Friday, July 06, 2018

The cleanest nation in soccer

With the quarter finals about to start, here are the greenhouse emissions (per person) of the nations competing.

Obviously I'm going to be cheering for the cleaner teams in each game. If all goes to plan Brazil will meet Sweden in the final and win. Three teams on my scoreboard are on 5 - but Brazil's 5.03 is slightly better that Sweden's 5.28 or Croatia's 5.49.

Having said that, I'd be OK with any of those three nations winning. They are all cleaner than the world average of 6.27 and far and away better than Australia's pathetic 25.

If only our emission could learnt a lesson from soccer - and take a sudden dive.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

How to take out the Top 4 of plastic pollution

Today is the start of Plastic Free July. You can take the pledge to be plastic free and one of the options is to eliminate the top 4 most polluting plastic items for the month (or ideally for longer).

Here are some tips for how do do that:

Coffee cups

Get a re-usable cup. These last ages and even though some are made of plastic the point is that instead of tossing hundreds of disposables into landfill, you can use just one - and you can put that in the recycle bin when it gets really old.

Check out Responsible Cafes - it's a map of great coffee places that give you a discount for using a BYO cup. That could save you hundreds of dollars.

Plastic Bags

It's really quite easy to bring your own bag. The green bags are about $1 at most places and last for ages (often years). If a dollar is too much for you, my bank is giving out canvas bags for free.

If upcycling's your game, it's quite easy to upcycle a t-shirt into a re-usable bag without even sewing. Check that out.

Plastic bottles

I still can't believe these sell. How can you put a free thing (water) in a bottle and charge money for it? What's next? Bottled air? Just use a glass at home or a water bottle or drinking fountains if you're out and about.


This is probably the trickiest because you have to be on your game. Sometimes when you get a drink the server (without asking) will put a straw right in there as a default option.

You just have to be quick. Add it to your order. "I'd like a ____ with-no-straw". I hyphenate it to emphasise how quickly you have to say it sometimes.

If you absolutely must have a straw - maybe you're under 3 (well done on reading my blog) or maybe you just really love the slurping sound at the end of a milkshake - you can also get re-usable straws made of metal. You know, like cutlery.

Bonus tip

If you're looking for some takeaway, ask if you can put it in your own container. Many places let you do this. If your local takeaway does, then add them to the Trashless Takeaway map.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

World Cup of Polllution

Australia has been eliminated from the Soccer World Cup, again. As I looked at the points table for Group C, I wondered how these nations compare in terms of greenhouse gases.

Here are the scores:

Not only does Australia pollute more per person than any of these nations, but the average Australian pollutes more than a French person, a Dane and a Peruvian combined.

These other nations are better at soccer and better at taking care of the planet.

And it's not just group C. It turns out that Australia is the highest polluting nation at this World Cup at 25 tonnes of greenhouse emissions per person.

Next worst is Saudi Arabia at 18 and Russia at 15. Hardly anyone even has half the greenhouse emissions of Australians.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Grab a bag from Bank Australia (for free)

Bank Australia is helping out Queenslanders with free calico bags, ahead of the state phasing out single-use plastic bags from this weekend.

At long last the state government is making shops be responsible and stop giving out single-use plastic bags. Shops will still be able to sell re-usable bags.

Bank Australia is an ethical bank that avoids lending to coal gas and oil companies - and even gives a percentage of its profits to community groups doing good things for our environment.

So to help people make this positive change, the bank is giving away these free calico bags. You don't even have to be a customer, though I do recommend being one - they have such great interest rates, and ethics.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Are we Scienceblind?

The book Scienceblind is about the intuitive theories we have about the world, why they're often wrong, and why we sometimes hold on to them despite overwhelming scientific evidence.

You might imagine I headed straight for the climate change chapter. Actually, I read the introduction first. But then straight to Chapter 7.

Climate and weather

Turns out that we really do confuse weather and climate. In surveys done on hot days, people are far more likely to agree that climate change is happening.

Should one day's weather in one tiny speck of the planet really change our mind about whether the entire planet is warming year after year, decade after decade? Probably not. But it does.

What can we feel?

The thing about intuitive theories is that they are based on what we perceive. We can't perceive this month's global average temperature and compare it to similar months over the last 3 decades. We sense today's temperature - right here, right now. So that's the data we use. Not very scientific.

Another thing we perceive is that serious climate change must lead to serious behavioural changes. The more fearful we are of such changes the more we are inclined to deny that climate change exists, or deny that it is serious.

So what's the solution

Often people don't know what it is they a rejecting. A study in which people were given the following description were found to be more accepting of global warming.

Earth transforms sunlight’s visible light energy into infrared light energy, which leaves Earth slowly because it is absorbed by greenhouse gases. When people produce greenhouse gases, energy leaves Earth even more slowly - raising Earth’s temperature.

A second solution is to inform people that 97% of scientists agree that human carbon emissions are causing climate change. People tend to think this figure is around 60-70%.

Finding out that the science community is practically unanimous resulted in people being more accepting of the reality of climate change and also more willing to take action.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Plenty more trash in the sea

We use the phrase "plenty more fish in the sea" to console someone on a missed opportunity. In coming years there'll be more plastic than fish in the oceans. We may need to update the expression for our polluted world.

How did it get to this?

How did we get enough plastic in ocean to outnumber all the fish? The numbers tell the story. Globally we buy a million plastic bottles a minute. Each year we use 5 trillion plastic bags and millions of tonnes of plastic leaks into the ocean. The average Australian generates 107 kg of plastic pollution a year. Only 14% of this is recycled. The rest ends up in landfill or the ocean where it takes around 100 years to degrade.

In 2016, a yoghurt container from the '76 Olympics washed up on a beach in France. Closer to home, Gold Coast man Jim Hinds picks rubbish out of the waterways. He averages about 10,000 items per month.

So this year's World Environment Day theme is Beat Plastic Pollution.

Why does this matter?

100,000 sea creatures are killed by plastics each year. Birds that eat floating plastic, thinking it's food, have been found dead with hundred of pieces of plastic filling their stomach. It is also a problem for humans as we eat the fish that eat the tiny pieces of plastic.

What can we do?

Here in Australia we have an initiative called Plastic Free July. For one month, or for the year, you can pledge to avoid the 4 main types of disposable plastic - bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups. We can upgrade to re-usable containers, and use the sites Responsible Cafes and Trashless Takeaway to identify business that accept reusable containers. Some even give discounts.

Our consumer behaviour can help businesses be more responsible, and policy can help support these changes. Here in Queensland we're phasing out single-use plastic bags and later this year we'll start a container deposit system for plastic drink bottles - along with bottles and cans.

This can also be chance for community groups (churches, scouts, sports clubs) to collect containers as a fundraiser while also improving the environment.

Hopefully we can keep plastic out of the ocean, out of our fish and out of our bodies.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Trashless Takeaway

We enjoy great food, but it's disappointing when it comes in a white foam container - or other non-recyclable plastic that will end up in the bin.

Australians generate 107 kg of plastic waste per person - and only 14% gets recycled. The rest goes to landfill or ends up in the ocean.

Trashless Takeaway shows you the shops that accept reusable containers for takeaway food. You may even get a discount.

Trashless Takeaway map of food outlets that accept reusable containers

Ways to help trashless take off:
  • Support the places that are help reduce plastic pollution
  • Add #trashlesstakeaway to your photo of your trashless meal
  • Ask your favourite place if they accept reusable containers
  • Add them to the map if they they do

Apart from saving the planet, this can be healthier, cheaper and yummier. Business can also save money and get more exposure.

Find out more about The Plastic Problem - and the solution.

PS. For coffee shops, there's a similar site called Responsible Cafes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cup Rescue now underway

Paper coffee cups. How do we recycle them? 7-Eleven have launched Cup Rescue and aim to recycle 70 million cups each year.

What to do

At selected 7-Eleven stores you can return your paper coffee cups, the lids, and slurpee cups into these handy tubes to be recycled by Simply Cups.

How to recycle paper coffee cups at your workplace or at 7-eleven

Where is it?

Enter your postcode to see if your local store participates. If it doesn't have one, ask 7-Eleven to put one there.

Start your own

You can also contact Simply Cups and register to have a coffee cup collection at your workplace, school or event to save cups from landfill.

The Simply Cups website track how many cups are collected. As I write this, they've done more than 930,000 cups. From only 250 sites, that's quite amazing.

Of course the best thing to do is to use a reusable cup (see which cafes give you a discount for that). But the next best thing is to recycle the paper cups - especially at the office where there are so many.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Sale this weekend - LED bulbs

This Saturday Aldi (in Australia) are having an amazing sale on LED lights - which are super efficient. How efficient? Their conversion chart shows just how much less power these bulbs use to give the same light. Huge savings.

comparison chart of power for LED and halogen lights

So much do these amazing pieces of technology cost? Not much.

LED bulbs are $2.99 (to replace a standard bulb)

Aldi's LED bulbs to replace normal bulbs

Dimmable LED bulbs are a bit more - $6.99.

LEDs downlights to replace halogens are just $4.99.

Aldi's LED bulbs to replace halogen downlights

If you're wondering how that compares to the energy the old bulbs are using, check out my Super Easy Energy Calculator.

A 60W bulb for 4 hours a night costs $24 per year in power - just for that one light. It's a great deal to slash that cost for just a few dollars. And the planet wins too.

Is there any reason not to change?

Aldi's sale starts Saturday while stocks last - so be quick.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Super Easy Energy Cost Calculator

How much energy does a light bulb use? Is it worth replacing? Those kind of answers can be found with this easy guide.

super easy energy cost calculator

Find the light bulb wattage on the left hand side. Across the top find the hours per day it is used. Where that row and column meet is the cost of powering that light bulb for one year.

An old 75 Watt bulb running 5 hours a night costs $37 a year. Definitely worth changing to a more efficient option.

It also works for other items - if you know their power usage. A stereo that uses 10 Watts in standby mode all day will cost $24 a year even without playing any music (might be worth turning off at the wall). A laptop computer that uses 20 Watts and is used for 4 hours per day will cost just $8 to run.

For this calculator I've assumed 27 cents per unit of electricity. If your price is different then the estimates may vary.

Also, if the exact wattage isn't in the table, use one that is close to it as an estimate. Or if you've got a calculator you can do the exact calculations yourself. Here's the formula:

Cost = Watts x hours/day x 0.365 x price($/kWh)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Quiz: Are you a climate champ?

Take this quiz to find out how you score on your climate change knowledge.

It's been all over the news, but how much information has sunk in?

climate change quiz

I aced it with 10 from 10 - but it is multiple choice so that makes it a bit easier.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Should I get solar?

It's a question that many people have asked. Australian consumer affairs TV show The Checkout took a look at at practically every solar question people ask.

Quirkiness is the trademark of the show, but the information is good.

Here's the link to the solar calculator they mention.

In case you missed it, here is the information on payback periods.

payback periods for solar panels

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How to save 88% on power

Check out the blue and red boxes on this energy sticker (for our washing machine).

energy rating sticker for a washing machine

Those numbers (55 and 464) represent the energy needed for cold and hot washes. Quick maths shows the blue number is 88% less than the red number.

To put that another way, the hot wash uses more than 8 times as much energy. Surely this is a no-brainer.

For cold washes that's a yearly total of $14.85 in electricity. If we used hot water, that number would surge to $125.28. Woah, that's a big difference.

The cold wash button is a real saver.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Choosing the right lights

Often there's a mental barrier to getting energy-saving lights. They cost money.

Is it worth it?

Yes. Even if you're renting. For your main lights, most upgrades make their money back in less than a year.

The Checkout did the maths for a light that's on 5 hours per night at a price of 30 cents/kWh.

How much do I save with an energy-saving light

A six dollar bulb can save you around $20 every year! That's an amazing return on your money.

Plus they also last longer. So in the long run you save even more by not having to replace them as often.

The video also mentions the Light Bulb Saver app. It's handy for calculating the saving for your particular situation and is available on Google Play and iTunes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

5% off power thanks to renewables

Powershop, the energy retailer that loves renewable energy, has just announced a 5% price-cut "all thanks to renewable energy".

CEO Ed McManus says it's because they've managed to get really good price deals with new wind and solar farms.

“The price that we get the energy from these new wind and solar farms is cheaper than the energy we can get from the normal wholesale market day to day.”

See the video for more information or read more details of the power stations.

At the moment this price-cut is for Victorian customers only, with NSW and Queensland customers to expect a lower price around mid-year.