Wednesday, October 17, 2007

food miles and whatnot

Well the world has gone tospy turvy again - I've been shopping... Nairn's oatcakes! unsweetened soy(a)milk! And wait for it... Oatibix!!! They taste just like I remember Weetabix tasting (and for you Kiwis yes I do mean Weetabix not Weetbix!) but they are wheat-free and thus Anna-friendly, woo hoo! They even look the right shape and colour.

I've had a few food miles/climate change conversations since getting back to the UK; when looking at the wine shelf I automatically looked for New Zealand wine and was feeling a bit disgruntled not to see any when Mike started telling me how they only bought European wines now because of the food miles (or in this case drink miles!) ah yes, hemisphere change.... It was great to be able to pick up a box of oatcakes with a clear conscience - sure they've travelled a bit further than the few miles across town as when I lived in Edinburgh but one heck of a lot less distance than the boxes that sit on New World's shelves in Wellington. Also one heck of a lot less distance than the rice crackers and corn thins I usually eat at home that come across the ditch from Australia - but I've yet to find a locally produced alternative so I've tried to cut down my consumption of them instead!

But when talking about carbon footprints etc it's hard to escape the fact that I have chosen to live not only on the oppposite side of the world to most of my close family but even at the opposite end of the island from many of my friends. Does my relatively low day-to-day carbon footprint balance out flying all the way around the world?

I went back to look at simon's blog post on climate change wondering if I could join his 'chain' but decided as my current living situation isn't exactly standard it would probably stuff up the next person to do it properly... but for what it's worth here is what I can answer! (you'll need to read simon's post for this to make best sense)

1. use public transport - well as a non-driver this has pretty much always been my main mode of transport! I try to avoid situations where people have to make car journeys especially for my benefit and fit in with what they are doing anyway - thus improving their carbon footprint by taking a passenger =) I also try to avoid making domestic flights when I can, which has meant many an hour spent on Intercity Coaches....
2. Food purchasing - well I don't do very much of that to be honest but I do do a lot of the cooking and so try to avoid waste, processed foods and use as much of the fruit and veg from the garden as possible
3. Electricy provider - I don't think we have a choice where we are but at least in NZ you know that it isn't nuclear! I try to remember to switch lights off, use short cold cycles on the washing machine (and avoid half loads), never use the tumble drier, no excessive showering and don't use a haridryer but have a dilema with computers as if they get turned off they sulk so they tend to sit on stand-by thus meaning they still work for longer...
4. Compost and rubbish - well between the compost heap, the dog/chooks, recycling and the woodstove we produce remarkably little rubbish. I filled just one bin bag in the 10 weeks William & Elizabeth were away!
5. Low energy lightbulbs - well we got double vouchers for those recently as I got a set sent too so we now have no excuse! But do you replace straight away or replace when the old ones burn out? After all then you have to dispose of the old ones...
6. Freezer - we've got them, they're running so might as well keep them as full as possible as that way they're more efficient (and it means garden produce etc doesn't got to waste when there's a glut)
7. Buying secondhand etc - been doing that for years! It's not often I buy new clothes (other than underwear!) and things tend to get worn til they fall apart or get sent back to another charity/op shop. I've tried to be really good with not buying books - there are libraries and friends bookshelves after all - and have got reasonably good at it! Lack of funds does help that though...
8. Economy 7 - errr, don't think that's around
9. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings - not within my scope beyond opening and closing windows/doors/curtains!
10. Heating - we have one room that gets heated well in winter, so we all sit in it! Otherwise why do you think NZ developed merino wool and so many polyprops and fleece products...

1. car use - see above, my main ouch is air travel not car travel and I'm trying to keep that down. (once I've got back home that is!)
2. supermarket shopping - we don't have many alternatives to Pak n Save (without driving great distances!) but I do try to get what I can at the health food shop, but that's not much.
3. Heating - as with many NZ houses we just have a woodburning stove, using kindling from the garden and the logs I think come from the farm, it being fast growing wood that needed to be cut back to keep the pastures clear. We probably could burn less at times but the psychological effect of a good blaze vs a smouldering pile of embers is a hard one to overcome!
4. solar power etc - it's on the long term to do list...
5. freezer - see above re efficiency and garden gluts! I was reading the other day about someone building a 'cold store' room which sounded remarkably like my Granny's old pantry with large stone slabs in theory, the thing is in a north facing wooden house in Northland no-where is cold in summer so it would take a lot of energy and effort to build something that stayed cool... unless we used the creek I guess but that seems a little extreme to keep the milk cold!
6. tumble drier - I hate using them, very occassionally used it in Wellington when B&B visitor numbers and bad weather conspired against me but can't even remember last using one for clothes.
7. house - I currently live with others and am quite happy doing so, in fact I don't really like living alone... Space, hmmm... it's remarkable how little personal stuff/space I can get used to living with on a day to day basis but then I do have the luxury of large shared space. Hard one to call for me these days.

So how about you?

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