Lights again.

I seem to have reached the point where the first of my compact fluorescent light globes are starting to be replaced.

Many of them I installed about two years ago, and most in the house are still going strong.

The three that have expired get switched on generally for only short periods of time, which Wikipedia notes can cut the lifespan drastically, and says:

The US Energy Star program says to leave them on at least 15 minutes at a time to mitigate this problem.

I wonder if those ones should be replaced with conventional bulbs, while they’re still available? In the supermarket it appears the range has been radically reduced since I last bought any, with an “efficient” range of Phillips incandescent bulbs pretty much the only ones left in Safeway, probably reflecting stricter rules on light globe importation and power consumption.

Another CFL that is still working, but is showing signs of wearing-out, is in the hallway outside the kids’ bedroom, and gets left on at night. Given the number of hours it’s spent switched-on (I estimate something like 4600 hours so far) that’s pretty impressive.

What to do with the CFLs once used? It’s generally known that they have a small amount of mercury in them, and therefore ideally shouldn’t end up in landfill. Reality seems to be rather different though — when I rang the council about it, they said they know of no special arrangements for them. Hmm.

As with traffic lights, hopefully domestic lighting will move towards LEDs, which not only use less power, they don’t have the short usage problems, and nor do they (as far as I know) require special methods of disposal.

Update 12:20pm. Clarified that some Phillips incandescent globes still available in Safeway.

Is domestic Green Power doing anything?

We buy 100% GreenPowerABC AM on Wednesday on Green power:

JEFF ANGEL: Polluters are using our money which we’re paying as a premium for GreenPower, in order to report lower emissions, when in fact they’re not doing anything.

DAVID MARK: Jeff Angel is the director of Total Environment Centre in Sydney. He says the schemes don’t work, because they don’t reduce Australia’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

JEFF ANGEL: The fact is that the big polluters, like the big coal-fired power stations are supposed to be reducing their pollution by a certain amount, however if an individual buys GreenPower, that effort should be additional to the efforts of those polluters.

Your individual effort is simply taken over by the polluters and it’s not additional to the polluters’ efforts.

The story itself is about the promotion of Green Power, with the ACCC ruling that slogans like “a simple switch for you, significant results for our environment” and “you have the power to make a real difference” are misleading.

It highlights an uncomfortable fact — that switching to Green Power might reduce your personal emissions, but doesn’t actually reduce overall emissions.

I pay the extra for Green Power. Is it worth it?

As it happens Greenpeace got in touch this week to clarify something on a couple of my old posts on kangaroo meat. (In short: they do not have an actual position on whether or not eating kangaroo is good for the environment.) I took the opportunity to ask them what they thought about Green Power.

John Hepburn of Greenpeace’s Climate and Energy campaign agreed that people needed to be clear that buying GreenPower doesn’t cut emissions, due to flaws in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, but noted that “buying certified green power is still a useful thing to do in that it drives demand for renewable energy”.

He also said that “probably the most important thing for people to do is to get active in the climate campaign – calling for more political action on climate change. Because ultimately it is a political issue and we aren’t going to solve it through voluntary action”, and noted that buying offsets are a waste of money. “Instead of offsetting, we’d encourage people to donate money to a climate activist organisation – or better still, join one or start their own.”

Amen to that, I can see a lot of parallels to my own campaigning. Using public transport yourself all the time isn’t enough to make it better — you have to get active.

And in that spirit I’d like to insert a blatant plug of my own: Help the fight for better public transport by joining the Public Transport Users Association.

It can’t be real

The deniers like Steve Fielding would say climate change can’t be real. (An ultra-conservative “becoming” a climate-change skeptic — who saw THAT coming?!)

After all, to take a simplistic view, if the planet were starting to heat up, we’d be seeing record low rainfall…

Melbourne has recorded its driest first six months of the year ever. — ABC, Jun 2009

…and there’d be record summer temperatures, both around the world…

Austin hit another record temperature Friday for the fourth day in a row. The weather sensors … registered 105 degrees. — CBS 42, Austin, Texas, USA, Jun 2009

June 2009 was the sunniest June in Victoria weather history. After bursting in with a trio of all-time temperature records on the second, third and fourth (the temperatures those days were 30.4, 31.3 and 30.9 degrees Celsius), the month kept on logging hours of sunshine. — Victoria Times Colonist, Victoria, BC, Canada, Jul 2009

…and here…

Melbourne has recorded its hottest day since records were first kept in the 1850s, when the temperature reached 46.4 just after 3pm. — TVNZ/AAP, Feb 2009

…with devastating consequences…

The Black Saturday bushfires, which erupted Feb. 7, killed up to 173 people and destroyed 2,000 homes in Australia’s worst bushfire disaster. — Bloomberg, Jul 2009

Maybe, Steve, if you close your eyes and block your ears, you can keep pretending nothing’s happening.

DNA quote

A letter from Lola Jones in this morning’s Age has this quote:

We don’t have to save the world. The world is big enough to look after itself. What we have to be concerned about is whether or not the world we live in will be capable of sustaining us in it.
Douglas Adams, May 2001 (Video)

I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about this, but this is a view I’ve had for a long time.

It comes down to this: the good news is nothing we can do will destroy the planet. It’s just a big rock. It will survive. The bad news is we can do plenty to make it bloody miserable, or even impossible, for us humans to survive.

Passive cooling

The importance of eavesI wouldn’t pretend to know a great deal about house design. But obviously it’s more energy efficient to design a building so that as far as possible, in summer it is kept cool by shade (rather than by air-conditioning) and in winter kept warm by the sun (rather than by heating). Apparently this is called passive solar building design.

A friend of a friend lives in a highrise (built late-1990s, I think) where there’s no shade on the north-facing windows, and the air-conditioning needs to be run even on cool days. I can’t imagine what it was like during last week’s heatwave.

In contrast, my house (circa 1930) has eaves over the windows. I can’t quantify how much it helps keep the house cooler (or at least less hot), but this photo of one of the north-facing windows, taken at 3pm on Friday, shows clearly how the eaves keep the sun away.

Recycled tissues are back

Woolworths CarnegieI wrote in December that recycled tissues had disappeared from the supermarket shelves.

I did find an email contact for ABC Tissues (who make the Naturale brand) — they told me to expect their recycled tissues back into Woolworths/Safeway stores soon, in a new packaging.

Last week Flerdle commented that they’d been spotted in Brunswick. I still haven’t seen them in my local though.

But yesterday I happened to explore the new Carnegie Central shopping centre, which has a shiny new Woolworths supermarket. (Yes, the changeover from Safeway has officially started. It’s odd though, having a new store so close to the existing Carnegie Safeway, which is still open.)

And they had the tissues in stock.

Mind you in the mean time I’d made an effort to use hankies more than tissues, to help my depleted stocks last a bit longer. I hope/suspect the energy involved in keeping the hankies clean is less than it takes to produce the recycled tissues.

Still, it’s good to have the tissues available again, as I just can’t see the sense in chopping down trees to put my snot on.

Five percent?!

Letter of note in yesterday’s Age:

IT IS interesting to note the objections and opposition to the Government’s climate plan, particularly from more affluent groups and individuals. They see it as up to industry, particularly the power industry, to lower consumption of energy and reduce emissions.

What effort are these people prepared to make to reduce their use of energy and to lower carbon emissions? In fact, what sacrifices are they prepared to make, other than changing light bulbs or installing a more efficient shower head?

It is highly improbable that many would consider markedly reducing their reliance on climate control devices (such as air-conditioning), or even buying a smaller or more efficient car. Have you noticed how many four-wheel-drives there are on the road? Would they be prepared to walk to shops, rather than drive? Of course not! Any and all fault lies solely with others. Certainly not with the mass over-consumption lifestyle and expectations that have become, to a large degree, the entitlements of suburban culture.

Unless and until people are prepared to alter this unsustainable culture, it would appear we are headed towards a dangerous climate, with continual depletion of resources.

Philip Brown, Ormond

Firstly, it’s not just about what I do as an individual. It’s about lots of individuals — as many as possible — the vast majority of the population — doing the right thing, and making sure that the government enables those people to do the right thing. And, significantly, it’s about making sure that profit-driven companies do the right thing too.

I walk and use PT a lot and drive less half the distance than the, um, average Australian. But I’m lucky enough to have easy access to PT for some of my trips. What about all the people who have nothing but an hourly bus service? What about those in suburbs where there are no shops within walking distance? Are these people expected to resign from the human race?

I buy green power and have solar hot water. So do lots of other people. But some people can’t afford it. I can’t figure out why the subsidies which will go to our filthy brown coal power stations don’t just go to buy everybody green power and solar panels.

Secondly, until the government forces the power generators to switch, they’ll keep churning out the emissions, as long as it’s profitable to do so. As The Australia Institute pointed out:

The problem for households keen to ‘do their bit’ to reduce climate change is that if they have shorter showers or put solar panels on their roofs, all they will do is reduce their personal demand for electricity. If less coal is burned to provide households with electricity, the coal-fired power stations won’t need as many permits and they can then sell their ‘spare’ permits to the aluminium or steel industries so that these polluters can INCREASE their emissions.

And that really gets at the problem with Mr Brown’s argument.

Sure, he makes a good point about over-consumption (something to remember, especially around this time of year). But you can’t expect everyone (people and companies) to change their behaviour if the right carrots and sticks aren’t applied.

That’s why Rudd’s 5% reduction target is so disappointing. It appears the compensation scheme will be so generous that it won’t actually encourage a move to low-carbon alternatives.

I’m not the first one to draw the analogy between GHG emissions and smoking, but I reckon if a 20-a-day smoker said they would cut down to 19, it would be rightly viewed as having little effect. In that context, cutting back by 5% would make no difference to that person’s health, nor in influencing others to quit.

I suppose I was hoping for more from Kevin ’07. Shame.

155 litres a day

There’s a bit of fuss about the new water target of 155 litres per person per day.

(It seems particularly fussing were people on talkback radio with big families who couldn’t quite grasp that it’s per person not per household.)

I have an efficient shower head, and generally have sub-4-minute showers, and have a garden that doesn’t need watering — except the shower warmup-time grey-water which goes on the lawn. I don’t know how the nature strip and front lawn stay so green.

The car, naturally, never gets washed, though I occasionally use a little water to remove bird poo. The toilets are both dual-flush, though not particularly new/super-efficient.

Each week the washing machine runs perhaps 5 times; the dishwasher 2-3 times, hand washing the other stuff 2-3 times (though I confess recently I managed to go a full week without handwashing anything).

The result?

According to my last water bill, our household sits at 207 litres per day. Domestic arrangements mean there are 13 “person nights” spent in the house per week, so unless my maths is askew, that’s 111.5 litres per person per day. And that’s almost without even trying.

So a target of 155 per person per day? No big issue… at least, not for me. Though I’m sure it’s harder for households with thirsty gardens and where lots of people are at home all day.