What’s the rebound effect?

Every time our species has faced a disfunction or an opportunity to improve existing technology, it has been done so. Throughout millennia, our society has grown as a consequence of these improvements, confident enough that we were better than before. Has it always been the case? Let’s find out, as always, together.

From the past

Our journey today takes us through the fine borders of the concept of benefits. We normally associate this word with a certain action, law, decision, more properly an input, that is intended to improve a given situation. These situations we try to solve are often problematic, therefore our ingenious brains explore possibilities to overcome them.

In my opinion, it is a modern key for the interpretation of Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest: our constant desire of having a better life is a result of our effort and natural instinct as a species to survive. And so we settled down mastering the art of agriculture. We decided which animals were the best fit to work for us and feed us, giving them in return a sort of “protected slavery”: (I doubt chicken could have survived into the wild by themselves, however, their species thrived simply because we decided to keep them for us). And then we built roads, we mastered the art of sailing, we organised ourselves in more or less efficient systems of societies, we also mastered the skies, and we are now in the so-called Anthropocene, an era of human domination.

Looking back, most of the innovations, both technological and medical, have been carried on in order to solve existing problems. Hunter-gatherers homo sapiens spent centuries studying the growth patterns of plants, before deciding that it was better to settle down next to fertile land rather than roaming around in search for food. Roads have been laid down to improve communications between different tribes, science have more or less always aimed at understanding the natural world. But some of these major discoveries have resulted in some side effects that I believe we didn’t take into consideration when developing them.

This is the rebound effect: it happens when we make a discovery in order to solve a problem and in return we might create a new one, sometimes worst than the one we tried to solve.

…to the present

A typical example is email communication. Before, the fastest way to communicate with someone overseas was mail correspondence. I am not really able to give a practical estimate of the time needed to send a letter to the USA from Europe, or even within the same country. I know as a matter of facts that in the UK, Royal Mail used to deliver mails twice a day, to keep up with the huge demand of letters sent. It seems like another era to me, but it was just the last century.

But then, everything changed: the development of the internet has enabled people, even at his early stage, to communicate instantly from the opposite sides of the Planet. Mind-blowing! Instead of waiting days, if not weeks, for our loved ones to get back to us, we became connected to the whole world in a matter of decades, when PCs landed in every household.

What happened next? I believe we all know. From rich and emotional, we shifted to a poor, sterile form of communication. And it’s not all.

The rebound effect of email communication is not evident, but it works as follow. We knew that we had to reduce paper communication in order to preserve trees, that’s why at the beginning emails felt like the perfect solution. However, by improving the efficiency and speed of our communication, we also improved its volume. Emails are sent via the internet, which is supported by servers placed around the world, powered by electricity. On top of that, the amount of junk, promotions, spam emails we get daily all rely on that electricity production to be carried out while wasting our time when going over to delete them. The electricity involved in the whole process includes also our laptop and phones that we use to check emails and the whole web-infrastructure that couldn’t function without it.

Case study

But why is electricity a problem?

It depends where you live. In Iceland, most (if not all) of the electricity used is naturally produced via geothermal energy: everyone who visited this beautiful country must have seen geysers blowing gas from the ground. So, assuming Iceland doesn’t import electricity from nearby countries (which I believe they don’t, given the low domestic demand and no official documentation available), the email revolution would be a great benefit for population and the environment.

But, if we consider Australia, where most of the electricity is produced by burning coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels, then we have a problem. If you think about it, Australia is contributing to damaging itself with these actions. If they want to preserve trees and don’t chop them to produce paper for letters, one of the key steps should be preventing deforestation and taking action to tackle climate change (which triggers huge fires and increase the possibility of severe weather phenomenons). But, if they produce electricity by burning coal (and more coal will be needed in order to produce more electricity to sustain more email communication) they’re just feeding climate change, by producing more greenhouse gases that will activate the feedback loop that we are experiencing right now.

Obviously, the solution is not to come back to paper communication, that would be mad. The solution is to change our energy production system, by shifting the entire world production to renewable sources, like sun and wind.

We will talk another time about the limits of the actual electric energy production, giving you the time to reflect and digest today’s story. For the time being, if you want to share how your life has changed since the email revolution, let us know in the comments and don’t forget to stay Green!

Last week summary

Week  5 -12/07/2020

The Guardian’s report on the UK bee’s population and some of its particularly endangered species: this time, our attention is focused on one nomadic species of bee, the six-banned bee. It is believed that this species, who heavily relies on the healthiness of another one, the long-horned bee, is endangered because of the clearing land of wildflowers they both feed on. The article sums up some of the wildflower conservation projects across the UK.

Read the article -> Link.

Are fishes responding to climate change? The study conducted by  Flemming Dahlke, a marine biologist with the Alfred Wegener Institute at Bremerhaven, has tried to prove that.

Apparently, increasing temperature of the oceans affects adults fishes, which seems to be more susceptible to the heat than during their larvae status. And so, fishes outside mating season are not able to manage temperature above 10 degrees while their mating counterparts suffer the stress of it.

Read the article -> Link.

Ever wondered what is the impact of the beef imported to your country? Take a look at the article from the Ecologist, showing another case study of how beef imported in the UK affects deforestation.

Read the article -> Link.

How often do you change your smartphone? Does it really get recycled? A new study about e-waste, one of the emerging trending issue in terms of household waste, has been published on The Conversation.

Read the article -> Link.

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: are we on track?

In 2015, the United Nations published a comprehensive document outlining the goals to achieve sustainable development and fight inequalities of all kinds within 15 years. 5 years are gone now, how are we doing? Let’s find out, as always, together.

The expression “sustainable development” is thought to have been first used in 1980 at the World Conservation Strategy (WCS), when politicians from around the world decided to commit their resources and researches towards “sustainable development”. In 2015, the UN produced the last document of this kind, available here.

Long story short, the UN declares that in the next 15 years, national Governments will aim to end poverty around the world, produce and manage food resources sustainably, fight and end inequality of all kinds (gender, race and so on), and preserve and prevent biodiversity loss.

In today’s story, we’ll take a look and see after a third of the time, if we made any progress and the overall status of our achievements. 

When talking about the Planet, the UN declares that they are “determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.” And more, when outlining the new agenda: “we commit to making fundamental changes in the way that our societies produce and consume goods and services. Governments, international organizations, the business sector and other non-state actors and individuals must contribute to changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns”, “We recognise that social and economic development depends on the sustainable management of our planet’s natural resources. We are therefore determined to conserve and sustainably use oceans and seas, freshwater resources, as well as forests, mountains and drylands and to protect biodiversity, ecosystems and wildlife.”

These were the introductions, things get serious when setting out the 17 goals and actions to take for each one of them. Reading goals 6,7,12,13,14,15, I believe the most used word is Resilience, referred to any ecosystem taken into consideration: oceans, food production, cities, energy and so on.

So, it is now time to take a look at some data and see if we are on track. I strongly recommend you to go over these points before checking out this data to have an overall and broader idea of what we are talking about.


The World Health Organization has data available about water sanitation, hygiene and drinkable water for urban and rural areas up to 2017, and they are available here.

In 2 years, the world population that relies on surface water has decreased by 10% in rural areas. Similarly, regarding sanitation, open defecation has seen a decline of 10%. On the other hand, the population of rural areas with no hygienic facilities increased by 2%. It could be due to natural disasters in some part of the planet which led to the depletion of existing facilities.


Accurate data provided by the World Bank are available up to 2015, so it is not easy to understand how we are doing now. However, in 2015 the total production of energy from oil, coal and non-renewable sources was 65.23% of the total, a decreasing trend comparing with the previous years. On the other hand, energy production from renewable sources is seeing a slight increase per year. We need to be cautious with the information: it is positive to see that we are reducing energy production from non-renewable sources, however, it is also true that due population growth and energy-intensive lifestyles, the demand for energy increases as well. When more official data will be available we could make a better estimate, for the time being, don’t waste energy. Data available here.


In this case, the UN offers plenty of good advice, but no data. A sustainable consumption I believe is referred to a model of society with limited waste, while good production patterns are the ones that do not deplete the natural environment. 

Municipal solid waste is the solid waste produced by urban areas. High-income countries account for 33% of the global production, and the amount is expected to increase in every region of the world by 2050 (data available here). In case you were wondering, food waste accounts for 44%, paper and cardboard for 17%, and plastic for 12%. Even more, only 13.5% of the waste produced is actually recycled.

Thinking about production patterns, a good way to understand if our goods-production is sustainable is by comparing with the deforestation rate. Assuming that the world population is expected to grow, we will need to increase the production of anything you can think of. But how? Improving technologies? Increasing arable land by clearing down forests? Bio-engineered crops? More efficient fertilizers? Who knows, but this is how we are doing so far. 

Overall, we are not doing well at all. Globalforestwatch.org offers interactive maps showing tree degradation and gain around the planet. By filtering the map to show Hotspots (places referred to as critical because of tree degradation) we can see that between 2002 and 2019 the amount of hotspots has increased notably, particularly in the Brazilian amazonian forests and in the tropical forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo (data available here).


For this topic, the World Bank has a dedicated section. Each one of them will show the same results: we are not heading in the right direction. Here’s a sample of a few. (Data available here).

The percentage of forest area in the world has constantly decreased from 1992: the decrease rate seems to be slowing down, but the trend has not been reverted yet.

Methane and CO2 emissions have been rising, while nitrous oxide emissions kept their fluctuating trend, and they are now rising.


It is good to see that we increased the number of terrestrial and marine protected areas around the world, that in 2018 accounted for 14488 (data available here). However, the total fisheries production has increased sharply and by 6 billion metric tons in the last year of data available (2014-2015).


Data for ocean fauna, deforestation and greenhouse gases emissions mentioned for different point can all describe the status of this point.

In addition, I would like to show some results of biodiversity loss. Natural extinction of species occurs even without the human intervention, the problem is the rate of biodiversity loss has increased notably due to human actions. Even if we assume when looking at the data the most conservative scenario, species extinction happens at a much faster rate than in natural condition. For a more detailed explanation, I strongly advise you to read Accelerated modern human-induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction (available here). I want to report an extract of the conclusion of the research, conducted by Gerardo Ceballos et al. in 2015: “Our analysis shows that current extinction rates vastly exceed natural average background rates, even when (i) the background rate is considered to be double previous estimates and when (ii) data on modern vertebrate extinctions are treated in the most conservative plausible way. We emphasize that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis because our aim was to place a realistic “lower bound” on humanity’s impact on biodiversity. Therefore, although biologists cannot say precisely how many species there are, or exactly how many have gone extinct in any time interval, we can confidently conclude that modern extinction rates are exceptionally high, that they are increasing, and that they suggest a mass extinction under way—the sixth of its kind in Earth’s 4.5 billion years of history”.


In environmental science, I believe that huge claims are not useful, let’s leave them to the gossip industry.

I really believe that people around the world are trying to get things done for the best: the problem arises when we experience general boredom and indifference to the issue. Everyone is taken by a video of melting ice, or a bushfire, or a panda: unfortunately, these people will just keep scrolling down their feed, probably blaming oil company for polluting the world. What we have to understand is that everyone can play their part: it is our responsibility to analyze our impact on the Planet and then decide whether we care or not. We are not likely to see the severe effects of not meeting these points in 2030, everyone will leave this Planet knowing that they were part of it. 

The question is: do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to stay Green!

Efficient buildings: is there such a thing?

If you’ve been looking for a flat recently you most certainly received a sheet of paper by the landlord or estate agent showing how efficient is the building you are about to move into. But is that house really efficient? Let’s find out, as always, together.

When talking about buildings, the main concern that companies rating their efficiency have is about their energy consumption. If a building is well insulated and receives plenty of natural light, it will most likely get a B. If the building is not totally dependent on electricity would candidate for an A. If it has a solar roof connected to a heat pump or similar technologies that are able to generate or re-use the energy dispersed by the building then you’re in for an A+ or something like that.

The same concept is used by national governments when declaring and planning out how to reduce their emissions or become carbon-neutral.

Basically, what they look for is how to produce the energy needed via renewable sources. If most, if not all, the energy required is obtained without the burning of any fossil fuels, they will declare themselves carbon-neutral.

Are they really?

As always, whenever we talk about an environmental issue, we should be very careful in making assumptions or announcement with such a big mediatic impact. The reason is very simple: if the UK was to produce all the energy consumed by its population via renewable sources it wouldn’t be carbon neutral.

The concept I want you to focus on is the embedded emissions. Embedded emissions are the greenhouse gases produced when manufacturing, shipping and packing a certain good: vegetables, fruits, clothes, cars, laptops, people: everything you can think of has a carbon impact.

And so, when countries declare to be carbon-neutral they always ignore the embedded emissions of the imported goods. This will make nearly impossible for a certain country to be carbon-neutral, unless it stops importing anything from abroad.

On the other hand, environments with fewer relations with the outside have better chances of becoming neutral. For example, if a house is able to produce everything it consumes through the installation of a solar roof, we could say that it is carbon neutral.

Easy, right?

Unfortunately, the answer is still no. The food eaten by the households, the TV they just bought, all the furniture: everything that is part of the house “ecosystem” has a carbon footprint, and so it will make the carbon-neutral house not so neutral.

On the same line are building intended for business purpose. It is funny to see that corporate companies invest so much money trying to reduce the emissions of their building and then host large corporate events with endless food stands, most of which goes to waste: not only there are embedded emissions of the single piece of fruit to be taken into consideration, but all the methane that will be released during the decomposition accounts for carbon emissions of that particular company.

Example of embedded emissions never taken into consideration. In a corporate event, surplus food that goes to waste will turn into methane in the landfill or will be incinerated: both actions will have a footprint that won’t be considered when assessing the company’s carbon footprint.

I could be making hundreds of different examples of how governments and corporate companies sell to us the idea of carbon neutrality by simply showing how they deal with part of the problem.

The solution? I don’t have it, and I am not the one who is supposed to have it. It all comes back to the same concept: think about your habit, cut where you can, buy what you need.

Do you think your insulated – solar powered – house is carbon-neutral? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to stay Green!

Book of the month – Letters to a young scientist

Happy July everyone! As announced a couple of days ago, today we will start our monthly tip for books worth reading. I hope you’ll stay with me throughout this journey.

I decided to start with an inspiring and motivating book, written by Edward Wilson: “Letters to a young scientist”.

Edward Wilson is a renowned entomologist, a scientist who studies ants. The book is an easy read: it is divided into small letters, each one of them covering a different topic that are, in the author’s opinion, important steps to go through your journey of becoming an acclaimed scientist.

I am not a scientist and it is not a career I am personally pursuing, however, the book is still highly recommendable to everyone interested in similar topics.

First of all, do you know how cool ants are? Well, unless you are an entomologist yourself, you probably don’t, or maybe you don’t know well enough. Between personal experience and general tips, the author inserted interesting anecdotes and funny stories about this very important insect. So, while reading motivational letters, you will also get to learn a lot about ants and the role they play in different ecosystems.

The book tells the story of a middle class, very eccentric boy from Alabama with a twisted passion and relation with snakes (I say twisted because someone who enjoys getting bitten by a snake it has to be a little mad) that soon made the intelligent decision of dedicating his professional life to ants. 

You will find important tips on how to face difficult subjects, such as maths and everything related to it, how to deal with academics belonging to a different field, the importance of observation and imagination which play an important part in every scientific breakthrough.

Sadly, it won’t make you a scientist: Wilson never stops insisting on the importance of the hard work. It seems like a long-told story, however, in a period where the Internet is full of people trying to sell you easy and fast ways to make money, it’s a good reminder that if you aspire of achieving something more in your life you have to keep your foot on the ground, cultivate your passions, and work hard.

For those of you struggling between science and religion, Wilson provides an intelligent interpretation of the topic, explaining how both paths can be sought after while maintaining a professional and spiritual balance.

Did you read this book? Let us know in the comment and don’t forget to stay Green!

Get the book on Amazon (but consider buying it locally)

Get the book on eBay (but consider buying it locally)

Do you waste water?

Water has played an important part in our life since the beginning of our species. Have you ever thought about your water usage and compared to that of people living in different countries? Are your habits sustainable? Let’s find out, as always, together.

CCWATER claims that households composed of 1 person in UK consume 149l of water per day, which correspond to 54 m³ per year.

Understanding our role in the water cycle can help us visualize which part we play in this circle. Basically, we are a tiny drop in the ocean. We interfere at the moment between the evaporation of the water from the Earth’s surface and rain: that’s the time when we collect our water for infinite reasons. Of course, we found out different ways to access water sources hidden beneath the Earth’s surface, because we are smart: this is water that is stored, for example, underneath permeable rocks, that once permeates the surface of these rocks is unable to evaporate again because it is not heated by sunlight, and so it stays there.

There are multiple theories about whether we will ever run out of water or not: I won’t talk about that in this posts, but in my opinion, the answer is no, or better, it is very unlikely, even in the most water-exploited scenario.

Coming back to us, I decided to calculate how much water I consume per day, over a typical working week.

The first thing to determine is how much water is running in your pipes. In my case, I have 3 water sources in my house: a shower, a bathroom sink, and a kitchen sink. Other sources are the toilet and the washing machine. For these two, I just considered manufacturers data (when available) and the average UK consume (per flush and per wash).

Shower and sinks were a funny exercise. I used a graded beaker of 1 litre and my phone as a timer. I calculated the time needed for each tap to fill the litre and then how long it normally takes me to use them. The results were then calculated via a simple equation.

Looking at numbers it’s easier to explain them, so here they are.

  • Kitchen sink filled 1l in 7.86 s
  • Bathroom sink filled 1l in 12.89 s
  • Shower filled 1l in 20.34s

With these starting data, it is possible to deduce the amount of water in litres used for specific tasks by a simple equation.

A : B = X : C , where A is 1l, B is the time needed to fill up the 1l beaker and C is the actual time needed to complete specific tasks.

In the case of a shower, it takes me on average 5 minutes to wash myself, and so:

1l : 20.34s = X : 300s, →X = (1l x 300s) ÷ 20.34s =  14.74l of water used per each shower.

I went on repeating the same exercise for each task and then I recorded how many times I performed each one of them during a week. The results are the following.

ActivityDay 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Tot n of timesl/usageTotal
Washing hand/face91011119509.3465
Brushing teeth22222104.646
Food prep11111523115
Cooking 2222210550
Dish washing11111561305
Clothes washing116565
My water usage calculated over a typical working week


It turned out I use almost twice as much water as an average UK household! (268l vs 149l, shame on me).

What could be the reasons?

I wouldn’t say irresponsible management, I try to be careful, but it is clear that something has to change. However, the efficiency of my appliances plays an important part. My washing machine (an old model) consume around 65l per washing, at 30°. I know recent models on the market get the job done with as little as 15l.

Another good way of saving water would be the replacement (or fix) of my kitchen sink: I noticed the pressure is way too low, with more pressure I could easily wash my dishes in less than half the time and probably reduce the amount of water used.

What about a dishwasher? Good topic, twice a week at full load would most certainly reduce the water usage if efficient (don’t forget to load it at night when there’s less demand for electricity in your local grid, otherwise you would save water by producing more CO2e).

We could be talking about water usage for days, but let’s leave it for now. I hope everyone would take into consideration their water usage and come up with brilliant ideas to try to improve it. Where should I be cutting my water usage? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to stay Green!

Plastic vs Paper: what’s worst?

It is common knowledge that plastic should be avoided when being able to choose between plastic packages over paper ones. Is it always true? What to consider when making this important choice? Let’s find out, as always, together.

First, we need to understand that there are different varieties of plastic around. For today’s discussion, we will be considering the most common plastic used for bags in the supermarkets: it is called Polyethylene. This particular material is derived from natural gases (mainly methane) and petroleum.

It has to be cleared once and for all. The main concern over this very useful material when ending up in an environment different than your local landfill is not that it will decompose and then contaminate the surrounding ecosystems, but exactly the opposite: it won’t, or rather it will, but it will take VERY long time. The plastic itself doesn’t cause any harm but it often ends up in the stomach of animals, or worst is deposed in areas not intended to be used as landfill, and it will stay there for a very long time. We’ll talk about landfills on different occasions, but it’s worth to mention a few facts here. Basically, landfills are areas, outside the urban area of a city, where waste is disposed of. If we interfere in the process of bringing the plastic from our bin to the landfill, it will end up somewhere where is not supposed to be, and it will stay there for centuries before decomposing, shaking the balance of that given ecosystems, sometimes transforming it completely.

And so, the paper is better, isn’t it?

Well, guys, I wish I could openly agree with you, but that’s not the case.

Paper is a fine material more or less easily recyclable, very useful as well and it has a wide use range. The best paper you could use would be handmade from recycled paper. However, most, if not all, the paper used today is industrially produced. The production of paper involves few steps, during which a big deal of chemicals are used, whether for separating cellulose fibres and removing water from the unfinished batch. Still, recycled paper industrially-made could be a good choice.

But what about virgin paper?

Here’s where the problem arises. As you all may know, paper comes from trees. Don’t get fooled by a campaign that promises you to plant 10 trees for each one that is chopped: out of these 10, in natural condition, some of the seeds could get eaten by wild animals. Maintenance and care of trees often require skilled labour, which in any case will have a carbon footprint. Most of all, even assuming that all of the 10 trees will make it without human care, it will be a great deal of time before their photosynthesis will match and subsequently outweigh the one of the mature tree you just chopped. That’s because, in case you didn’t notice, trees grow slowly.

“So why do we produce virgin paper?” you might be asking. Well, recycled fibres of the used paper are weaker and so more susceptible to breakage, especially when in contact with liquids or melting frozen.

However, the funny side in this story is that recycled paper is used in supermarkets, even though their bags are more likely to break down. The industry that uses the more of virgin paper seems to be the fashion: obviously, in fashion, everything needs to look nice and tidy, imagine if you would examine with a microscope that bag from your favourite brand once you’re back home, for sure you would notice that some of the linens used are broken, that doesn’t look really trendy, does it?

It is just another paradox of how we perceive and manage materials: in my opinion, if well disposed of, plastic is a good material. We take it from the ground, we use it (supposedly more than once) and then we return it where it belongs, allowing centuries to play their part and transforming it back to what it comes from. Virgin paper, on the other hand, is always a missed opportunity, a chopped tree that will be replaced faster than the plastic bag but will have a general negative impact on the shorter term. 

So next time you’re shopping, if you are dumb enough not to have a strong carrier or a backpack, consider asking the cashier or the store manager whether their bag are made of virgin paper: if the answer is yes, at least now you know what you’re contributing to.

We will be talking more about plastic and papers and their controversy in the following posts but always with the pure truth and fair analyze in mind: as we have seen today, digging deeper on a given subject can reveal the unexpected side of a long told story.

Are your shopping habits sustainable? If so, let me know in the comment and don’t forget to stay Green!

What is a solstice?

Happy Summer everyone! Even though warm days came back for a while for many of you, summer officially starts today, June 20th¹. This day is also known as the summer solstice, but why we call it like that, and what happens today? Let’s find out, as always, together.

The word solstice comes from the combination of the latin words sol (sun) and sistere which is translated mainly with the expression “to stand still” but I prefer to use the verb “to stop”. That’s because, in the northern hemisphere, this will be the day with the longest daylight of the year, and so I like to think of the Earth that stops by her old friend Sun, before going back on its long journey around it.

First, we need to understand that our Planet doesn’t stand up straight: its axis, around which the Earth rotates, has an inclination of approximately 23.5°. This is why we have seasons: at any given time, the northern hemisphere has the opposite season of the southern hemisphere, because it’s either inclined towards the sun or not, and so will be hit by sun rays more or less directly.

Travelling around the sun, in two moments of the year, one of the Poles will have the closest inclination towards the Sun and these are the days we call solstice. But remember: the day you welcome summer, your Australian friends will prepare for winter!

Not sure yet? Let’s look at the next image.

 I designed it to represent the two moments of the year. As you can see, on the 21st of June the North Pole has the maximum inclination towards the Sun, while on the 21st of December the situation is the opposite.

There are two other key moments of the Earth’s journey around the Sun: these are the days called the equinox, and they happen respectively on the 20th March and the 22nd of September. For now, let’s focus our attention on the solstice only and let’s postpone the explanation of the equinox for a more appropriate time.

How will you be welcoming the summer? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to stay Green!

NOTE ¹: Normally, the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere is on the 21st of June. This year went on a day earlier because we’re on a leap year, explanation of the implications and meanings of this particular year will be postponed to one of our next stories.

Do you walk enough?

Whether it’s for pleasure or necessity, everyone lucky enough not to have any physical problems walks. But how much do we walk? Is it enough? Let’s find out, as always, together.

The World Health Organization recommends for adults aged 18-64 to “do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity throughout the week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.”

150 minutes could be easily achieved by having a short stroll of half an hour a day, 5 days a week. It seems feasible, but do we do it?

The Department for Transport, through the National Travel Survey (NTS), monitored the walking and cycling habits of people in England. I extracted data recorded between 2015/16 and 2017/18 for Bournemouth and compared them with the national results.

The results are the following. In Bournemouth, during these 3 years, the percentage of adults cycling or walking 5 times a week for any purpose increased by 7.9%, while the national average increased only by 1.4%. Similarly, the percentage of adults cycling and walking 3 times a week for any purpose in Bournemouth increased by 7.7%, while the national average saw an increment of 1.5%. 

Bournemouth% of adults walking/cycling 3 times a week% of adults walking/cycling 5 times a weekNumber of people surveyed
England% of adults walking 3 times a week% of adults walking 5 times a weekNumber of people surveyed% of trip up to 1 mile by car%of trip between 1 and 5 miles by car
2015/1645.734.2196 180
2016/1747.035.2194 622
2017/1847.235.6179 74819%58%

Not bad, it looks like more people are getting out for a walk from time to time. However, we will not talk here about the health benefits of walking and cycling. What I want you to look at is another NTS travel report, published in 2018 with “statistics covering personal travel within Great Britain by English residents.” In 2018, 19% of trips up to 1 mile was completed by car and the percentage rise to 58% for trips between 1 and 5 miles (data shown are for England only).

That’s what I want you to focus on. To go shopping in the local supermarket, in 2018 1 English resident out of 5 decided to take the car. What could be the reasons? Heavy bags, physical impediments, laziness, all of them? Unfortunately, these data don’t tell us why. It is our responsibility to analyze our travel habits and understand whether they’re good or not.

But why?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Simple, as everyone knows, car emissions are bad for the environment and for all of its inhabitants, including us. During the second quarter of 2015, the UK government declared that the “average carbon dioxide emissions of cars registered for the first time” was of 122.1g/km. Note that this number is related to new cars only, and what about that old truck you keep driving around from the ’90s?

Moreover, Transport For London (TFL) recently published a list of short journeys on the London Underground that “could be quicker to walk”. The tube is a great alternative to the car, what I want you to take from here is that the number of unnecessary journeys we take every day have an impact on our environment, therefore they’re bad for us. Think of it as your own house: how nice it is when you come back home and your house is clean and fresh? The environment should be thought of in the same way, let’s keep it “nice and tidy” and we will all benefit from it.

Are you a professional jogger or a couch lover? Let me know in the comment and don’t forget to stay Green!

Do you want to dig more in the data? Check them out at the following links:

What’s your carbon footprint?

How often did you hear on the news claims like: “Carbon emissions are at-risk level”, or “Our carbon footprint will affect future generations for years to come!”. It sounds scary, doesn’t it? Let’s find out, as always, together.

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When thinking about our impact on the Planet, anything that changes the balances too quickly should sound like that. However, if we are aware of the impact of our everyday actions, we could work out some strategies to try to reduce them.

But first, let’s understand what the carbon footprint is.

The carbon footprint is the total emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) of an individual, household, country and so on. GHG are often indicated to be the primary drivers of climate change and include carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and vapour water. All of these gases are in our atmosphere: climate change or the depletion of the ozone hole are a result of an alteration of the balance of the gases, which sees the human beings as the main responsible.

Today, we are lucky to have some tools to help us calculate our GHG emissions, in order to understand how much we impact on our Planet. These are known as carbon calculator, and for this article, I used the one provided by Carbon Footprint ™.

The use of the calculator is pretty easy: it is divided into sections, where you are going to insert your data and then everything will be summed up and compared to the average of your country.

Don’t be scared of making assumptions! The calculator is a tool that will help you realise, more or less, how heavy is your footprint.

In my case, it turned out that my annual carbon footprint is much heavier than the UK average: to be honest, I did not expect to be so “bad” to the environment, that’s why it is time to set some goals and reduce it.

But how?

The calculator provides a link at the end of your calculation with some general tips on how to try to go back within the national average, but I will provide 3 actions that you might be less familiar with.

  1. Eat less meat. I am not a vegetarian, I love meat. I try to consume it ethically, but I don’t think I will never quit it for good. However, meat production is responsible for huge amounts of GHG emissions. Around 70% of the world’s soybean production is used for livestock feeding, while only 7% for human food. Soy plantation is one of the main responsible for the deforestation of the Amazon. We know that trees are natural carbon storage, so it’s easy to see the impact of the meat industry on our environment (and don’t forget, all this livestock must be powered, washed and so on). Basically, we are clearing down the forests around the world to make burgers, is it really worth it?
  2. Buy second-hand goods. Girls, don’t hate me, just follow me here. Imagine your nice dress, fabricated thousands of miles away from your house, shipped to the store, you drive to the store, buy it, wear it once, and leave it in your wardrobe waiting for another “special occasions”. Now, I understand everyone has the necessity of appearing nice and fresh, we all want to look like Johnny Depp in our 50s, but the truth is that, sometimes, we should stop and think about how far that dress has travelled, and maybe just once a year decide to leave the shop and go to your local charities and buy it second-hand. You won’t look like a celebrity to your friends, but your Planet will be very grateful.
  3. BUY A BICYCLE! For 3 years of my life, I lived in London and I went to work day by day/ season by season riding my NoLogo bike. I will not waste your time in listing all the benefits of being active, you already have your step counter app. I just want you to close your eyes and try to remember the first time you rode a bike, your dad or mom behind you holding you in line and then they were suddenly gone, it was you and your bicycle. After a 9 o 5, don’t choke in the tube, ride! Get wet! Argue with pedestrians crossing without checking! Argue with taxi drivers cutting you on the sidewalk! In short, be alive!

These were my little tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint. Use the calculator and share your results with us, it is a breezy evening in the UK, black clouds are on their way ready to ruin everyone’s plan, time for a ride then!

Get involved in the endless discussion about carbon footprint and don’t forget to stay Green!