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.
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.