The easiest Carbon you ever saved?

Published on by Matt Gitsham.

98% reduction

As anyone battling to reduce carbon emissions knows the challenge is never ending. You pick a target, hopefully the easy wins first, you analyse, recommend, make the changes, monitor the results then move on. This is sensible. To achieve reductions you must focus your energy (oh dear) on specific areas rather than try to tackle everything at once. So if someone suggested an opportunity exists to reduce an area of carbon emissions by 98% simply by nudging user habits, the cry of “snake oil!” may not be far behind.

Image courtesy of Sustain Ltd

Turn down the heat

Yet this opportunity exists in the area of the humble kitchen or bathroom hot water tap. A simple calculation reveals that an electrically heated litre of water (to 45°C) has 50 times the carbon footprint of the same volume of cold water. Equally water heated to 100°C has a carbon footprint in excess of 130 times that of cold water. This being the case how many users of said hot tap leave it running? Swill out their mug with hot water? Wipe down a surface with hot water? What a waste.

But it’s the way we’ve always done it….

This is the cue for the howls of those out there who would stand aghast at the thought of using cold water for such crucial hygiene related jobs, but what is this decision to use hot water based on? Using hot water does not kill any more bacteria than cold water , the temperature required to do this would be too much to handle. The World Health Organisation does not even give a water temperature to wash hands with, just soap and scrubbing. So why the hot water? The way we’ve always done it? Once the facts are known, (provided by a simple poster perhaps?) as to the carbon penalty for such a policy maybe perceptions can be changed? Maybe sacrificing the hot is worth a try and maybe this is just about the easiest carbon you’ve ever saved?

98% Carbon reduction, not a saving that comes along every day.