One Edinburgh University climate scientist argues in a December New Scientist article that common activities such as washing clothes, using toilet paper and drinking coffee are among the “five eco-crimes we commit every day.”
“I have long argued that climate change begins at home,” writes Dr. David Reay, senior lecturer on Global Change at Edinburgh. “Each of us in the developed world has played our part in creating this problem and, while there is no doubt that coordinated global action is needed to tackle it, we can each be part of the solution.” Reay is the author of Your Planet Needs You! A Kid’s Guide to Going Green.
His list of five everyday eco-crimes are:
1. Coffee. Apparently six-cups-a-day off this wake-up beverage can clock “up more than 175 kilograms of CO2 each year. That’s the equivalent of a flight across Europe—from London to Rome, say.”
“Add milk, and the methane belched by dairy cows means you increase your coffee’s climate-changing emissions by more than a third.”
2. Toilet Paper. “Every time paper is recycled, the fibres become shorter, making for an increasingly rough bathroom experience. Recycled paper can’t compete on softness so some use of new wood by the toilet paper industry may be inevitable.”
3. Fast Fashion. “The clothing and textile sector in the UK alone is responsible for more than 3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year. Switching to second-hand alternatives could therefore yield some big energy savings and cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.”
4. Laundry. “Cleanliness has become a touchstone of domestic life since advertisers convinced us that our shirts must always be ‘whiter than white’, our sheets should forever smell of spring flowers, and that to be dressed in freshly laundered clothes at all times is a badge of success.”
“…For the largest cuts, simply washing less frequently is the way to go” (emphasis added).
5. Wasting Food. “The cost of food wastage reverberates down the supply chain, increasing requirements for storage, transport and packaging. But the biggest impact by far comes in food production” (emphasis added).
Now, Dr. Reay didn’t actually advocate a reduction in showers as a solution to climate change, but Lewis Page over at The Register argues that it’s a natural next conclusion:
“Even Reay isn’t quite willing to advocate the end of daily baths or showers, but he probably rightly thinks that around half of the population believes it is made to wash its clothes too often at the insistence of the other half, and so focuses on laundry.”
“The real news here—and the blunt truth, barring a worldwide shift to nuclear power or some other massive breakthrough—is that carbon emissions cuts in line with those demanded by climate activists mean we’ll all have to become very dirty and smelly,” concludes Page. “And that’s just for starters.”
Like, for example, suggesting that America should have fewer kids as a method for cutting “legacy” carbon emissions, as two Oregon State University professors did earlier this year.
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.