York is drowning in a sea of greenwash

From unused lights powered by wind turbines to high-flying recyclers, we are drowning in a sea of greenwash, argues Geoff Beacon.

Blue skies, orange plane… greenwash? Photographs:

In his third Green Piece, Geoff Beacon exposes the greenwash which is splashed liberally around York and beyond


This about greenwash – the pretence to appear green while not really caring much.

My colleagues nervously allowed me to put a hypocrisy map of London on the Beacon Dodsworth website. (I did go through our customers in my mind to check whether any would be offended).

I created this map using the TGI survey from Kantar Ltd with our P² People and Places demographic classification. I was looking for people that expressed green attitudes while living non-green lives.

The result you can see. The most hypocritical area shows as the red blob from the politicos of Westminster to the champagne socialists of Hampstead.

Geoff's hypocrisy map of London

I had multiplied an index of green attitudes by the number of holiday flights taken. So your greens doing their recycling (possibly saving a few kilograms of carbon dioxide) and then flying to a remote island in Indonesia (return flight – about five tonnes of carbon dioxide) had a high hypocrisy index.

That’s greenwash.

You don’t have to go to London to find greenwash. Remember the Tesco vertical windmills, at Dringhouses, rated at 6 kW (kilowatts)? In the middle of one night (that’s the sort of life I lead) I went into the store and counted the lights still blazing in their closed cafeteria.

After squinting at the undersides of the lights to find the energy rating I discovered that they were using about 10 kW in all – and that was just the café lighting.

This from a BBC report about a similar Tesco’s turbine:

The company said the six kilowatt turbine would save 13.6 tonnes of CO2 a year and was specifically created for built-up areas.

Using figures from the Green Ration Book I calculate that Tesco could have saved more than 15 tonnes CO2 per year by switching the cafeteria lights off at night.

I have been bothering York council for years on the carbon dioxide created by building construction. This is called “embodied carbon”. A report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) says the embodied carbon used to create a building may be as high as 62% of its total whole life emissions, as researched by Thomas Lane.

It goes on

However this is still left unaccounted for in the building control approval process, and in other forms of measurement (including BREEAM, the British Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Methodology) although operational, ie in-use, emissions are measured and regulated.

City of York Council continue to use BREEAM and tell me

The BRE’s BREEAM (British Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Methodology) does try to take account of embodied energy, but only as part of a wider set of criteria that is used to assessed the environmental performance of a building.

The RICS report also says that

the placing of bat and bird boxes on a building may gain more points under some assessment procedures than retaining the structural frame of a building, which may embody many tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon.

If York Council really wanted to cut carbon footprints they would scrap BREEAM and use a better method. They would also change

Help protect the environment! Please don’t print this email unless you really need to

to

Help protect the environment! Don’t eat beefburgers

 
Using the resources of the Green Ration Book and the ICE database from the University of Bath I calculate that printing a three-page email has a carbon footprint of 22.5 grammes including ink.

A cheeseburger has a carbon footprint of 4850 gm CO2, more than 200 times more than the email.