Donnachadh McCarthy: The Home Ecologist

This year I only used my gas supply for cooking. I was astonished that my bill came to just £6
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The Independent Online

This was the first full year that I had my wood-burner for heating the house – and thus the first time that I only used my gas supply for cooking. I was astonished that though I cook a full dinner for myself almost every day, the gas bill came to only just over £6 for the year. Having realised how little energy I use for cooking, I set aside my dream of replacing my gas oven with a wood-burning Rayburn. It seems that eliminating the last 10 per cent of one's energy carbon footprint can often be very expensive.

But if you are replacing your oven, what should you buy? Not having ever done this myself, I thought I would ask the experts. Which? magazine, surprisingly, had not yet compared ovens for energy efficiency, and the nice lady at the Energy Savings Trust said she had not been asked the question before. Finally, good old John Lewis was able to tell me that all its electric single ovens were A-rated, but it had no ratings for its gas ovens.

Luckily, I had recently bought Chris Goodall's excellent How to Live a Low-Carbon Life. In it I was delighted to find some excellent analysis about cookers. Unsurprisingly, like me, he favours gas over electric ovens, because gas ovens emit far less CO2. Due to the extreme inefficiency of our fossil-fuel electric power stations, electric ovens are indirectly responsible for emitting almost three times as much CO2.

You could also invest in a pressure cooker, a sealed pot that goes on top of an electric or gas cooker to speed up cooking times – cook some cabbage in a couple of minutes, or a whole chicken in 25. The pressure generated by trapping the steam raises its temperature, which helps to cook the food faster.

Although cooking is responsible for only 5 per cent of our home energy use, if the 56 per cent of UK homes that have electric ovens switched to gas, they could save about 3 per cent of their home's CO2 emissions. Goodall estimates that it would take only about two years before the CO2 that is emitted actually manufacturing the new gas oven would be saved. It would also save about £55 a year, making for a cash payback period of about four years.

People occasionally point out that no suggestion will solve our global warming crisis 100 per cent. To me, that is like complaining that a 100-metre sprint-runner is unable to complete the race in just one step. Tackling the climate crisis in individual steps is a lot easier than trying to solve it in one incredibly difficult leap. Energy-efficient cooking is one small step that we can all easily take.

Donnachadh McCarthy is an eco-auditor and the author of 'Easy Eco Auditing'.