Green ranting, again

A Black Sun Journal post about the UK’s government’s cynical irrationality about diapers (that’s nappies to us) sparked this rant about other “green” things that turn out to be less than ecologically logical.

(I’m not completely convinced about the nappies argument anyway. Disposables may create less carbon-emissions in use but I’m not sure if the carbon-emission sums take into account other ecosystem effects of disposables – such as the source of the materials they are made from, or how long they stay in landfill leaking plastic toxins. I’m just saying that carbon-emissions aren’t the only way to destroy an ecosystem.)

Energy efficient lightbulbs.
These may be energy-efficient but they often can’t really be called “light”bulbs. They oftenn seem to be there just to illuminate their own presence.

So, if you are so tall that you are in danger of bumping your head on the ceiling, it acts as a safety device – at least you’d know there was lightbulb there and avoid it.

As the standard energy-efficient lightbulb gives off approximately 1 candlepower, the user who is hellbent on actually seeing anything has to use a dozen at once.

And, whatever you do, don’t break them or touch a broken one. Another reason why they have to be bright enough to stop tall people cracking their heads on them is that they turn out to be stuffed with mercury.

What exactly are you supposed to do with them when they wear out? Will there be dedicated hazardous waste collections?

Eco-alternatives: No idea about this. Normal flouresecents? I don’t even know if candles would create more light per unit of carbon.

Energy-efficient washing machines

UK washing machines work by taking so long to clean clothes that natural processes of decomposition could easily have kicked in and half the dirt might have biodegraded by itself.

It bet that a two hour wash cycle in the most “energy-efficient” washing machine uses more power overall than a more powerful washing machine that finishes the washing in a few minutes. (Ditto, driers)

Eco-alternatives: Old tech could easily be adapted. There used to be a whole complex washing technology of washboards and wringers and dollies and maidens. No, I don’t know exactly what most of them were but there must be enough bits and pieces in antique shops to work out some ways to adapt them.

Old fashioned twin-tubs took a couple of minutes to ruthlessly swirl the clothes around in the washing half of the combo. The rinsing bit could be done with minimal effort and no electricity at all by directing a hose into the other tub.

Better still, there was some sort of hand-powered eco-washing machine on sale about 15 years ago. it was like a barrel that was meant to be suspended over the bath, connected to a tap by a hose and with a handle that you turned to do the washing.

Road pricing and congestion charges

These seem to operate on the principle that the richer you are, the less ecological trouble your vehicle causes. Blatantly useless except as an income generator for local authorities.

Eco-solution: So simple that it’s embarrassing. Excellent and cheap public transport – trains, trams and buses. What about building Simpsons-style monorails?

My favourite solution: Canals – there is a national network of canals. Canals are already built, ffs. They were built to move goods in large quantities. They are even already full of water. Horses could pull the barges along, as they used to.

New Eco-towns
Where do you start on this? No matter how bloody “energy-efficient” these planned new towns are, they eat up the countryside, damage any residual wilderness, threaten the survival of birds and insects and mammals and plants and add to the volume of energy-using road traffic.

In any case, the whole idea really annoys me because I work in a building that was supposed to be the last word in eco-friendly construction. It was basically assembled from a kit, like a cheap wardrobe. As you might expect, if you’ve ever tried to assemble a cheap wardrobe, within a few months, it was close to decrepit and needs constant incredibly expensive repairs.

(Aspects of its eco-friendliness are so weird that you can’t even imagine what eco-model they were following, anyway. The car park is huge. Turn on the water to wash your hands in the toilet sinks and you get enough hot or cold water to bathe a medium sized dog. There is no way to stop it. I am tempted to buy a large vacuum flask and start taking the excess hot water home. )

Eco-solution: Fix up the existing buildings and build on derelict land before deciding it’s a great idea to spread London across the whole south of England.

Traditional materials like brick, and wood and stone last more than few months before they fall to bits in ugly ways and become fit for landfill. You can reuse them almost indefinitely. There are traditional building methods – like using cob and thatch – that could be used to create genuinely energy-efficient homes.

Traditional construction skills aren’t just disposable. They can’t be replaced by a skill level that would barely put together a stable IKEA table.

6 thoughts on “Green ranting, again

  1. You really seem to have an irrational hate of CFLs. For the record, “regular” fluorescent bulbs (aka tubes) are just as “toxic” as CFLs, particularly if you take into account the fluorescent lamp ballast. All a CFL is is basically a fluorescent tube lamp wound into a bulb shape and the ballast integrated into the base.

    As for “will there be dedicated hazardous waste collection”… well, yes, in fact, there already is in many places. Yes, even in the UK, and in some cases, including the place you bought them.

    As for your washing machine solution, don’t let the women’s groups hear you call for a return to washerwoman maidens.

  2. “You really seem to have an irrational hate of CFLs”

    It isn’t just CFLs that Heather has an irrational hatred of….. 🙂

  3. K
    I was trying – and failing – to be a bit tongue in cheek to make a point…..

    I don’t hate them.. All my lights are indeed “energy-efficient”. I just don’t think they are much use as lights. I am sitting here in a state that it would be hard not to define as darkness.

    The idea of a dedicated collection van coming round on the offchance that someone’s lightbulb has worn out seems both farfetched and a hell of a waste of fuel. Or should I buy a car and drive each individual dead bulb to a disposal facility?

    I am perfectly prepared to believe that trad fluorescents are just as toxic. I said that I have no idea what the alternative is.

    A “maiden” is a contraption that you hang wet washing on. I can’t see that offending women’s groups unless men’s groups are going to have a problem with guy-ropes.

  4. Yeah, I figured you were being a bit hyperbolic on purpose.

    I will grant that some CFLs have crappy output, and that older ones (i.e. 10+ years ago) were piss-poor. In general I find they are pretty close in terms of light in comparison with an incandescent with the same output rating. Not everyone in my house agrees with me which is one reason why the house is not 100% CFL…. but most of the disagreement seems to come from the disappointment of the fact that many CFLs start at a medium brightness and slowly light up to full brightness.

    As for wasting gas to dispose of CFLs… in theory, at least, you would be able to return them at the store you buy light bulbs at. Which you will presumably be visiting anyway, sooner or later, to buy new bulbs to replace the ones that have blown.

    As for maidens, I always thought a maiden was a young woman, the sort who would have once been indentured to wash clothes.

  5. but most of the disagreement seems to come from the disappointment of the fact that many CFLs start at a medium brightness and slowly light up to full brightness.

    Ah, the mastery of understatement! ( 🙂 ). In my house, you need to turn the lights on about a week before sunset if you want to be able to see… The idea of eco-lights in transit areas is a total no-go considering how tedious it can be using them in static areas such as the living room/lounge.

    One other downside is the rated “strength” is often misleading – I have two lamps one with a CFL bulb that claims to be 100w output, the other a real 100w – even allowing a day or two warm up, the “real” bulb gives more useful light.

  6. 🙂

    One reason why I have only CFLs is because the power company gave away free ones. (Fair enough, I suppose. You get what you pay for)

    The 20w bulbs that I bought myself aren’t quite as bad but these are in a light fitting that has 5 bulbs in it. 5 bulbs- that are supposed to be 100w equivalent – should provide a blinding light in the tiny room they are in. As it is, I reckon they provide probably about 100w equivalent
    (which, by an uncanny coincidence, is exactly what 5 times 20w would make.)

Comments are closed.