Climate Week: NCVO plans for 2013 and confessions of 2012

Kate Damiral was Climate Change Project Officer at NCVO from April 2011 until April 2013. Kate no longer works for NCVO but her posts have been archived on this site for reference.

I’ve just met Jason from the Climate Week team to talk about next year’s national campaign. Here at NCVO, we’re planning to hold our final climate change project event during the Week which runs 4-10 March 2013. Plenty of time to prepare! So in the meantime, here are some reflections from my colleague Ros Jenkins (aka one of our Sustainable Funding Officers), on winning the NCVO staff carbon rationing competition we ran to mark the Week this year.

I’ve won the NCVO staff Climate Week competition: the Carbon Rationing Challenge, which has bagged me some Eurostar tickets (very exciting).

To be honest, I probably won mainly because I was one of the few people who actually managed to complete the challenge – recording all the activities in my day-to-day life that had a carbon cost, from the first day of Climate Week for a month.

A bit of a faff

The competition was based on the carbon ration book Kate mentioned in a previous post. Frankly, tt was pretty hard to remember to do, quite tricky to work out (even with the handy booklet) and in all, a bit of a faff.

Awe and mortification

But at the end of the month, I was left a bit awestruck and mortified by my carbon footprint. Not because it is so much bigger than the world average (that a commuting Londoner should use more carbon than most comes as no surprise) but because of the types of things that had the biggest cost. I’d also taken the decision to include half of my baby son’s carbon usage in my own personal quota as I figured he’s my responsibility.

The positives

First the positives. I did well initially because:

  • my electricity at home was discounted from the competition as we use a 100% renewable energy supplier
  • we’ve been a bit broke this year so had no holidays that month (colleagues who even took a short flight were doomed competition-wise)
  • we live in London so we can avoid using the car for most journeys (cycling could have helped even more but it’s no good for my work commute from Harrow to Kings Cross up the A40)
  • I get my veggies from an organic supplier that doesn’t air-freight, I grow a few myself and don’t eat meat
  • I bought clothes for my son from a Nearly New Sale – which actually got me a bonus coupon for re-using stuff
  • we use cotton nappies for the baby.

So far, so good: I began to feel pretty smug.

Carbon cost of cotton

But then I discovered more. For instance, it turns out cotton is really carbon intensive, as explained in this article around the pros and cons of carrier bags. I was really thankful that we’d already bought all the nappies we needed, so I didn’t get penalised during the competition! But I did make the mistake of buying two T-shirts before I realised what they’d cost me in ration coupons. The rest of the month I was a lot more frugal.

Water weigh in

The other cost I just couldn’t work out how to get down was water – a huge proportion of my carbon ration coupons were literally flushed away. When you have a family your water usage goes through the roof. So my son’s nightly baths and nappy washes all quickly added up. Not to mention all the times you have to wash your hands when you have kids.

Changed habits or literal carbon guilt trip?

So, what am I doing differently now? Well the real truth is that I haven’t really decided what to do about anything just yet. I’m in a sort of carbon-guilt limbo where I’m looking at my old clothes wondering whether it really matters if I don’t look that smart, or whether I should try to learn how to make-do-and-mend wartime style (I am not a natural seamstress).

I certainly haven’t been throwing so much stuff away, I’m trying to source things second-hand where I can (sorry economy) and interestingly, all this not-buying-new-things effort is helping me save the pennies for a holiday to Asia next year. For me, new clothes might be optional but finding some sunshine is becoming an urgent necessity. Sorry, but I really, really want a holiday! Will going on a sewing course compensate?

Ros Jenkins

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