Friday, 25 April 2014

Sustainability as a lifestyle change

Sustainability as a lifestyle change

We have a wood burner which heats our hot water and radiators. We buy in large amounts of wood each year. It's quite easy.

One of the things about a wood burner is that it takes wood, sounds daft to point out the obvious, but wood comes in all different forms and if you want to be more "green" and sustain yourself better it would make sense to accept wood from other sources. There is plenty of waste wood that can be used.

If you can use waste wood and process it manually you can save some money and save some carbon by using wood that hasn't been chopped using a chainsaw or larger machine. A small carbon saving effort.

One of the problems with changing your lifestyle and using less carbon is the effort it can take. As an example I was offered a load of old round fence posts which had rotted at their base and become useless as a fence. The fence was being replaced and the old fence posts were just sitting in a pile and would have ended up being burnt as a bonfire.

Even though I had to use fuel to collect the wood, this would have been the case if I bought the wood as it needed to be transported to me and since I already drive to where the fence posts were I didn't do many extra miles in bringing the wood home.

I have a pile of around 80 fence posts and other assorted fencing material.

In order to chop the posts I could have done it with a chain saw in a few hours but that wouldn't have saved carbon or indeed much money (price of fuel and chain which would have been seriously blunted on the very old hard wood). Instead I have been sawing them by hand - it can take an hour to produce enough logs for a day - that's a lot of hard work, and will require a good 8 to 12 hours I think to cut all the posts into small logs.

If you look at processing waste wood to make use of a free resource, making the world that tiny bit more sustainable and reducing your fossil fuel carbon foot print it can seem an awful lot of work for very little gain (£30 to £50 of buying ready chopped wood) and is why many, if not most, people are put off. 

A lifestyle change

If you change your life style to accommodate a more sustainable, less wasteful, less reliant use of fossil fuels and do more things, such as chopping waste wood manually, it doesn't need to be a lot of effort and a lot of time for such a small saving in carbon and money terms. 

The change of lifestyle that I have made involves working a full week's worth of hours, 30 to 36+ hours, in three days which leaves 4 days left. A 4 day weekend is a lot of time. The odd hour here and there cutting and chopping wood doesn't seem a lot especially when I have time to go at my own speed and pause often to watch nature. It also isn't hard work, one hour hard slog can be replaced by a few minutes here and there during the whole day, interspersed by a bit of gardening, a can of beer, and a general walk around the garden.

Chopping waste wood may have saved up to £50, but it takes £60 or so of earning money once you take out tax and NI so the savings are in fact a bit higher plus the fact that I am working in my own garden, on my own terms, for the equivalent of that money rather than at work on someone else's terms. 

On top of a bit of carbon saving, money saving, you also get exercise, something that we all do too little of. The more manual work you do the easier it gets next time and the easier it gets the more opportunities you look for to save a few pound and a little carbon. 

Saving carbon and being a little more sustainable can look like hard work and time consuming but when combined with a lifestyle change it just becomes another enjoyable part of life.  

I don't think that you can expect people to cut down their carbon foot print and in effect reduce their quality of life without also showing that a change of lifestyle means that you don't have to reduce your quality of life you just need to change your life so as to accommodate a reduction in fossil fuel. 

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