Will Anderson: The Green House

There are vicious circles to be found everywhere, but you can do your bit to step outside them
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The Independent Online

Is Spain in the frying pan or the fire? Recent data have revealed that the country's carbon dioxide emissions rose by 48 per cent between 1990 and 2004. Given that their Kyoto target is for a mere 15-per-cent rise between 1990 and 2010, the Spaniards appear to have flunked their national carbon challenge rather badly.

One of the reasons for this is the severe drought that has reduced the output of Spain's hydroelectric power stations and so increased dependence on fossil fuels.

This is a classic vicious circle of climate change: the impact of warming results in increased carbon emissions and so even faster warming. Regrettably, there are some much bigger vicious circles ahead such as the melting Siberian permafrost that threatens to release huge quantities of methane, a gas with an impact on global warming 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. But there are virtuous circles too: higher temperatures may lead to more cloud cover, which will reflect light out to space before it turns to heat.

Such global dynamics may seem overwhelming but they should not deter us from turning our own, everyday vicious circles into paths of virtue. Here are a few suggestions:

Stop shopping in big, energy-intensive supermarkets. Supermarkets are slick and convenient but they turn shopping into a repetitive chore. Unfortunately the more you hate shopping, the more you want to keep it quick and convenient.

It may not be easy to break the habit but your interest in what you buy and where it comes from will blossom. Shopping in seasonal markets never feels like tedious time-wasting.

Compost your kitchen waste. Chucking everything into landfill might be the easy option but it is hardly rewarding. Composting requires a little more effort but when was happiness - and rich, crumbly soil improver - ever achieved without effort?

Think second-hand first. It may be reassuring and straightforward to go to the familiar department store but it's also really boring. Save all the resources and energy that go into new products by exploring second-hand options whenever you are in need. Car-boot sales, eBay, antiques auctions and local papers are all excellent environmental resources, helping to keep unwanted things wanted and used. They're much more fun to get involved with too.

Use natural toothpastes and detergents. Big-brand synthetic detergents are full of cheap tricks such as sodium lauryl sulphate which, despite being an irritant, is commonly added to shampoo and toothpaste to make them foam. Natural alternatives may seem odd at first but in time you will be glad to be free of the cheap tricks.

Make your own hot water. Why burn imported Russian gas when the sun is beating down on your roof? Install a solar panel and your experience of hot showers on sticky summer days will be that bit more of a personal pleasure.

If eco-choices have a reputation for being burdensome this is because we are so used to pacing out our vicious circles. Change your pace, step onto a virtuous circle and a different life becomes not only possible but delightful.

w.anderson@independent.co.uk

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Try Sarakan toothpaste for a fortnight and see if you still like the "mouth-feel" of the big brands. Available from health food shops.

* GREAT WEBSITE

This is National Compost Awareness Week so check out www.organicgarden.org.uk and www.recyclenow.com/in_the_garden/compost.html to get yourself motivated.

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