Monday, 30 July 2007

Carbon calculators and offsetting - saving the planet or offsetting responsibility?

Carbon calculators are everywhere. Are they any good though and what should you do with the information?

You can get them on your mobile phone from the Centre for Advanced Technology (or if you were at Glastonbury'07 where they were bluetoothed around).

The government via Defra has the Act On CO2 Calculator, which looks quite funky.

The most bizarre one is from the Royal Society of Arts and their Changing Habbits project. This calculator is in beta testing and will result in an artistic installation of 1000 of "Habbits" (play on words for "Hobbit"). You can create your carbon footprint in human form (a "Habbit" rather than "Hobbit"), with parts of the body representing aspects of your lifestyle that generate CO2. Mine has quite big feet and yes, it does mean I need to use a bike, public transport or walk more! ;-)

These calculators seem to vary in their accuracy and what data they collect. For example, did you know water has a carbon footprint? I had never really thought about it, and when you do, it is obvious as water is pumped and treated, all requiring energy.

Apparently, all UK citizens carry the burden of about 5 tonnes of CO2 just from accessing public services. I'm pretty certain this is not included in these calculators.

By finding out your annual carbon footprint, the expectation is that you will change your ways or "Habbits". Make some less harmful, more energy efficent choices as a consumer. Or you can pay money towards carbon offsetting schemes.

A whole industry seems to have arisen that is designed to allow you to pay for the carbon dioxide your lifestyle generates without having to change your lifestyle.

This makes no sense to me, apart from it might give you the chance to donate to some good causes and help some people around the world that will be severely effected by climate change we are helping to cause in the First World.

Is this really "Cheat Offsetting" as discussed on the CheatNeutral site?

Certainly food for thought.

Monday, 2 July 2007

You can make your neighbourhood better with mySociety

If your neighbourhood has a problem with graffiti, unlit lampposts, fly tipping, broken paving slabs, why not do something about it rather than get cross behind closed doors?

There is a fantastic web site that was started in February this year called Neighbourhoodfixit) and it provides a straightforward and effective way to notify your local council of such problems.

This site was built by the charity mySociety and funded by the Department for Constitutional Affairs Innovations Fund.

I have tried it out a couple of times relating to graffiti and was amazed at how quickly Norwich City Council responded and removed it. Well done them! :-)

Regretfully, the individual/s came back and added more graffiti on 2 of the 3 sites I reported, and the web site provides a feature to allow you to report the status of problems, not least to report when they are fixed.

I haven't given up yet.

Who knows, my next step might be to find out who my District Councillors, County Councillor, MP or MEP are using another of mySociety’s services, and sending them messages via their site?