Trees

It's not easy being green!

We all create carbon as we consume. This is in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas that causes the earth to be warmed by insulating it. The amount of carbon we each produce is called our carbon footprint. Almost everything we use, from electricity to clothes to cars, involves the burning of fossil fuels in its production and has therefore created CO2 pollution.

It may seem easy to reduce your carbon footprint: just buy green products. But as we learn more about our environment, we discover that trying not to pollute is harder than we imagined. For example, you choose to buy a hybrid car to do your bit for the planet. A hybrid car is very complicated to construct as it essentially contains two engines, so the first 250,000 miles are spent just offsetting the carbon debt caused by manufacturing the car.

Few cars in Bermuda make it to 250,000 miles in their lifetimes, meaning the hybrid car has only ever created pollution, even when compared to your old car that long ago paid off its carbon debt. The best thing you can do in Bermuda is to keep driving the same car. Any new car will create emissions in the manufacturing and shipping processes, and the disposal of you old car will also increase pollution.

This principle can apply to other items, too. I recently bought an energy-saving fridge that uses a little under 100 watts to run, less than a third of my old fridge. As the delivery man picked up the old one, he was delighted to note it was only 4pm. “Great,” he said, “I can have this old fridge in the ocean by 5pm.” So in the end, I don't know if I achieved anything for the planet, other than extending Bermuda's landfill. Simply buying green is not the whole solution to our problems.

Carbon footprint components

If you decide to be healthy and eat green, that lovely organic lettuce has been air freighted from California and shipped to Bermuda in a plastic container, then driven by road to the supermarket. Although the product inside is healthy, it's actually causing harm to the environment. Whenever possible, eat locally from a farmers market. In Europe, organic products that have been air freighted will now have their organic status removed.

When solar panels are installed, the first two years of energy production goes towards offsetting the massive amount of energy it takes to make a solar panel, let alone ship it to Bermuda. A solar panel will last for about 25 years, so in the end the planet will benefit, but we must be aware of the carbon and pollution produced in making the aluminium part of the panel.

NASA / Goddard Space Flight CenterTravelling by air is incredibly polluting. Some airlines and travel companies offer to make flights carbon neutral by planting trees to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Now we realise those trees are more like carbon banks: when they die, the carbon will be released back into the atmosphere, albeit slowly.

Electric cars and bikes are new and exciting green technologies. However, all Bermuda’s electricity is generated by the burning of oil. Although you get about 10% more from a gallon if it's burned at Belco rather than in your vehicle’s tank, the benefit to the planet is still fairly minimal. Until we are able to charge our cars and bikes from renewable sources, it's much better to take a bus.

There is a trend in manufacturing and marketing for green products. Large factories for items like solar panels and electric cars are being built to support the US’s new green initiatives. Green products are being trucked and shipped across the planet, producing pollution wherever they go. Although this is not mentioned by the advertisers of green products, we are learning to “speak green” and understand the implications of our actions.

Sierra ClubEven as a sustainability group, Greenrock has a carbon footprint. If 10 Greenrock members drive to a meeting, and we have lights and air conditioning in that meeting, we have created pollution. Advertising green issues uses paper, emailing newsletters uses electricity, and even radio adverts use power.

Ultimately we must learn to consume less and source locally wherever possible, and understand that being green is a little more complicated than advertisers are telling us. Kermit had it right all along ... “It's not easy being green.”

To learn more about your carbon footprint, how to calculate it and how to reduce it, visit www.carbonfootprint.com or www.nature.org.

About Greenrock

According to The Footprint Network, which measures the ability of the planet to produce resources and absorb waste, our resource use and waste production is 60% more than the earth can produce or absorb annually.

This overshoot is the result of decisions that we each make every day. We seek to generate debate and to influence people to change their behaviour.We strive to be catalysts: Success for us is when we can Change the Mindset so that sustainable use of resources is included in decision-making for individuals, government or businesses. ... read more


Where to find Us

Suite 324, 48 Par-La-Ville Rd,
Hamilton HM11, Bermuda

Telephone: 1-441-747-ROCK (7625)
Email: info@greenrock.org
Website: www.greenrock.org