The UK’s Christmas Carbon Footprint (and how you can reduce it)

Andy at Business has shared an insightful infographic with us. He says:

“This year it’s expected that the average family will spend, on average, £800 on presents, food, decorations and travel. After all, it is the time of the year where we visit distant loved ones, reconnect with lost friends, and gorge ourselves silly on party food and alcohol.

“As well as the great financial strains that the festive season puts on us, it also has other, largely unseen consequences that affect the environment around us.

“According to research conducted by Business, the two weeks that make up our favourite time of the year put great strain on resources, and amounts to millions of tonnes of waste and pollution.

“For example, did you know that we as a country throw away 230,000 tonnes of food during the Christmas period, which is the equivalent of 74 million mince pies? Or that it takes 3.5kg of carbon dioxide to produce just 1kg of wrapping paper? ”

Click on the graphic below to find out more:

The true cost of Christmas

After digesting some of those figures, I reckon that if I can make even a small reduction on my impact, it’ll be effort well spent. Here’s some ideas for you to reduce your Christmas Carbon Footprint and have a bit of fun at the same time…

Making, decorating and Christmas day crafts:

Why not try your hand at making some carbon-neutral Christmas lights? Your neighbours will be impressed, and you could work off all those mince pies at the same time on a pedal powered version.

Here’s a fun eco-friendly Christmas day craft activity that will ensure your empty gift boxes get plenty of re-use and enjoyment before you’re ready to recycle them. What other animals or objects could you make?

Eat, drink, be merry and recycle:

For any meat-eaters out there, don’t forget to buy a local Turkey. Make sure you get a big one, so you can invite lots of friends over… cooking one big meal takes up a lot less energy than cooking many. And it’s far more social too!

And finally, when the festivities come to an end, Recycle now has a helpful recycling locator that can make sure anything you haven’t eaten or reused ends up in the right recycling bin.

Wishing you the best for the holiday season from EcoStreet!

Earthship Workshop with Michael Reynolds

Here is an invitation to join Michael Reynolds, creator of the Earthship concept, for an Earthship workshop. The two-day hands-on Earthship Biotecture Workshop will be held on April 12, 13, 14, 2013 at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood, California, 90027. Tickets are $200 a piece and seating is limited, so hurry if you want to attend.

Shower room in earthship uses recycled glass bottles

Recycled glass bottles in shower room wall

The workshop will cover a wide range of topics including:

  • Building with Natural and Recycled Materials
  • Solar/Thermal Heating and Cooling
  • Solar and Wind Electricity
  • Water Harvesting
  • Contained Sewage Treatment
  • Interior Food Production
  • Hands-on tire-pounding session

These workshops have been presented all over the world by Michael Reynolds who has spent 40 years of research and development into self-sufficient housing made from recycled materials.

Here’s an overview of the 2012 Event in Melbourne, Australia.

Tickets available at

If you can’t attend the Hollywood Earthship Workshop, there’s another one Stockholm, Sweden on April 19-21 and further dates available on the Earthship website.

solar gain in earthship

Solar gain in earthship

What is an Earthship?

An Earthship is the epitome of sustainable design and construction. For the past 40 years, Earthships have been, and continue to be built throughout the world, constantly being improved upon, incorporating every aspect of sustainability.

They have proven comfortable in any climate, any landscape, any size and still provide electricity, potable water, contained sewage treatment and sustainable food production.


If you like this, you will enjoy these previous EcoStreet posts:

Photos credit: London Permaculture / / CC BY-NC-SA

How sustainable farming techniques can help combat food scarcity

This is a guest post by Tim Sissons of William Morfoot, land drainage experts in the UK, who discusses how sustainable farming techniques are better for the environment and can help increase food security levels.

Sustainable Farming

From land drainage to crop rotation. How sustainable farming techniques can help combat food scarcity.

Food security levels

Increasing pressure is being placed on world food supplies as the world population rises. The global population is predicted to almost double in the next 37 years, growing to around 9.2 billion people in 2050.

In 2012 The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) found that one in eight people go to sleep hungry every day and this situation is only expected to become more serious as the population increases.

Other factors which are putting strain on food security levels are increasing energy costs, climate change, rising incomes, inefficient food distribution systems and restricted land availability.

Use of agricultural land is already at capacity – almost three quarters of the world’s possible land is currently used for agricultural production, the quarter that is not used is due to very low productivity or for conservation reasons. It is therefore essential that farmers use the land they have to the best of their ability in the most productive way.

Why sustainable farming?

Agriculture is at the start of the chain. If farmers change their techniques and take on more sustainable methods this gives consumers no choice but to purchase sustainable, environmentally friendly food. This could be as simple as adopting sustainable farming methods or the production of less meat. Meat production is very demanding of cereal and water, to produce 1 kilogram of grain-fed beef it takes on average 10kg of grain and 15000 litres of water. Simply farming less animals could feed more hungry mouths.

Increasing crop yields by using intensive agricultural farming methods such as GM foods, fertilisers and pesticides can harm the environment and also cause health issues. These techniques could also damage future food security by wasting the already limited freshwater supplies, causing soil erosion and polluting the environment with unnatural chemicals. Intense agricultural techniques are also responsible for around 13% of the total greenhouse gas emissions which is directly effecting climate change.

Adopting sustainable methods not only tends to be more accessible on a global level because it is simpler and can be cheaper but it is also an effective way to reliably produce well developed and healthy crops with minimum impact on the environment. Some of the below steps can also be used on a domestic level, ensuring that your garden is more sustainable too.

Seven simple sustainable methods and their benefits:

  1. Water management – effective land drainage and water managing techniques can vastly improve the quality of soil. Inefficient systems will actually harm soil, wildlife and deplete rivers. Land drainage is also essential for maintaining the quality of soils, as waterlogged crops cannot access the vital nutrients required to reach their full potential.Farmers should aim to grow crops that are native to the particular region as this helps their resilience to the local weather. UN findings show that agriculture uses almost 70% of withdrawn fresh water, so systems that collect and recycle rain water are a great way to help irrigate the land sustainably.
  1. Soil maintenance – More fertile soils produce better yields. Farmers can keep their soils healthy by using traditional methods such as ploughing and making sure the soil is aired and turned. Adding natural fertilisers like manure or cover crops, and other naturally occurring matter like meal, ash from wood and animal by-products can also improve the soil quality and therefore crop quality.
  1. Remove weeds by hand – For larger farms this is not always feasible, but not using chemicals to remove weeds can be better for the harvest and the environment. It is also important to mow and graze the soil before the weeds produce seeds- this stops weeds from reproducing and also creates mulch if the weeds are not removed.
  1. Plant variations – Farmers should aim to plant variations of the same species of crop. By using seeds sourced from many different growers farmers guarantee genetic differences which therefore strengthens the crops. For example, if a particular species of crop could be vulnerable to a certain pest but not the others meaning a good deal of crop will survive.
  1. Sell crops locally – A lot of pollution and unnecessary energy consumption is caused by the transportation, packaging and storage of crops. Selling locally not only helps reduce the carbon footprint but can also help enrich the community, show a faster turnover and also boost the local economy.
  1. Attract crop friendly animals – An effective way of deterring the harmful beasts that threaten the crops is welcoming their natural predators. Some farmers build shelters to house the nests of birds and bats and others even buy helpful insects like ladybirds, to feed on the pests.
  1. Crop rotation – A very old system that helps maintain the quality of the soil by replenishing the nutrients that the previous crops depleted. It can also stop the spread of disease and eradicate pests which were specific to the previous crop.

Photo credit: Scott Bauer, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Be my Green Valentine

What says “I love you” more than a gift that loves our planet too! This Valentine’s Day, instead of a paper card that will end up in the recycling bin (hopefully), why not carve your own in solid wood. This wooden postcard comes from a sustainable source and is blank for you to hand carve your own message of love. It’s soft and lightweight so easy to scratch your design (with keys or similar) and easy to post.

And why send a bunch of flowers when you can send a garden of flowers to last a lifetime. The ‘Love in a GroBox’ contains beautiful red flowers that have been carefully chosen for long colourful flowering displays. Comes complete with a special message so you can personalise your gift.

Love in a GroBox

For the ultimate Green Valentine’s Day, have a look at our ‘Eco-Valentine: DIY projects for lovers’ post.

The Artifical Leaf

‘The Artificial Leaf’, by Jared P. Scott & Kelly Nyks, is a short film with a big idea… a simple formula to save the planet: sunlight + water = energy for the world. Dan Nocera tells us how.

‘The Artificial Leaf’ is is one of 20 finalists in the Focus Forward Filmmaker Competition who are all vying for the grand jury prize to be awarded in July at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Take a look at some of the other fascinating short films that made the final list.

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