The fact that the carbon footprint is currently a hot topic is undoubtedly good news for greens and anti-Tesco activists worldwide. Comparable to Karl Marx in that it can be applied to anything, the constant theme of living sustainably is also starting to annoy me a little.
It is simple to blame the Tescopoly gang, but in all honesty, they cannot be held solely responsible for the UK’s ranking as the country with the third-lowest recycling rate in the developed world. In the eye of this green storm, their PR has gone into overdrive, with Sainsbury’s devoting Friday 27th April and Tuesday 29th May (to continue once every month) to giving their ‘bag for life’ gratis, as an alternative to their normal plastic bags (interestingly, in April they gave out more in that one day than they would sell in a year, £700,000 worth), along with their collaboration with designer Ayna Hindmarch and her “I’m Not A Plastic Bag” bag, which created an eBay frenzy in the on June 20th, it will be available for purchase in the US. American citizens are fortunate, but consider the unfortunate Northern Irish, who starting in July will be required to pay 5p per plastic bag at Marks & Spencer. (Later in the year, if the program is a success, it will be implemented nationwide in the UK.) The same M&S recently reported a 28% profit, or pound;1 billion.
Will it actually succeed, though? I’m tempted to say yes considering that I spent last year living in Germany. There, I realized how important it is to make recycling simple. I also started to appreciate the four-bin recycling system (paper, plastic, glass, and waste) and the fact that I had to carry a bag to the grocery store.
What is all this fuss about carbon offsetting, then?
So Stelios certainly has a lot to answer for. Flying has never been more convenient, and as it becomes more and more popular, websites like http://www.co2balance.com, where you can calculate how many trees need to be planted to offset the carbon produced by your trip or home, are becoming more and more popular. According to their boffins, “a single short haul flight produces roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent to five train trips to and from Aberdeen and London.”
Call me cynical, but is there any way to ensure that these trees actually appear, or are these websites just a clever business strategy that appeals to the sentiments of the ethically-minded? Can they ensure that the money generated by these sites and the increasingly fashionable “bags for life” is going toward environmental projects rather than going to the pockets of dishonest fat cats in their ivory towers?
I’ll keep traveling, recycling, and turning the TV off at the wall while I wait. That’s easy.