Sunday, December 31, 2006

Day 3: Guest Editor ~ Jeremy Smith of The Ecologist

Today I hand over my Blog to a guest editor: fellow podster Jeremy Smith of one of my favourite environmental magazines The Ecologist to see what he thinks of life at Whitepod. And as this is the last day of 2006, I am asked him for his ruminations on the eco-highlights of 2006 and what to watch out for in 2007.

Lazy E: So have you too fallen in love with Whitepod?

Jeremy: I don't think I've ever been to a place where I felt more relaxed, more welcome, more inspired by the knowledge that we really can live in ways that maximise the joy we can get from nature without damaging it on the way.

Normally it takes me days to unwind - at Whitepod it felt like minutes. My girlfriend and I spent most of the first day talking about when we would be back. I have found a little place, and a place that is somewhere I can get to on a train from waterloo, where all seems good with the world.

Lazy E: 2006 was quite some year in terms of environmental awareness. What stands out for you in 2006 as the highlights of the environmental agenda?

Jeremy: in no particular order...

1) The democrats winning both houses and turning Bush into a lame duck. Hopefully the worst is over.

2) David Cameron (we hope and will soon find out how sincere he is) showing that a politician can make the environment central to their message.

3) B&Q and Curry's selling (and selling out) of wind turbines and solar panels.

4) Sweden declaring that by 2020 it will have gone oil free as a country.

5) The Stern Report showing the world's economists that global warming offers not just a salient warning of what we are destroying, but an opportunity to create new economies built on respect for the natural world. Have a read of what The Ecologist made of it all.

6) Being here at whitepod and being inspired by the people I have met, the direction they are all taking, the choices they are making. Forget the big stuff - it's the small, personal, unique and individual actions people are making all over the world in their million different ways that really inspire me. And there's where our real chance of getting out of this god-awful mess really lies.

Lazy E: What should we watch out for in 2007?

Jeremy: It could be quite a year. The fact of how the world woke up in 2006 means that the plans they then began to create will appear on the radar in 2007...

1) The IPCC releases their fourth report into the state of the world's climate in a month or so. It's not going to be pretty.

2) The world, which definitely needs new leadership, is going to get a lot of them in 2007 - Blair will be gone, as will Chirac, the UN gets a new head, Japan's just got a new one, Bush is almost over... it's not that I believe any of these new men (and they are all men) are going to lead the way, I just hope they might create enough of a vacuum for some genuine grassroots action, for us all as communities of people to realise that the power lies within ourselves and we don't have to wait for anyone in a so-called position of power to lead the way. The fact is we haven't got time to wait for the politicians, so we might as well get on and do it ourselves.

3) The return of the road protestor. Without any fanfare, Blair has embarked on a road building scheme just as big as the one the tories did. It makes all his talk of climate care an utter hypocrisy. Next year you'll at last be hearing a lot about it, and about the inspiring stories of local groups fighting unneeded bypassess and road widening schemes up and down the UK. These aren't all Swampy mark two characters, but doctors and lawyers and teachers (and Swampies) showing that care for the environment is a cause that's open to us all.

4) Personal Carbon Quotas - carbon rationing, DTQs, call them what you will, in 2007 there's going to be a lot of talk about how to work out a way of each person being allowed to cause their fair share of pollution, and nothing more.

Lazy E:What do you think is should be done in the forthcoming year to highlight environmentally friendly living?

Jeremy: The most vital thing that is beginning to happen is the linking of environmental issues with the wellbeing agenda.

People are realising the most exciting thing - that being environmentally friendly doesn't actually mean donning a hair shirt, eating nothing but lentils and warming your house by the light of an energy efficient lightbulb.

And neither does real happiness reside in the lies that marketing men have been selling us for decades. We've had forty years of consistent economic growth and yet we aren't any happier, we work longer hours, we see less of our families and friends. We've got so many toys, and now we work just to keep them running.

Rather, we are at last realising that the closer we live to nature, the happier we are. Living locally, eating quality local seasonal food, shunning supermarkets and turning back towards our communities and the people that live in them, buying products from real people that care about how and where they were made and want to share their stories, walking and cycling rather than sitting in traffic jams, sharing a bottle of wine and watching the world whizz by from the window of a train rather than cramming yourself into a ryanair flight and cursing the world from the beginning to the end of the journey.

This isn't giving up on the future and harking back to some non existent halcyon age - it's just remembering that we did get some things right in the past, and combining the best of this knowledge, with the best of what we are creating now. If we get this right, then, as the much missed Ian Dury once sang, in 2007 we really might have 'reasons to be cheerful'.

The Ecologist

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Day 2: A Day in the Life of a Podster

Slept late! It's either the mountain air or testimony to what must be one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in. To have slept so long and deeply is a gift for an insomniac. Ahh, but then to waken to the most breathtaking views and the glowing ambers of the woodstove ...and the silence. Mountains bring such peace and with this comes a certainty of the grand design of nature.

Our pod is rather grand with huge picture windows, a mezzanine area and space to stride - it's a Pavilion Pod, which means that at 50 square meters it is actually larger than the upper floor of my london flat. It's also maybe a bit of a cheat (or essential - depending on your point of view - for those such as Lawrieovski who cannot do without certain practicalities), because we have a bathroom with hot and cold water and electricity - although we are not using the additional plug-in radiators as our stove is keeping us very toasty.

So today it's snowshoeing up higher into the mountains. Visions of old tennis racquets tied to our shoes are quickly dispelled and we set off in our super duper high-techies with a map drawn out by Eric and a packed lunch from Sophia. Through woodland and forests we pad, with only our breathing to break the silence. Upon finding an old barn we settle down to enjoy the views and contentedly munch our lunch before slowly heading back for cake at the farmhouse.

And what better way to end the day than to arrange a massage with Dominique in the spa, housed under the farmhouse. All aching muscles kneaded into submission ... I have reached eco-nirvana.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Day 1: Two Peas in a Pod

What a glorious train journey - an early start from Gare de Lyon, slowly awakening to the palest of sunrises kissing a frost-laden landscape. Those grey London days have become but a distant memory as we sat mesmerised by the wonder of the utter beauty of nature around us. European trains are of course more efficient, faster and infinitely more enjoyable than our british counterparts - why fly when trains are this romantic?

Over the hills to the Swiss border, then smoothly down into a mist-shrouded Lausanne, clinging to the sides of the lake with the sun burning off the last of the haziness. From the sleepy station of Aigle we were on the last leg - venturing into the Dents du Midi, up through the mist and round hairpins we go, until finally, we have arrived!

Ah, but this quite quite something. For an eco-gal like me who believes luxury and sustainablilty are ideal bed-partners, this is a marriage made in heaven. No air-con here - no, just fresh oxygen to gulp and a woodstove to warm one's tootsies in one's own ecopod. These eco-pods are well insulated, well stocked, well appointed and, well, utterly pod-tastic.

And there is snow - but not as much as there should be for this time of year. Does it matter? Actually, probably not. This is not about artificial snow being pumped out, a quick-fix solution which utilises vast - and depleting - water resources, creates a huge energy output and is laced with a gruesome toxic concoction of chemicals (to obtain lower freezing points) that then seep into and damage the soil when the thaw comes along. Due to the low snowfall this christmas, the majority of the runs open at the moment in Switzerland are created from artificial snow - a fact that is, ironically, proudly advertised.

Here at Whitepod, when the snow is not quite optimum to ski on, there are other more sustainable alternatives to explore - snowshoeing, cross-country ski-ing, dog-sleighing, paragliding, ice climbing. It's about living with nature, about looking to the resources available, and it's about leaving behind a smaller, less penetrative eco-footprint. Tomorrow the exploration begins...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

To the land of 250 cheeses

I awoke this morning to the dulcit tones of fellow Scot James Noughtie on the Today programme. As I hurriedly finished packing it occurred to me that it was quite remarkable that In just under a year, radio 4 has evolved not only into now daily reporting of environmental stories, but also to a guest editing by Zac Goldsmith, editor of The Ecologist, potential future Conservative candidate and environmental advisor to David Cameron.

Business inevitably has the ability to remodel our newly evolving world faster than politics and law and two individuals who, it could be said, are at the forefront of the business of Climate Change in the UK today were invited to comment. James Cameron founder of Climate Change Capital, and Juliet Davenport CEO of Good Energy and recent winner of Ethical Businesswoman of 2006, spoke on the development of London as the centre of the global carbon economy and the rapid maturation of investment in the low carbon sector.

All interesting stuff, but no time to linger. It's off to the Eurostar, breakfast on board (organic youghurt no less, scrummy croissant but utterly vulcanised scrambled eggs. Why powdered milk?) amid what the mad russian calls portable anarchy (quealing kids) - but I don't mind because the adventure has begun....

And so we arrived in Paris, dumped our bags and off we mooched. A few coffees, vin et fromages later we found ourselves on the banks of the Seine at the Beaux Arts where we came upon a remarkable exhibition of the photography of Jean-Baptiste Huynh. Food may feed the stomach but the arts feed the soul.

So how does Paris stack up on the eco-factor? Hmm, there are pockets of activity in the arts and design front, and there is an active municipal/green spaces for the people policy. France voted unanimously to ban non-biodegradable plastic carrier bags from 2010, replacing them with compostable cornstarch alternatives. In any event, they are not beholden by the ubiquitous placcie bags as we Brits are. No, it's stylish shoppers for them.

The Paris Mayor has a plan to see a tramway skirting the city bordered by trees for a more eco and transport friendly city. Bikes for the first time are getting a look-in, and we saw cycle lanes being laid, which is a first in this car-centred city. Other plans include reducing the speed limit in the city centre, tripling parking fines and banning cars at the weekend. Most encouragingly, his eco policy has the backing of 82 per cent of Parisians. Even here the environmental vote is starting to prove popular.

Ah, enough for now, it's time for more important things - some fine wine and a good dinner....

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Eco-adventure starts here

Am off in the morning for another of my eco-adventures, and can hardly wait. Holidays always fill me with excitement, and this one in particular, as it is the fulfillment of a promise made a year ago. Our journey starts from Waterloo on the 08.14 Eurostar to Paris, in time for lunch and a good mooch around the Marais. An overnight stay in a cute little hotel, then up and off on the early train to Switzerland to a most exclusive Alpine experience. This is no hotel, this is no ski resort, this is Whitepod. What one journalist referred to as 'Bonnington meets Bond' - I shall let you know. Please, please let there be snow.....

Monday, December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Fishy tales from Billingsgate

This morning I had an adventure. John and Simon had invited me to join them on their annual pilgrimage to collect oysters and the like for their christmas celebrations. And so, into the depths of the pea soup gloom before most sane people had risen, off I headed to Billingsgate fish market. As this was clearly going to be a fishy affair, I persuaded the mad russian to come too, as he knows a thing or two about fishing quotas and the state of the fishing market today.

After being driven through the empty streets of east London, we arrived to a teeming world of shadowy people carrying black sacks slung over their shoulders, like swags of loot, sashaying to and fro from the market. Inside we stepped into a hive of activity. Not only was the fish on sale widely diverse, but so too were the buyers and wholesalers, who were busy shouting and bargaining in a variety of languages - it was a medley of pan-asian and african, seasoned with a sprinkling of chinatown, jostling on a bed of east-end likely lads.

John said the guys selling the eels were the best - they had a sky-rise housing unit that was worth seeing. He was right. Stacked like an old fashioned filing system, with water dripping through, a drawer was pulled open and within I was shown the writhing eels.

Euch! Did I want to hold one? No way...

Eels apart, what was remarkable was the actual lack of locally caught fresh fish. And of what was available, much was frozen - at least 80%. Fishing on industrial trawlers facilitates processing and freezing of each catch (which can be many hundreds of tonnes of fish, I was reliably told) onboard the ship, then trans-shipped to ports around the world. What was not frozen had been airfreighted in from the other ends of the earth - huge crevettes from Nigeria, Abalone from Australia, and many more that I couldn't even begin to identify.

But no sign of cod, which was maybe inevitable given the announcement just this week by DEFRA that fishing quotas have been revised again: cod catch has been reduced a further 14%, overall a reduction of 75% since 2000. Fishing vessel days are now down to 12 days a month (from 28 days in 2001), and the fishing industry struggles to survive. With pressure mounting for a 'zero catch' for cod, tough decisions must sit at the top of the list of Ben Bradshaw's New Year resolutions. Problem is: it's that ongoing struggle between short-term economic needs and long-term environmental implications. Politics by it's very nature favours the short-term solution, but it becomes clearer by the day that we now need to put in place the foundations for future long-term sustainable practices.

This got me wondering whilst I greedily enjoyed my smoked haddock breakfast surrounded by the burly auctioneers dressed in whites like their Beaumaree counterparts at Smithfield - just how sustainable is this industry? Where will it all be in a further 10 years? Should I even be eating fish? Such is the strain and burden on our supplies - the overfishing, our environmental impact and the implications of climate change and global warming on sea temperatures, the threat of the delicate ph balance of our waters and the ancillary loss of coral reefs and our vital stocks. Ach, the more I discover, the more problematical my everyday decisions become. I shall chew on this (over a plate of wild alaskan smoked salmon) and come to a decision at New Year.

PS An update on the emptying of the freezer. Still have: half a bag of peas, a trout, the last of the ice cream, some blinis, 6 sausages, a duck, a breast of chicken and a lobe of foie gras. The foie gras is now giving cause for concern - I love the flavour (ohh, some memorable meals at Club Gascon), but am now haunted by an image I came across of geese being force fed which successfully spoils all past decadent pleasure. To eat or not to eat. This is getting unbearable. I think I'm just going to have to get drunk and take up smoking again (organic vodka and organic ciggies, of course).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. To the ancients, it was as if the Sun and Moon stopped in their flight across the sky for the Sun to gather strength to begin anew the journey towards growth and renewal. It on this longest night of the year when the Sun is reborn out of his union with the goddess Moon. As the Sun grows into his full strength, so the days will become longer.

The Sun's representation as the male divinity, or celestial ruler, predates Christianity. It is said that the Mesopotamians were first to celebrate the importance of his annual rebirth with a 12-day festival of renewal which was designed to help the god Marduk tame the monsters of chaos for one more year.

In early times, the darkly glorious yew-tree was probably the only evergreen tree in Britain. Both Druids with their belief in reincarnation, and later Christians with their teaching of the resurrection, regarded it as a natural emblem of everlasting life. It is a tree that is to this day is celebrated on Winter Solstice as a symbol of the Sun's rebirth.

[Photo credit: Andrew Tweedie my inventor chum in Cornwall, sent me this as a Winter Solstice ecard to save some trees. He tells me it's an Ashbrittle Devon Yew Tree planted 1000BC/ie 3000+ years old. Photo taken circa 1970ish. It's a beautiful photo - thanks Andrew]

Busy in Brussels: Legislation gets green light

Two vitally important pieces of European legislation received the green light this week .

The first was the rubber stamping of the REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) legislation. After seven years in the making, with strong lobbying by pharmaceutical companies, the European Council formally adopted the new regulation on the 18th December. REACH will enter into force on 1st June 2007. As ever with strongly contested legislation, the outcome is deemed a compromise, but nevertheless what has been achieved will have long-term ramifications for chemicals manufactured or exported into the EU. REACH puts the onus on business to show that the chemicals it uses are safe. Hazardous chemicals are to be replaced with safer ones unless specifically authorised, and the chemicals sector will be encouraged to research and develop more new products. For a nifty summary see:
BBC News

The second was the announcement in Brussels that airlines are to be included in the European Union's carbon trading scheme. Plans are to include just intra-EU flights in its carbon trading scheme in 2011, and all flights into and out of Europe from 2012. Carbon trading is a form of emissions trading that allows a country to meet its carbon dioxide emissions reduction commitments, in as low a cost as possible by utilising the free market. It is a means of privatising the public cost or societal cost of pollution by carbon dioxide. By inclusion in the European carbon trading scheme airlines would receive a certain stock of permits to emit greenhouse gases but have to buy any extra if they exceed that cap.

Many airlines are keen to be included in a carbon trading scheme which may have a lesser impact on their bottom line than taxes, and could even raise profits. But carriers are still bickering over the scope of the plans - whether these should cover all flights or just those inside Europe - possibly setting up years of legal disputes over jurisdictional issues.

Decision has yet to be determined over the controversial issue of whether or not to auction the permits or give them away free.

"I would include (aviation) in the emissions trading scheme and auction 100 percent (of permits), and direct those funds into research, development and deployment," said Michael Rea, Director of strategy at the Carbon Trust, which spearheads Britain's drive to a low-carbon economy.

"Whether you like it or not aviation is a consumer need. What's important is to incentivise aircraft manufacturers and operators to innovate."

[Photo credit: Adrian Hanft @ found photography]

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Eric Prydz v's Floyd: Proper Education

For all of you lovers of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, here’s a new lease of life for the classic due to be released on New Year’s day. The Swedish dance legend Eric Prydz not only does it great justice, but he teams it with a rather unusual video - it focuses on climate change and the issues surrounding global warming.

Set in a London estate, it features a gang of young people breaking into local flats, in order to … well, why not check it out and see for yourself: Proper Education

This is what Prydz has to say about it:  “Pink Floyd would always use their videos to get a message across and I really wanted to carry on this spirit. I’d been reading so much in the press about climate change and global warming recently and felt it would be great to try and empower people to do something about it. It’s not making a grand statement. It’s just simply saying everyone can do a little and it will make a difference."

Prydz consulted with climate change charity Global Cool.  Based in Los Angeles and London and supported by the likes of Sienna Miller and Orlando Bloom, Global Cool quite rightly believe that the solution to defeating global warming lies within the power of the individual, empowering them to take personal action to make a valuable difference.

Global Cool not only advised on the video’s content but are also working with Prydz and Ministry of Sound to make the release of ‘Proper Education’ carbon neutral. The emissions created through the production and distribution of the CD release will be offset through the Te Apiti Wind Farm project in New Zealand.  The Te Apiti project is one of the first carbon offset schemes to be classified as Gold Standard, a programme endorsed by over 43 critical non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

More info: Ministry of Sound
With thanks to Ed Gillespie in London & Tom Wilson in Australia for sending me the story

Monday, December 18, 2006

World's largest offshore windfarm to be built in the Thames Estuary

There’s been a sea change in the wind direction, so to say. The Government today gave the go-ahead for two major offshore wind farms to be built in the Thames Estuary.

The London Array windfarm will consist of 341 turbines in an area of 145 square miles stretching between Margate in Kent and Clacton in Essex. The £500 million Thanet farm will house a further 100 turbines and could be operational as soon as 2008.

Together the windfarms could deliver 1.3 GW of green electricity, which would be enough to meet the demand of a third of all homes in Greater London.They will make a significant contribution to the Government's ambition - as set out in the Energy Review - to deliver a five-fold increase in the UK's renewable energy resource by 2020.

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Alistair Darling said:
"Britain is second only to Denmark in the offshore wind sector and projects such as the London Array, which will be the biggest in the world when completed, and Thanet underline the real progress that is being made.

Environment Secretary David Miliband added:
"We expect this announcement will be the first of a number of large-scale offshore wind farms in the UK and will provide real impetus for the continued developments in the offshore renewable energy sector that will benefit generations to come.
Both projects consented today will also bring significant economic opportunities to the local communities and to UK businesses.
Full DTI press release

Friday, December 15, 2006


The Japanese "furoshiki," or "cloth for the bath," was first used in the 14th century as a way to wrap one's clothes while taking a public bath. Over the years, its uses were limited only by imagination and technique. That is, until the plastic bag went big in Japan (and everywhere).

As Yuriko Koike, Japan's Minister of the Environment points out, this seems like a pretty good time to bring wrap back on a global scale. It's reusable, durable and versatile--and it makes wrapping and carrying stuff a heck of a lot more stylish than your typical sack of polyethylene. There are a lot of them out there, but Koike has released her own version, its gorgeous birds-and-flowers motif on fiber manufactured from recycled PET bottles, apparently available only in Japan for now. She adds the word "mottainai" to indicate how shameful it is to waste something that hasn't fully been used. And how wonderful it would be to use the furoshiki (or any big, durable and pretty cloth) this holiday as both wrapping and present.

Post thanks to
Treehugger have links to a cute instructional video and diagrams to explain how to dispatch waste and put a cloth to all its uses.

Global Warming increases sex drive

Climate change brings some rather unexpected findings, and sometimes a happy outcome for some - take the male Scottish Grey Seal, for instance. According to a study published in the Royal Society's journal Biology Letters, weaker males would not normally have a chance with the females, who usually go for the more dominant types. But lower rainfall levels have forced female seals on the remote Scottish island of North Rona to travel further from their partners to find fresh water, giving the weaker males more opportunity to mate with them.

Promiscuous at the best of times, dominant males typically mate with 10-15 females, which they guard on their territory.
"These males' ability to dominate is easy when rainwater pools are abundant and females cluster in a small geographical area, but during the dry season the area in which the females are located becomes too big and they can no longer successfully keep an eye on them all," Dr Sean Twiss said in a statement.

During a 9-year study of the seals on North Rona, Twiss and scientists from the University of St Andrews in Scotland recorded a 61 percent increase in the number of males contributing to the genetic pool.

"These findings show that climate change, whilst endangering many species, could also help to increase the genetic diversity of some species," Twiss said. Scottish Seal hanky-panky, it seems, is rife.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Wind Turbines on your roof

Domestic windturbines have been getting a little bit of bad press recently, so I think it is time for me to declare my interest in this department. For some months now I have been monitoring the wind situation gusting above my head on the roof of my flat. It's a good spot for a wind turbine, I thought. On a bit of a hillside, no immediate high buildings, good clear wind-run from the south-west save for some trees in the north side of the square (that seems to spend a lot of time waving merrily in the breeze in any event). Easy: like Hugh Piggott, I'll stick an anenometer up and see what's what.

To do this proved to be a bit of a challenge. I bought my anemometer, read the instructions (5 times) and tried to work out what the hell I was supposed to do to get it going. The manual is clearly written for wind geeks with a certain amount of prior understanding. No explanation of what was what. Nearly gave up, save for the nice man at the end of the phone from the company who talked me through how to install it (in a matter of minutes). Seems most people have this problem. Makes you wonder why manuals are written in the first place.

So after a few days analysing the windiest setting for it and plumping for the front south-westerly positioning, this is the end result: my anemometer sitting proudly on my roof, hooked up to a transmitter/base station via a wire through the window, and readings given on the touch-screen.

What have I discovered? Well, urban wind is a fickle creature. She comes, she goes, she plays havoc on the other side of my house, blatantly ignoring my anemometer - other times the reverse. Sometimes she is utterly still. Quite unlike the wind in rural locations such as Scoraig in northwest Scotland, where the wind seems to blow heartily long and frequently. For a few nights recently she banged around the chimney pots at remarkable high winds and my touch screen gave me very optimistic readings indeed.

So is it worthwhile putting up a wind-turbine? Hmm. Problem is, all turbines currently on the market are designed for rural windy locations, not central London rooftops. None have been designed with urban locations in mind - none have been considered in this context until now. But I remain curious. I shall continue monitoring my wind, and await to see what new technological developments arise. In the meantime I have had to make do with switching my electricity supplier to Ecotricity - far easier to do than reading an anemometer manual, but not half as much fun.

P.S. Does anyone out there know why my touch screen insists on beeping at 2pm every day? And how to stop it?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Green Prince

The Prince of Wales has launched a new green project: Costing the Earth - Accounting for Sustainability. He is hoping to convince big businesses to assess the environmental impact of their products through new accounting measures. The Prince told the audience, which included everyone from Tony Blair to Al Gore (on video), that the nation was running up the "biggest global credit card debt in history". He added: "We are consuming the resources of our planet at such a rate that we are, in effect, living off credit and living on borrowed time”.

The project will develop a range of accounting principles to help organizations measure sustainability, include it as part of their decision-making processes and so report their performance more consistently. The prince will lead the way by labeling his range of organic food products, Duchy Originals, with details of greenhouse gases emitted in their production and distribution. On a personal level, he is determined to reduce his carbon footprint further. He has said that he will commute to London from his country house by scheduled trains and will no longer use private jets and helicopters. He will be using Jaguar cars adapted to run on biodeisel fuel and has asked staff in London to travel by bicycle wherever possible. Now there is green leadership.

Brown's Pale Green Pre-Budget Report

It's a tentative step, just a small one, but nevertheless a step forward. Gordon Brown has said the environment must be at the heart of economic policy and that it is the government's aim to make London the world's leading centre for carbon trading.

In the Chancellor's pre-budget report: he has increased air passenger duty to £10 a seat (£80 if you fly business long haul), raised petrol duty by 1.25 pence, promised stamp duty exemption on zero-emmission new builds, and consultation is promised on energy audits and cheap loan availability for energy efficient house renovations. The new-build "green homes" will prove a massive incentive to developers and it is expected to prove popular with the house buyer.

But he ignored calls for penal road taxes on the most polluting cars and did not bring back automatic above-inflation petrol price rises or agree to set annual emission cut targets. He wants a country, as he said recently, which is "pro-growth and pro-green". We await to hear what deeper green leadership he will demonstrate in this regard.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ice Cream and Freezers

Two days, two conferences. Much to chew over. The first on Monday, Catalysing Innovation for Sustainability, marked the end of the UK Economic and Social Research Council Sustainable Technologies Programme. Four central themes were explored: technological and social transformation, sustainable consumption and production, sustainable energy, policy and governance for sustainability. Highlights included Prof Elizabeth Shove's paper on Embedded Practices in the Kitchen and the Bathroom. Appliances transform our practices. Back in the 1970's the average household had 17 appliances, today it is more than double that, and replacement and upgrading happens with increasing frequency - all of which brings increased energy use, disposal and waste implications. Take the freezer. Why do we have them? To beat the seasons, facilitate bulk buys, save time and convenience, use it as a dumping repository for food not eaten?

This got me thinking. Thus I have resolved to embark on a personal experiment. Here is the challenge: to eat my freezer empty, switch it off and survive for three months without resorting to using it. I reckon it will take me until christmas to eat through it's contents, and embark on life freezer-free from January 1st. Updates on my progress will follow and I am curious to see just how inconvenient it is to do without. Will it change my food-buying behaviour? Will I end up eating more (thus not letting uneaten foodstuff go to waste - that which would normally just end up in the freezer)? Or will I buy less, to ensure less waste? Will I end up fatter or slimmer? Will this prove to be a more environmentally friendly/efficient way of living or just a pain in the ass? How will I cope without my ice cream stash? All taxing questions which will be answered in the course of time.

There is a nice twist to this tale - the conference was held in the London Canal Museum, a former Ice House, where ice cream was made and food was stored way before the days of freezers.