With this book at your hands there is no excuse not to do your bit when it comes to saving energy, or to put it more trendily to "lower your carbon foot print." Don't know what I am talking about? Then this book is for you too. It covers everything from a basic introduction about carbon emissions to facts, information and stats relating to individuals, the UK and the global situation.
This sounds potentially overwhelming, but the 10 chapters are broken down into succinct, easy to grasp 2-5 page sub-sections, which are partly quite surprising or even entertaining. Some of them make good snippets that will impress mates down the pub. For example, did you know that one Google search uses as much energy as using your computer for 5 minutes? This book also cuts to the chase in regards to some myths: Eco kettles don't use less energy; they only have lower set elements so you need less water to cover them, and perhaps a window so you can visually control / prevent overfilling the kettle. If you can fill your kettle with 0.25 ml for one cup then you have an eco kettle. Personally I considered myself quite an energy saving savvy buff, but the author surprised - and impressed - me with many suggestions that are easy to do, and add up to make a noticeable difference.
The style is relatively light hearted (e.g. a retro-fit low energy house is referred to as `cosy house'), and the author is not afraid to discuss examples from her own experience, which aren't always perfect. So even though the material is sometimes quite tough, it's not alienating. Much of the advice is very practical (Should I buy a new fridge? Wash dishes by hand? Use an e-reader?) and for people - like us - who are refurbishing a traditionally built house, to try and lower our energy bills, the book is invaluable. It answers questions like which insulation is best where, and the good news is with a few thousand pounds and a few grants, you can make a substantial difference to the energy efficiency of an average house. And for those that toy with the idea of using renewable energy sources such as solar panels or laying a slinky (i.e. ground source heat pump) there is a wealth of information that helps to keep the new generation of `double glazing agents' at bay. So no matter if you want to do just your bit, or quite a bit, about your CO2 footprint, this book can help.
There are a few niggles. Probably to keep the book compact, the writing style can be a bit dense. In a few places it is positively geeky, acronym-laden and borders on a text book or reference book. The cheapo pulp design does not help with the accessibility either (grey graphs on grey paper, that knocks a star off). Also the book layout - and consequently the type face - is on the small side.
Overall however it is a down to earth fountain of knowledge about all scary things renewable / CO foot print'ish, etc, and I can't wait for the e-book version :)
I've read a number of books on sustainability and sustainable lifestyles and Ive found that many are either too technical or too broad. This book hits the right balance, with it's quick summary statement at the start of each section, then more detailed supporting information thereafter explaining how the author has reached her conclusions. The breadth of topics covered is also impressive; ranging from how much photovoltaic energy can we generate to the relative carbon footprint of Kindle compared with paper books. This is the knd of book that provides the answers that prove so hard to find elsewhere.
I heard the writer of this book talking on radio four, one day, thought it sounded interesting, was very dissapointed. It was full of very scientific and uniteresting statistics, seemed to be written by one of the "Green Brigade", I personally believe the earth does its own cooling and heating, lets face it, we did not have cars and planes around hundreds of thousnds of years ago which are now being blamed for the global warming, The rest of the book was basic things, which we do, not t save the planet, but to save our hard earned money, like switching lights off in empty rooms, not impressed.
As soon as they've learned to string a few words together, children use them to ask the most awkward questions. Awkward yet often intriguing. Especially now that a lot of adult chat centres on the environment, our two want to know the answers to such complex questions as "why don't we get solar panels?" .. "why do we use those dim light bulbs?" and "am I being unkind to polar bears if I eat baby sweetcorn?".
Usually, the response to a real poser is simple; "I don't know, but we can find out". However, most of these environmental issues are highly complex and not something that you can find from a quick Websearch. Books that are written about them and which do address the issues seem to assume a PhD in Statistics and appear to have been written, at least to my BA brain, in source code.
I was complaining about this problem to a friend over lunch .. who, it turned out, being a local software consultant, passionate environmentalist and also member of Transition Cambridge, was in the throws of writing an accessible book on this very topic.She loaned me a draft version and I was quickly hooked.
"Energy and Carbon Emissions; the way we live today" is an eminently concise, readable and non-preachy account of the environmental impact of the kind of lifestyle choices and behaviours which form our everyday routines. Nicola sets out to provide a dispasssionate account of the relative effects of various choices backed up by clear charts and graphs all of which start at zero (no statistical fudgeing here). I found these really helpful and although they were not designed for children our 9 year old loves them, which I think says something about their clarity.
The four page long introduction is worth reading as a start but after than you can dip into it as and when a particular issue arises; there are sections on heating, lighting, transport, food, the efficiency of household gadgets and renewable energy, with clearly marked sub-sections. The technical information is there but it is easy simply to concentrate on the explanations if you prefer. Each section ends with a summary of things you can choose to do to reduce your carbon footprint in that particular area.
So highly recommended if you want to know how much energy you use each day making tea or whether it is worth putting solar panels on a south-east facing roof.
So no, Imogen, we won''t be swapping the Zafira for a pony. And on reflection, although I won't be spending the winter subsisting on sauerkraut, I' ll be giving that sweetcorn from Guatamala a miss.