Taking the bloom off Valentine’s Day

Taking the bloom off Valentine's
Growing flowers for Valentine’s Day, weddings,  funerals and so many other occasions, is damaging the soil, the air, and the water supply.  [Photo by Pieter van Marion].
THERE was a day when when a bunch of flowers, preferably roses, was a must on Valentine’s Day. But that was when CO₂ levels in the atmosphere were within acceptable limits. Those days are gone, and won’t be coming back for centuries, if ever.

To be honest, even back in the day, I always thought there was something kind of wasteful and extravagant about cut flowers. Here today, wilted tomorrow, and then, sorrowfully, into the bin and off to the landfill in the back of a gas-guzzling garbage truck.

Potted plants made a lot more sense. At least  potted plants lasted a couple of weeks or so, and in many cases could be replanted.

But this blog is not about monetary waste, it’s about carbon footprint and costs to the planet, a planet that I love. And this year, I have pledged never again to buy a cut flower, not on Valentine’s Day, not for a wedding, not for a funeral or birthday or any other special occasion where unthinking marketeers tell me to “Say it with Flowers”.

How does cutting back on cut flowers affect my carbon footprint?

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Steaming hot Iceland

Iceland’s ‘walking’ pylons
I want us to follow Iceland’s ‘walking’ pylons. We don’t have to wait until 2030 for clean electricity; it’s here, right now. Let’s go for it whilst there’s still time.                  [Photo by the FreeDictionary]
USING CarbonFootprint.Com to calculate my footprint made me realize that eating in or eating out, buying second-hand clothing instead of new, or buying food that isn’t packaged (or has very little packaging), makes a real difference to my impact on the environment. No other carbon calculator that I know of takes these factors into account.

The other thing I really like about this tool is that the first thing it asks is which country I live in. This is very relevant, particularly when it comes to calculating my impact from electricity usage.

If you live in a country like Iceland, where they generate 100% of their electricity with renewables (75% from large hydro, and 25% from geothermal) your carbon footprint from electricity consumption is zero.

By contrast, if you live in a country like Poland or China, where a high percentage of electricity is generated from burning coal, your carbon footprint from your usage of electricity will probably be huge.

What can you do about it?

We’re cooking ourselves

 

WHY worry? Somebody asked me this morning why I’m so concerned about climate change. I surprised them by saying I’m not worried about climate change, I’m worried about global warming. And it’s with good reason.

The year 2015 was the hottest since records began, and that makes it the hottest year, not only since records began, but since the last inter-glacial period 11,300 years ago. And some scientists say you have to go back even further, to the Paleocene Thermal Maximum, 56 million years ago, to find temperatures that equal what we are in the process of creating.

So, yes, we have had hot periods and we’ve had cold periods and, according to NASA, these changes are attributable to tiny variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives. And, there’s nothing we can do about it, right?

Altruism by fax

Delivery vans emit CO₂ and carcinogens

 

SOMETIMES, the choices I make seem huge. For example,  choosing whether to give my carbon emissions a boost by flying back to Boston for my next courses, or do them online without flying anywhere –– it’s a tough one. I like Boston.

Fortunately, most decisions I have to make are really rather small, but they add up to make a significant part of my carbon footprint over time.

Today is an example. The bank in Singapore wants me to fill in a form applying for a new security device. They know I don’t have a fax machine and that it costs me $US3 per page to fax them from the local print shop. So they offer to collect the form by courier. It’s up to me.

How can this choice affect my carbon footprint?

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