlasting credit, K. handled) is difficult. Dealing with plumbers who never call you back, workmen who won’t tell you what they need from you, pushy shitheads from electric companies… all of this is hard. The odds are stacked against you.
And that means it’s difficult to both practice and preach, and why the more prominent spokespeople for measures against climate change can always be accused of slight hypocrisy by far lazier commentators. And why one of my resolutions for 2011 is to get less involved in all sorts of things. It won’t save me much carbon, but it might save my sanity as I try to make those cuts elsewhere.