Issue 3 : 10th November 2005  

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Welcome to my new-look newsletter! Welcome also if this is your first issue. I've had some great responses from the newsletter's readers to the first two issues. Many thanks. It's your feedback and participation that makes this whole thing work. Keep it coming in! Among many other things, in this issue you can:

Share me and my balloon's moment of fame
Discover the burning issue facing us all
Save the world in 14 days
Use your purchasing power to combat climate change
Learn what WASTE stands for and why you shouldn't stand for it!
Take this issue's mission possible (should you wish to accept it)


The balloon’s gone up!

Last Wednesday, 2 November, in the ballroom of the Park Lane Hilton in London, I was honoured to receive the inaugural 'Building Magazine Sustainability Leadership Award'.

On stage with me came a massive one-metre diameter purple balloon – representing one kilogram of pure CO2 – to remind everyone of the scale of their carbon footprints. While Michael Portillo gave some great speeches I still took the opportunity to enquire what his footprint might be!

The award is especially for my wife and kids, and my colleagues at ABS. But more vitally, it really does mean there are a great many people out there who share my passion and enthusiasm – and who share my deepest fears.

Fears can be cool, though! If CO2 were purple we'd have noticed the sky changing colour in our lifetimes. That really scares me. So from now on, my introduction will be, “Hi, I’m Dave Hampton. I’m nine tonnes!”

Afterwards, I was asked what winning the award means to me. My comment was that although it was really cool to win and although it means a hell of a lot, it's not my award! It's everyone's!

That's the point. With sustainability we all win!

See a full account of the evening's fun in 'Dave’s Diary', my new weblog

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A burning issue

With the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ plot, the bonfire provides us with a perfect metaphor. Welcome to the biggest bonfire on Earth.

We’ve burnt half our stock-pile – our fossil inheritance. The smoke is getting thick. Mother Nature has never faced such an aggressive attack on her self-regulating systems. Spaceship Earth is in bad shape.

Time may be a wonderful healer, but in this case we need to cease doing the damage before we trust to Father Time to heal. Stopping the world and wanting to get off just won’t do. Words are cheap, but actions are so thin on the ground as to be an endangered species!

Most people have ‘got it’ now. Not all. Most.

I was giving a talk at Canary Wharf last week, surrounded by in-built energy waste. What point was there in turning off just one light switch? None at all? Our actions may seem utterly insignificant, but it's vitally important that we take them anyway. Mahatma Ghandi said, “To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”

As it happened, I was told I could not turn the light off, as a single (common) switch controlled all lights for two separate conference rooms! The person in each one always left the lights on in case the other happened to be in!

Starting to get our low-carbon act together and putting our own houses in order works miracles. It lifts from our shoulders a lifelong, deep, subtle and nagging unease. It’s all we need to do for now. It proves change is possible. It opens the gate of the sheep pen.

When we lead, others will follow. And leading feels SO much better.

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14 days to save the world

Sustain Magazine are holding an event called '14 days to save the world'. They’ve asked me to be on their panel. Everyone is being invited to make a pledge. What I am going to do is to live for 14 days – me and my whole family, in fact – in a kind of a carbon ‘fast’. A CO2 detox.

We are all going to avoid energy use as best we can, as if we are mid power-cut! Just to see what it's like. Nothing too extreme – I don’t want to scar my kids for life (any more than I've done already!).

But my hope is that we come out the other side appreciating each Kwh, each litre of oil, each therm of gas, just a wee bit more. And we set a new benchmark for the art of the possible. It will be fun. And if it isn’t – it means we’ve gone too far.

Take a look at

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Carbon conscious? You can bank on it!

I'm pleased to announce that the Carbon Coach's banking services – business and home – are now with HSBC and First Direct. At first I wanted to go for Co-op or Triodos, but HSBC’s newly declared commitment (by their Chairman Sir John Bond) to carbon neutrality has won them my business! My children have young saver building society accounts with Nationwide, who are also taking a responsible attitude to carbon management.

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I recently read about a new car, the ‘EcoRacer’, coming soon from VW. One to look forward to. Ultra lightweight. 140mph. 0–60 in three seconds. And 100mpg! That’s what the doctor ordered. It should be OK with biodiesel in the future too. Me want one!

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Use your purchasing power

Big thanks to all those who have told me you have switched to a green tariff – that is so great! You are sending a big signal to the power companies that you don’t want dirty energy.

Several of you have got your company at work to look (or look again, in some cases) at green tariffs – go, go, go! After all, if HSBC can go zero carbon, so can we.

Money talks. Every purchase you make, however small, is a privileged opportunity to make a sensible decision about the future. Choose wisely. There will always be a ‘lower-carbon’ option. Ask the question. How much power will this need? Just think what happens when everyone starts asking for low energy TVs. Would you want to be left with stock of the old ones? Try it. “How many watts does this TV use please?” See, it's easy!

When I buy a coffee I often say I DON’T want to drink UNFAIRLY traded coffee. It’s the same with energy. I don’t want to be more reliant on a dirty national grid than I have to. Clean local renewable power can meet some of my needs – and it tastes better!

NB One reader joked that now he had switched to green electricity he was leaving all the lights on to boost demand for renewables! Now that's going too far!

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Waste is a state of mind. Loosely, that state is
“What A Shame Tomorrow Exists”.

Sadly, it'sa state we have grown used to. How depressing. But it ain’t gonna go away if all we do is sweep waste under the carpet, whether that’s carbon dioxide airfill, carbon underground storage (great idea, but God got there first, that’s what fossil fuel is!) nuclear or landfill. Waste dulls the brain and kills the spirit.

Instead of WASTE think DUMP, or ‘Don’t Use My Patch’. After all, if everyone is a NIMBY we have no back yards to dump on, so we’d best stop fouling our own nests!

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I’m the fire starter . . .

I’ve always loved lighting fires. Today I ordered, from a local supplier, six sacks of logs for our new mini room-sealed wood stove. I can’t wait to light it. If the winter of discontent happens, if we get power cuts, we will at least have some logs. If the predicted freezing weather comes this winter, we can huddle in one room. If we get some winter sunshine, we will get some warm water too, from our solar panel. Not hot, but not cold either!

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Breathe deep

“We live, in reality, not on top of a solid earth, but at the bottom of an ocean of air.”
Thales of Miletus

The air around us – that we all share and take for granted – is changing fast. If CO2 were purple, we’d have witnessed the sky change colour in our lifetimes. Sea change always starts with drops in the ocean . . .

Check out partner organisation, CarbonSense, at

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I cannot believe I've set such an easy task for this issue. This month there are not one but TWO great campaigns in full flow. It will take you three minutes maximum to sign BOTH.

If you have already petitioned the Prime Minister using the former – well done! Your task is now to use the site again to email your MP – I just have. And before you say you are too busy and what difference does one person make, remember the words of the anthropologist, Margaret Mead:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that does."

To recap on past missions:

Mission # 1 was to switch to a green tariff or to persuade a good friend to. For the more ambitious, try to get your company to make the switch as well.

Mission # 2 was to find out the official grams of CO2 per kilometre rating for your car or cars. Multiply that rating by 1.6 to get your CO2 per mile. Then multiply by your annual mileage to get your number of grams of CO2 per year. Then divide by 1,000 to get kilos and by 1,000 again to get tonnes.

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Well, that's almost it for this issue. Just two final things. One, an apology for jumping on the 'anti-4WD' bandwagon in issue 2. Sorry! I do appreciate that many of you need 4x4s where you live, and that's cool. Also, I know many of you manage to keep your total CO2 down low anyway. Low mileage, by careful driving and even by engine fuel conversions ! Good work!

Two, some have been surprised by your car's grams of CO2 per kilometre figure that you got off the website. Do let me know your stories.

Until soon

Dave Hampton
The Carbon Coach


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