Issue 5 : 19th December 2005  

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Yule never walk alone!

This Christmas issue is crammed full of good news. What an amazing time to be alive! We are all witnessing – and part of – lots of small ‘tipping points’* and we even saw the USA have a change of heart in Montreal.

*Must-read: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

In this issue:

How Hemel Hempstead is helping hammer home the CO2 message
Update from the climate march
Download the hard-hitting government climate challenge ads
Your last chance to save on a power meter
Listen to Bill Clinton's AMAZING speech
Mission possible 5: offsetting your carbon emissions


Hemel Hempstead
11th December

Regular newsletter readers will know how badIy I have been wishing that CO2 was visible. ("If CO2 were coloured purple we would have witnessed the sky change colour in our lifetimes.") Well, everyone in the south east witnessed the sky change colour.

As I write, thick black smoke from the fuel depot fire in Hemel Hempstead is visible from my window – despite Marlow being more than 20 miles away.

But the volume of oil stored at the depot represents about a quarter of one day's UK consumption. So, while it’s still happening, picture four such giant plumes of black smoke – all day, every day. That’s what we contribute in the UK every single day. There’s no doubt in my mind: if we could see it, we would have stopped burning fossil fuel decades ago!

As well as all the soot, for every barrel of oil burnt at the depot, some 500kg of invisible CO2 is unleashed too. The fire will have contributed a needless 400,000 tonnes of CO2. So does that wipe out all my good work of a lifetime – my tiny drop in the ocean? Yes, of course. But hang on. If every household in the UK saves a tonne of CO2 next year – shaving a whopping £100 off their energy bill in the process – that’s 10 million tonnes we’ve saved between us.

Interestingly, in America, the Environmental Protection Agency site has a children’s page. Learn why the colour purple is so important at this air quality page.

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Walking the walk

The climate march on 3rd December was well attended and well reported. Highlights included speeches by Caroline Lucas and George Monbiot.

My friend Liz Reason, of Reasons to be Cheerful, and founder of Think Purple, inscribed our 14-inch diameter purple balloons with carbon captions: 100 watt bulb: 1 hour; 4WD car: 100 yards; TV on standby: 10 hours; 1kW heater: 6 minutes. The balloons, which each represented what 50 grams of pure CO2 would look like, attracted a lot of interest. We gave them away to delighted children at the end of the day.

The moral: many tiny drips soon add up to a sea change.

We helped to create a global wave of protest to press for the urgent action we need to prevent the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate! 10,000 is the figure given by the Independent on Sunday for the number of marchers on what was a groundbreaking event for climate campaigning in the UK.

For a great picture from the air, visit

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Talking the talk

I’ve been fortunate to have been given many opportunities to spread the climate change message recently:

• Sustain Magazine conference – reporting back on my 14-day carbon detox.
• British Precast Concrete’s annual conference in Loughborough.
• The All Party Parliamentary Group and CIBSE event at Portcullis House.
• The Civic Trust Salon.
• A lunchtime carbon talk to all staff at a leading firm of architects, followed by an audit of their individual carbon footprints. The company has pledged to cut their carbon emissons as a result.
• And I have spoken about carbon at a large corporate’s management away-day.

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Tomorrow’s climate: today’s challenge

“If we could see the gases, the cause of the problem would be obvious to everyone”

So says the voiceover in the compelling new government video about the climate challenge, in which thick coloured smoke billows from cars, planes, office blocks, and rows of houses. You can view the video – and listen to the radio adverts – at

Download them now, and help spread the message of our time. It’s time to make CO2 performance visible.

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Carbon detox update

As an experiment, I managed to trim a further 20% off my family’s carbon footprint over a two-week period, despite the severe cold weather.

It was a sort of voluntary power cut. Lent, but for 14 days. If we manage to keep that up for the rest of the year we will be down to 7.5 tonnes a year instead of 9 tonnes.

We achieved much of the saving by frequent use of our wood-burning stove – displacing 40% of the gas use that would have occurred. We also turned the thermostat down further, and monitored our electrical power use very closely with the plug-in power meter featured in the last issue.

We even managed to reset our burglar alarm so that the control panel lights are now always off. (That alone will save 90 kilos of CO2 and £15 a year!)

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Half price power meter offer ends soon!

Buy a plug-in power meter from Maplin Electronics before 24 December and you’ll pay just £12.49.

Interestingly, the Money pages of the Telegraph seem to have adopted Carbon Coach recommendations and are plugging this power meter device too!

Get yourself a power meter from

As well as positive feedback about the power meter, I also heard from two brave, honest souls who asked me how on earth to use it! (And that was after reading the instructions…)

So, here goes. It's very simple.

1. Plug it into a socket, somewhere you'll be able to see the display without yoga contortion.

2. Plug in your favourite appliance. Laptop. Juicer. Lamp. Phone charger. Radio. TV.

3. Switch it on.

4. Press the middle button labelled WATT. This is the one that matters. You pay for watts multiplied by time. Up will come a number – let’s say 10. This is very low (a kettle uses 2,500 watts). But even 10 watts left on 24/7 all year adds up. Here’s how: (10 x) 24 x 7 x 52 (weeks) = 87,600 watt hours = 87.6 kilowatt-hours = 88kWh. If you pay 8 pence a unit, that's £7.00. It's also 40 kilograms of CO2.

5. Hey presto – you are now in charge! Now you can compare how your other household appliances fare. You may be surprised. Don’t forget to check power use on standby too (those calculations will soon have you switching everything off at the socket!).

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Must-hear: Bill Clinton’s AMAZING speech

At 30 minutes long it’s a lot to ask, but I promise you won’t regret it. I believe it’s one of the best and most timely speeches of all time.

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Working together

I got up early to write this issue, turned on my laptop, and looked to the sky for inspiration. An amazing sight greeted me: nine or so swans, flying in a V formation.

How clever life is when it’s our life energy that we need to conserve. The V is, of course, to streamline the swans so they can fly longer, or further. It reminded me of how we all work better together.

As Thomas Arnold the historian said: "The difference between one man and another is not mere ability. It is energy."

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Wood burning stoves for a warm winter glow

Many of you have asked me where to find the best quality wood burning stoves. As well as being lovely, (mmm that smell!) these can take some (zero carbon) load off your central heating system. Feast your eyes on:

Mine is chugging away nicely as I write this and providing a warm glow!

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Carbon copy

Supposing everyone starts copying the behaviour and lifestyle we want rather than that we don’t. (We’re back to The Tipping Point.) What if we all start to be the change we want to see in the world? (As Gandhi asked us to.) Then we can hope China does copy us, rather than fearing that it will…

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More carbon coaches needed

Many people are interested in becoming a carbon coach. And why not? The UK, conservatively, needs about 100,000 of them…

Need carbon coaching to keep going, or carbon cajoling to get started? Drop me a line!

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Bright gift ideas, Christmas lights, Christmas delight

No! I’m not suggesting you do anything different whatsoever about your Christmas lighting display. Except maybe to enjoy it to the full. Savour it. Be delighted! This year of course – if you have bought a power meter – you can measure the actual watts. Our tree lights use a total of just 20 watts – nothing much when you consider they’ll be packed away by January.

Last issue I asked, “How long before the old style light bulb becomes the universal symbol, not for a bright idea, but for institutionalised stupidity?”

Well, now you have sampled the delights of the new sexy, stylish, compact, ultra-long-life light bulbs for yourselves, why not buy a few spares for gifts? No, not instead of a Christmas present (not even I would do that!). I’m going to give one to an elderly neighbour. By doing so I am effectively giving them £50 off their future electricity bills.

Eco-friendly bulbs of all descriptions – and plenty of special offers – can be found at:

Show your friends you care – for them and the planet – and give away these stylish symbols of hope, optimism and intelligence.

A gift to yourself and your family – Christmas trees!

OK. This one isn’t cheap. But now you know the total carbon tonnage of your home lifestyle – why not consider offsetting the lot? Companies such as and will send you a certificate stating that you’ve paid them to carry out climate restorative actions – such as planting trees – sufficient to offset your whole year’s CO2. The cost is around £8 per tonne. It’s a luxury, and it doesn’t solve your carbon emissions, but it feels good.

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You're already moving nicely along your journey towards a carbon-lite lifestyle. But please help me to help others join you by getting your friends to subscribe to this free newsletter. Remind them that the outcome will be hugely worthwhile for their pocket, their peace of mind, and for the planet.

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas

Dave Hampton
The Carbon Coach


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