Hit & Run: A paw carbon rating

Tuesday 27 October 2009 01:00

Forget scratched furniture and suspicious patches on the living room carpet – your pet suddenly has a lot to answer for: the planet's environmental future no less.

Brenda and Robert Vale are professors of architecture at Victoria University, New Zealand, who specialise in sustainability and they claim the carbon pawprint of a pet dog (roughly the size of an alsatian), is twice that of a 4.6-litre Toyota Land Cruiser driven 10,000 kilometres a year. Writing in Time to Eat the Dog, the pair use all sorts of calculations to compare the ecological impact of pets with common vehicles or household appliances. Instead of looking at the volume of carbon dioxide produced – the normal method of measuring carbon footprints – the Vales have used the amount of land necessary to grow enough food to "power" your dog, cat or your car. So, according to the couple, 0.84 hectares of land creates enough food to feed a German Shepherd for a year, but only half this space would be enough – if all the food was converted to energy it could use – to keep a Land Cruiser going for the same length of time.

Mind-bending stuff, and more than a little scientifically dubious ("I wouldn't have thought a dog had anywhere near as high a carbon footprint as a car," says John Buckey, managing director of carbonfootprint.com). But taking the statistics at face value, did you know that cats have a marginally smaller carbon footprint than a Volkswagen Golf (both roughly 0.15 hectares)? Or that hamsters have a footprint of 0.014 hectares, meaning if you had two it would be about as environmentally dangerous as owning a plasma television? Given the state of British broadcasting, the animals would probably be more entertaining.

So what, then, is the most eco-friendly of God's creatures? Well, it's all down to size, and food consumption. If the average labrador weighs a whopping 30kg, then a schnauzer, at 7.5kg (again, an average weight) would be a third less problematic for Mother Earth. A cat, at just 5kg, would be even less harmful. Or what about a chicken or a bee? As well as being titchy, they also produce edible things.

One thing's for sure, the title of the Vales' book – essentially sticking Fido in the oven – is unlikely to win the average-dog owner over. Everyone knows cats are far tastier. Rob Sharp

Fat chance of a winner's dinner

MasterChef: The Professionals is over for another year. Marianne couldn't make her jelly set, Daniel made a balls of the brioche and Steve Groves walked off with the prize. Steve's a bit of a trickster – he endeared himself to millions with his reinvention of poached egg with soldiers – and it's a shame we won't see him any more. But we can eat his food, can't we? He's junior sous chef at Launceston Place in Kensington. Quick! Book a table before the rest of London has the same idea! "Sorry," says a chap called Zafar on the phone, "I'm afraid no tables are available this weekend," (what, are you kidding?) "although we might be able to squeeze you in on Sunday evening." Can I be sure I'm eating something prepared by Steve's hands? "Our chefs don't make individual dishes," says Zafar, "The dishes are jointly prepared by all of them." Curses. How many diners would love to summon Steve from the kitchen, to yell, Gregg Wallace-style, "Nah THAT. Is a GREAT. Plate of FOOD"? John Walsh

Gaddafi: a dedicated dictator of fashion

Colonel Gaddafi's wardrobe offered up another fashion triumph yesterday during an interview with Sky News, in which he expressed regret for the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in 1984.

If you couldn't quite hear his mumbled apology, perhaps that's because it was drowned out by the loudness of his outfit. Gaddafi's bright green-and-brown shirt looked like camouflage, but would only work as such if he were trying to blend into the background in Balamory.

It's only after you gaze at the pattern for a moment that you realise it's actually an outline of Africa. The Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya didn't make his name as a loopy despot by choosing practicality over style. As the George Melly of the geopolitical scene, every time he attends an international conference filled with grey-suited fellow leaders he sticks out like a sore thumb.

Gaddafi's gaudy garb – the medal-encrusted military uniforms; the Saturday Night Fever suits; the colour-bending kufis; the Cuban heels; the beach shirts and classic shades – transform him from a ruthless dictator into a figure of fun, gulling us into taking him less seriously. But there are important messages in his sartorial choices, too: the Africa-print is a recurring theme from a man who's spent considerable time and energy repositioning himself as an African, not an Arab, leader. Tim Walker

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