World Environment Day @ work

So today is World Environment Day and I had actually planed not to cover this special day as I am dealing with environmental issues almost every day and would actually have to blog on it every day then. Just similar to what World Water Day means to me (not much as a *special occasion* from my very own pov, that is).

However, as I went for lunch with my colleagues today, we found the following flyer(s?) on our tables and I instantly thought: hey, i’ve gotta blog this. ..

.So, here you go:

And? What’s the message?

  • Locally grown carrots produce less carbon dioxide emissions than avocados that were imported via airplanes.
  • Argentinian beef steak has a (calculated) carbon emission of 6,79kg/kg if transported via ship.
  • Energy saving / compact fluorescent lamps of 11W save an equivalent of 469kg of carbon emissions when compared to conventional bulbs @60W and a life expectancy of 15.000h.
  • Take your bike to work and contribute to a better environment
    (which would be ~ 12 km one way for me).
  • …and: calculate your own carbon footprint – which takes into account ALL data. Average carbon emission of Joe User in Germany (according to this site!) is around 10t/a, and I was just below it with ~ 8t/a. Still, lots of room for improvements. My colleague had ~ 25t/a! What’s yours?

Lesson learned: everything is interconnected, interwoven to a huge network of reasons and causes. Eating expensive and imported avocados from Kenya that cost at least 1,- EUR each and come at the size of an egg (sic!) are much more problematic than local food.
It prolly produces even more carbon emissions than the printing and distribution of such flyers to a staff / target group that is already sensitized for the world’s burning issues (health, water, sanitation, energy, transport, urbanisation, HIV, Malaria, war, greed, etc. etc.). …

No, seriously, World Environment Day is here to remind all of us that environmental protection starts with our own environmental awareness and that we can not just sit back and wait for some Messiah to come and give us a working solution. Rethink your actual behaviour and identify the potential.
(And this, although I am a strong defender of the Braungart/McDonough theory, e.g. how nice it would be to have a 2nd – green – industrial revolution where the reduction of *bad behaviour* isn’t a solution (= consuming less is still harmful), but instead identifying and using materials whose biological and technical nutrients remain in an loop. Ecosan is one of such approaches….but that’s another story :-).

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  1. As someone who sells light bulbs for a living, I am constantly bombarded with questions about how much energy is actually being saved by using compact fluorescents and whether they live up to all of the hype that they receive. It seems to me that a lot of the negative things said about incandescent bulbs and their energy usage is borne out of a poor understanding of basic physics. The law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, just changed from one form to another. So many people speak of incandescent bulbs “wasting” energy as though they are defying the laws of physics and destroying energy. I live in a fairly cool climate and during the winter I use an electric heater to heat the particular room that I am in. If I use an incandescent bulb and 90% of its energy usage is for the production of heat, then it is simply generating heat that I would have to generate anyway with my 1000W heater. It’s June here and we are still dealing with cold and rainy weather, so there is a significant portion of the year where the heat energy produced by incandescent bulbs indoors is useful and not “wasted.” For me, it is an obvious choice given the mercury content and poor light quality that comes from compact fluorescents.

  2. @Dipesh: BUT DO I SAY!

    There’s no car in my garage and I’ve advised my colleagues in Nbo to take a matatu just as much as I do when I am there. For some reason though, they won’t listen. Imagine the other day one of my colleagues wasnt allowed to travel to Garissa due to security reasons! So the *security* issue may well be the official reason for why 4WDs need to be driven. I suppose the unofficial reason behind this is that most ppl will use it for their extended safaris.

    Also, pls note that I am not one of *those* UN / embassy / dev aid / missionary / etc. ppl just becos I am currently working for gtz.

  3. @jke: It’s one thing having a 4WD fleet for fieldwork – it’s another having it to drive from Muthaiga mini market to UNEP headquarters which I really suspect most of them are used for. I know this does not apply to all expats but what I am getting at here is that there should be a policy for UN related missions and a matter of fact all government and non-government. This scenario applies especially to our so-called govt.
    Anyways, several of us are writing a letter to UNEP recommending they take the log out of their arse before they pull the pin out of ours!

  4. Good green post! The carbon footprint and produce argument has been raging for a while. Of course, as in all matters, there are huge profits to be considered and those are affecting the arguments we hear. While that avacado from Kenya (and yes they are very small which doesn’t make sense since they are 4 times that size in Kenya) may have additional carbon footprint because it was transported by ship, the numbers given would normally only be valid if the ship was bringing nothing in other than the avocado shipment. Well, we all know this is not fact, the ship was going to make the trip anyway, so… there’s room to argue here. Plus if you’re selling organic produce (usually coming in by ship and air) and taking a whole lot of customers from big sellers such as wal-mart, you’re bound to come into these arguments to weaken your sales…

    It’s kinda hard to really know what the absolute energy savings are on anything these days; since the whole energy savings bulb fiasco is also related to GE and pushing their profits. Tough world to decipher these days…

  5. Most CFLs today on the market contain less than 5mgs of mercury and there are CFL options out there that contain as little as 1.5mgs of mercury- which can hardly be called a “significant amounts of mercury” considering that many item in your home contain 100s of times more of mercury including your computer. Mercury levels in CFLs can never be “nonexistent” since mercury is a necessary component of a CFL and there is no other known element that is capable of replacing it. But CFLs actually prevent more mercury from entering the environment. According to the Union of Concerned Scientist, “a coal-fired power plant will emit about four times more mercury to keep an incandescent bulb glowing, compared with a CFL of the same light output”.