Experiences, we all undertake them and have an idea about what it is. It can actually be so many things; learning, growing, enjoying or improving yourself. For me having coffee or tea with a friend is an experience, joining a course to study something or going on holiday. It can be something small that only takes an hour or it can take several weeks up to a year. Every experience will have a carbon footprint but I am still wondering which experiences are the better choice to do without having too big an impact. I will calculate the CO₂e of several options. If you don’t know what it is or how it works, you might first take a look at the calculation of my own carbon footprint for some basic explanation.
So sometimes I go out for a coffee with a friend, either to maintain the friendship or to discuss something important. It really depends on what you are drinking, how much impact this might have. I love to have a cappuccino every now and then but it turns out that it is not a very good choice. The more milk that is in the drink, the higher the impact on the environment. The best thing is to drink a black tea or coffee (impact, 21gr CO₂e) and the worst thing a large latte (impact 340gr CO₂e), followed by the cappuccino. You can see there is a huge difference! So perhaps I should take the cappuccino just occasionally and order a tea more often. Although, compared to other experiences, this is not that bad.
What if you like to go to the swimming pool every week? This one has a much higher impact. If you look at all the aspects together, so the electricity and gas impact, waste, staff, customer travel and others, the impact per visitor would be 17 kg CO₂e. You could have 50 large lattes for that same amount! Suffice to say, this impact could be 30% lower if the efficiency would be improved. To be honest, I rather go rowing but it was difficult to find the carbon emission of that.
You might expect a theatre to have a lower impact but appearances may be deceiving. London’s theatre industry produces 50.000 tonnes of CO₂e per year. This would be the same as 125 swimming pools! The area of London probably does not have that much swimming pools so I expect the impact of the Theatre to be higher. Although it is hard to say without knowing the amount of visitors every year.
Would it then be a better option to go to the cinema? Well, there are two aspects that are important in this calculation. Going to the cinema to watch a film might not be of big influence on the carbon emission but producing the film is a whole different story. Set construction, craft services, props, make-up and other things give a high impact on the emission. The only facts on CO₂e of movies that I could find are from the film ‘The Age of Stupid’ and as far as I may believe, this is not a high impact film. Together the production and promotion of this film produced was more than 151000 kg CO₂e. Seems to be a lot but they state that this is only 1% of the emission of a Hollywood movie.
Maybe you think you’re better off starting to study again. A language course or starting a PhD. Unfortunately it isn’t any better. It might be a good experience for yourself, to learn and grow, but the carbon emission is huge! Research done at the Lancaster University showed that the University had a yearly CO₂e of 8 tonnes per staff member and student. This included everything the university bought; from the electricity and business travels to paper clips. But it is hard to compare this to other Universities. Some universities are bigger than others and have different expenses. Language courses are sometimes given by smaller organisations which just rent a room to teach. So probably not worth it worrying about it too much.
Like I expected, none of the experiences has a zero carbon footprint, even walking or cycling generates CO₂e because you burn calories when undertaking this. Playing the piano is probably my most environmental friendly hobby. Although I think we should not focus on every bit too much, an experience is ultimately to enjoy yourself. So when you undertake something, make it worth generating the CO₂e by loving it!
Next time: One experience that I did not discuss in this post is holiday. There are so many different types of holidays. Depending on how you do it, it might be a very environmental friendly. I am going on holiday next week so I am about to find out more on that topic! You can read my findings in the next post.
Book: How bad are bananas? – Mike Berners-Lee