Well COP26 is upon us and I'm wondering how to be more green, or more especially how to go boating in a greener fashion. After I've typed in my thoughts (which I haven't had yet) I'd be grateful if anyone else can chip in to help.
Thought No 1: is this a serious problem? Of course it is. On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd put it at 11. Extremely serious - not particularly for me 'cos I won't live to see the worst of it but my kids and grandchildren face a pretty bleak future if we don't do something now. I have no time for climate change sceptics. If they can't see what's staring them in the face then I won't waste my time arguing with them.
Thought No 2: I have to own up that a narrowboat like ours is off to a bad start in being green. An older inefficient internal combustion engine burning red diesel for hours a day is not good. Neither is a heating stove burning fossil fuels or an Eberspacher diesel heater. Of course if I'm not moving the boat or using the heating it's OK but that rather defeats the object of having a boat. Also, every time I travel from home to the boat, that's another hour and three quarters car driving.
Thought No 3. There are more positive attributes. Boaters tend to be more frugal with water. Our boat has a composting toilet which uses no water and no chemicals. We have solar panels to make electricity, albeit mostly in the summer. And if we do run the engine to move the boat, we make hot water and electricity at the same time so it makes good use of what fuel we do burn.
So what's to be done? How can a boater reduce his /her carbon footprint?
Well of course there's all the personal stuff which applies whether you're on a boat or not. Eat less red meat and dairy, wear extra clothes in winter, reduce use of plastics, etc. At home we've dropped the thermostat a couple of notches, tried to cut down on packaged foods and consumables, avoided food products flown in by plane or grown in hot houses, cut down on car use, experimented with non dairy alternatives like oat milk (ok but not as nice - I hear good things about almond milk so we're trying that next). Etc etc.
But what about the boat specific stuff?
Well I suppose the first thing is to see if we can run the engine less. That means two things - travelling less far and minimising our use of battery electricity. It's true that these days we don't cover the distances that we used to and are often quite happy to stay in one spot for a couple of days. I guess we might /should do more of that. In the winter though, we don't get a lot from the solar panels, so the engine has to run to keep the batteries up. And if the engine is running for battery charging you might as well be moving. Hmmm. How about in cold weather not using the fridge? We could keep stuff cold in a cool box in the well deck. The fridge is the main eater of battery power so that would be a good saving I reckon. Of course if we didn't eat meat or dairy we probably wouldn't need a fridge anyway.
In the past I've put a clip-on ammeter onto the charging lead from the alternator and it seemed to me that it showed that the charging current didn't improve much with increased engine speed, so there's a tip - if you do run the engine just for charging, run it gently -that will burn less diesel.
I always go on about making sure firewood for the stove should be properly dried, and that does make a difference to how much wood you burn for a given amount of heat. Less wood =less CO2.
LED lights inside the boat? Got'em. They use about a tenth of what a neon strip uses.
Now I'm running out of ideas. Short of selling the boat or keeping an expensive boat and not using it much, I can't think of much else. I'm sure there are ideas out there. Let's pool them and go green together if we can. Over to you.
PS I forgot to mention one thing. It can be quite hard to know what to do for the best and how much difference certain actions make in reducing your carbon footprint. One book that is really helpful in that respect is How Bad Are Bananas by Mike Berners-Lee (brother of the more famous Tim). It's packed with the facts and figures you need to know and very readable to boot. Highly recommended. BTW bananas are not bad. Unless you are diabetic.