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The Green Spot

The Green Spot GraphicEach month, Chris and Gary Knaimiller blog their thoughts on environmental issues.

November - Easing Our Carbon Footprint

We confessed last month in Green Spot (below) that as a result of our air travel to the Yukon, Canada, our carbon footprint was equivalent to 1,167 days or roughly 3 years of household CO2 emissions, and how shocking a figure this was.

We’ve been thinking about retribution. What might we do to offset this carbon footprint? After some thought and discussion with various Christchurch colleagues we have come onto the idea of putting a voluntary travel tax on ourselves and using the money to help pay for the electricity generating panels (photovoltaic solar cells) that are going onto the new roof of Riddings Hall, at a cost of around £17,000. 

These solar cells, which are included in the overall ‘Raise the Roof’ refurbishment, are going to produce clean, carbon free electricity guaranteed for 25 year. Not only does Christchurch receive income by selling the electricity to the National Grid, the electricity generated can be used during the day, thus reducing Christchurch’s energy bill. At the same time we save kilograms of CO2 that would have been emitted by fossil fuel generated electricity from going into the atmosphere.

The big question for us is, what should our air travel tax be? As always there seems to be lots of options. We could tax our air miles, at a penny a mile, or whatever per mile. Alternatively we could tax the cost of our air tickets, at some percentage rate, 3% or 5% or 10%. Or we could tax each kilogram of CO2 for which we were responsible.

So, now that we have thought about it, decided on our ‘pay-back scheme’ and calculated our voluntary travel tax we had better look up our good ol’ Christchurch treasurer, Tom Collins, and put a cheque in his hand. We figure that if we are so fortunate to be able to afford such a holiday, we should be able to pay back a little bit extra to the environment and to the ‘Raise the Roof’ fund as the two causes so nicely fit together. We welcome any holiday makers travelling by air, cruise ship or car, all substantial carbon dioxide emitters, to join us at whatever rate you feel comfortable.

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October 2013 - The cost of holiday air travel

We’ve just returned from our holiday visiting our son.  He lives and works in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.  That’s a long way from Ilkley. 

Now we’re adding up the cost.  Not just the money but the CO2 emissions from all those flights as well.  We flew from Manchester to Seattle to Vancouver to Prince Rupert to Whitehorse and back. In total that was approximately 12,500 miles or 20,000 kilometres.

Based on calculations in the chart below [see the bottom row CO2 emission per person (kg/person)] we estimate that our share of the CO2 emissions from our flights was around 3,500 kg CO2 for both of us.
Carbon Emissions for flights


To try to make some sense of the scale of the 3,500 kg of CO2 we emitted during our air travel, we took a look at how much CO2 we are emitting from our household electricity consumption.

Looking at our annual electricity bill for last year, it said that we used an average of 6kWh per day.  The Carbon Trust tells us that the consumption of one kWh of electricity produces around half a kilogramme of CO2.  Multiplying our 6kWh per day electricity consumption times half a kilogramme of CO2 gives our household emissions around 3kg of CO2 per day. 

Now we divide our household emissions of 3kg of CO2 per day into the 3,500 kg of CO2 we emitted on our flights.  This shows that our share of the CO2 emissions from our flights was equivalent to 1,167 days of household emissions.  That’s 3 years worth of household CO2 emissions.

This certainly takes some thinking about, and is the topic we will be returning  to in the next ‘Green Spot’.

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August 2013 - “Grandparents for a Safe Earth occupy Bristol Barclay’s”

You have to admit, this is a headline that tickles the imagination.  And since a sizeable number of us at Christchurch are grandparents, or grand aunts and uncles, or godparents, or all of these, we thought this magazine article just might appeal.  It appeared in this Summer’s 2013 edition of Green Christian (issue 75 p. 16), the magazine of ‘Christian Ecology Link’ (CEL). 

A guy called Phil Kingston down in Bristol, CEL member and founder member of Grandparents for a Safe Earth writes:

“Grandparents for a Safe Earth care deeply about the world our grandchildren will inherit.  We call on Barclays Bank to disinvest from coal infrastructure and radically to increase investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency. 

On 6 March (2013), members of the group made a protest inside Barclays Bank, Whiteladies Road, Bristol.  They displayed posters, offered leaflets and asked for the support of staff and customers in pressing for Barclays to disinvest from coal.  Photographs of grandchildren helped draw attention to their reasons for action. 

The group is focussing on Barclays because the bank is the UK’s largest investor in worldwide coal infrastructure, and therefore a major contributor to climate change (www.banktrack.org).  The group believes that current energy policy, financed heavily by Barclays, puts their grandchildren at risk.”  [Note:  the web site shows that between 2005 and 2011 Barclays invested Euros 11.5 billion in coal fired electricity and mining.]

He goes on to say how disappointed and disturbed he is with politicians, business people and the media in regards to climate change.  And how concerned he and others are about the environment their grandchildren, and their children will inherit.

He concludes:  “I don’t rush to put myself (or others) in a position where I break the law and could get arrested so last Wednesday’s action came after a lot of thought and prayer…”

Now, this is oldies’ mischievousness for all the right reasons (search YouTube for Grandparents for a Safer Earth occupy Bristol Barclays).  This is real direct action campaigning.  But before I consider slipping gently into our very own Barclays here in Ilkley perhaps I’d better look at the financial institutions where our money is and find out what they are investing in.

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July 2013 - Meat Free Monday Again
You may think that Chris and I are obsessed with food, all these articles on meat, the 'Meat Free Monday' display on the Green Spot notice board in the Cafe and our call for veggie recipes.  Rest assured, this is the last in this  series of meat, the environment and world hunger.

But, we just can’t leave the topic without a word about good environmentally friendly meat producing farmers.  Take for example some of our local farmers here in the Yorkshire Dales.  They are producing beef on limestone pastures and herb-rich meadows.  They are raising Belted Galloways, Blue Greys and Luings, all traditionally breed beef cattle, environmentally suited to our landscape.  They are fully grass reared and free range.  No feed lot for these beauties. 

The Limestone Country Project is an agri-environmental scheme set-up and run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and English Nature.  The scheme aims to preserve and enhance the wonderful diversity of plant species and other wildlife in our limestone country.  Farmers participating in this project integrate environmental management into their farming business.

So let's not throw the baby (beef) out with the bath water (a good source of protein).  We need to look into the source of the meat we buy and to encourage local farmers to continue to raise these traditionally-bred, succulent cattle for the occasional beef meal.  Not to be consumed, of course, on our 'Meat Free Monday'.

PS - Be sure to check out the 'Meat Free Monday’  display on the notice board in the Café, over by where the mums and tots (and dads) gather, and drop a vegetarian recipe into the envelope on the board for us to share with everyone.

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June 2013 - Meat Free Monday and Enough Food For Everyone If . . .
If you haven’t seen the Meat Free Mondays display in the Christchurch Café, be sure to check it out and to leave a veggie recipe in the envelope provided.

The Meat Free Mondays campaign has started us thinking about the links between our food consumption, the environment and world poverty.  In the March edition of Wider Horizon there was a piece about the current Enough Food for Everyone IF… campaign backed by over a hundred charities including Christian Aid, the Methodist Church, the URC, Oxfam etc. 

The campaign is targeting this June’s G8 summit hosted by the UK and our very own David Cameron.  A major issue to be addressed is the crazy paradox that although we can produce enough food for everyone on the planet, one in eight women, men and children go to bed hungry each night.  2.3 million children die from malnutrition every year, and up to 28% of all children in developing countries are underweight or stunted. 

One of the problems is that foreign investors are buying up land in poor countries, to grow soy beans and maize for cattle feed, to produce crops for biofuels, etc.. 

What can we do to help make a fairer playing field for poor people to get on with producing their own food for their own consumption?  Well, we could join the Enough Food for Everyone IF… campaign march in London on Saturday 8th June or in Belfast on 15th June.  (Ring Gary if you are interested in going 01943 430634.)  The purpose of the marches is to make sure that the G8 meeting addresses this issue with commitment:  to increase agricultural aid to small farmers and help them from being forced off their land; to prevent big companies dodging taxes in poor countries and to scrap biofuel targets.  Alternatively, why not drop a letter to David Cameron asking him to be sure to put world hunger on the G8 agenda.

Of course, another thing we could do is to figure out how much money we are saving on our Meat Free Mondays shopping and send it to Christian Aid or Oxfam to support the Enough Food for Everyone IF… campaign.

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May 2013 - Meat Free Monday
Following up our Green Spot thoughts about meat and the environment, Chris  and I have been trying to monitor the number of meat meals we have per week.  This has not been easy as we went to visit my brother in Arizona.  My goodness, how those Americans down the beef, at places like the ‘Golden Corral’ and ‘Sizzl’ng Steak House’, to say nothing of ‘MacDonald’s’, ‘Burger King’, ‘Jack-in-the-Box’, ‘Taco Bell’ etc, one of these on almost every corner in the Phoenix valley. 

It’s a desert out there, with municipalities struggling to provide enough household water for everyone to drink and flush the loo, let alone for cattle in feedlots.  What is the environmental impact of using all that water to raise all that beef?  We know that the amount of water needed to produce a pound of meat is many times greater than the amount needed to grow a pound of legumes, seeds, vegetables or grains fit for us to eat.

We came back to Ilkley more determined than ever, no, not to become vegetarians, but definitely to eat less meat and then we ran into the idea of “Meat Free Mondays” on the internet. This was it, this is what we are going to try to do each Monday.

Most of you are probably a lot better than us in regards to meat consumption.  But, what do you think for starters, could we get a Meat Free Monday going among us here at Christchurch?  Chris and I need some meat free Monday vegetarian meal ideas.  Please pass one along to us.  Who knows we might get enough for a vegetarian recipe book to compliment ‘Recipes to Raise the Roof’.  This could bring in more money for Raise the Roof and reduce a little bit of our carbon footprint at the same time.

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