/ Sustainability

How are you calculating your carbon footprint?

Are you working out your impact on the planet? Is it important for you to know your specific impact, or what you can do to change and improve? We want to hear what works for you.

Having been at home for more than three months now, I’ve been wondering if what I’m doing has been better or worse for the planet. 

Read all the latest COVID-19 news and advice on our dedicated hub

Having had to completely cut out all long haul flights and all but the most essential driving has undoubtedly been a positive change. 

On the other hand, I’ve become more conscious of all of the resources I’m consuming by staying at home; more parcels being delivered, more food packaging, and more energy to heat and power the house. 

Am I doing better or worse for the planet? And how can I aim toward better?

How interested, if at all, would you be in calculating your environmental footprint?
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How big is your footprint?

Carbon footprint calculators are a common way of working out your impact.

These work out your footprint by converting the expected greenhouse gasses you generate through certain activities into their carbon dioxide equivalent.

One example, carbonfootprint.com, enabled me to work out specific activities such as flying, as well as how much energy I’m using at home, based on usage data I had from my energy bills.

Were you aware of carbon footprint calculators before reading this article?
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Changing your behaviour

Having the data is helpful, but equally important is understanding what you can do to change your behaviour. 

Some carbon calculators focus less on your data and more on how you can make this change.

The Lifestyle Calculator from SITRA (the Finnish Innovation Fund), is one example. Rather than inputting data, I worked through a series of questions and received 57 different tips on how to adjust my lifestyle to lessen my impact.

What would you find most useful if you were to use a carbon footprint calculator?
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What works for you?

Have you worked out your environmental impact using a carbon footprint calculator? If you have, what did you do with that information?

If you haven’t, what is your reasoning?

Did you try either of the above examples? How would you rate them?

What improvements would you want to see incorporated to make them better for you to use?

Comments

I have not used a carbon footprint calculator. I would be happy to play with one, but reducing your carbon footprint is only one part of living sustainably. Ever since I studied chemistry at university I have become increasingly aware of the widespread use of potentially harmful chemicals in products we buy. Gardening products, furniture fire retardants and cleaning products are some examples.

Back to carbon footprint, I try to minimise energy use. My house is modern and well insulated, and I do not heat unoccupied rooms. I probably should replace the 20 year old boiler but that would involve scrapping a perfectly good boiler and replacing it with a more efficient and sophisticated one that could be less reliable. I would like to use a bus more but we have so few buses that there is little scope and (helped by coronavirus) I have driven little more than 4k miles last year. I’m retired now but always lived close to work. All my holidays are in the UK. Apart from various computers and a mobile, where security takes priority, I keep household goods longer than most people I know. I try to buy food grown in the UK, ideally locally. I have grown fruit & veg when I was younger but don’t do so now. I should really have solar panels but with gas heating I use little electricity and not a single house round here does have solar panels. I was planning to replace my present car with an EV when it is ten years old but am disappointed by the fact that prices have remained so high.

I have not used a carbon footprint calculator.

Like wavechange, I strive to minimise my energy consumption and I usually holiday in the UK.

I do own and use a car, but my annual mileage is roughly about 6000 miles per year. When I can, I use other modes of transport, not least walking.

I am not sure what this calculator will tell me that I don’t already know. Common sense and my wallet tell me not to waste energy, I live with little desire to change many of my routines and habits though I could be persuaded to do so if it didn’t mean wearing a (figurative) hair shirt and making life unpleasant. I could also be persuaded to add things to my life. Two things stop me at present. One is the ignorance of the data I am going to get from a footprint check; what it looks like and what it tells me. Secondly I am busy enough living without delving into pseudo science which may or may not be accurate and effective. I am willing to be educated at my own pace, and in my own time, by reading things and watching videos. There may be quite a few of these around, but none, so far has crossed my path. I don’t particularly like fads and popular ideas that pop up and pop down again, so I need to know that this footprint activity is worth spending time and energy on. I also need to know that I can make a difference by doing things differently.

I am not going to work out my carbon footprint. Like others I do what I think is sensible in my use of energy and resources. That includes making the products I own last, including my cars.

I think a big contribution Which? could make to carbon footprints and sustainability would be to lead the way with other organisations on minimising waste packaging, particularly plastics, and to help people focus on products that are durable and economically repairable when they test and review. Perhaps stop pushing the latest phones but , instead, join with other consumer groups in extending the life of existing phones by requiring upgrade support for at leat 6 years from when the model was replaced. And so on…….

It is interesting that the only comments – 4 – seem unenthusiastic about the use of a carbon footprint calculator and yet the poll shows 9 very interested in using it, 1 maybe and 1 not.

I’ve just had a quick try of the carbon footprint.com calculator. It seemed to show that I had a very average overall footprint:

House 0.85 tonnes of CO2e
Flights 0.00 tonnes of CO2e
Car 1.78 tonnes of CO2e
Motorbike 0.00 tonnes of CO2e
Bus & Rail 0.02 tonnes of CO2e
Secondary 3.76 tonnes of CO2e
Total = 6.40 tonnes of CO2e

Here the most significant contributions come from Secondary items:
2.64 tonnes: £2500 per year of Food and drink products for a medium meat eater
0.20 tonnes: £300 per year of Computers and IT equipment
0.77 tonnes: £1500 per year of Hotels, restaurants, and pubs etc.
0.15 tonnes: £240 per year of Telephone, mobile/cell phone call costs

Looks like I could reduce my C02 footprint by eating and drinking less. I’m not sure that this is helpful information 🙁

I used the carbon footprint calculator referenced in the Intro with the following results:
My household and personal footprint is 8.48 tonnes per year
The average footprint for people in United Kingdom is 6.50 tonnes
The average for the European Union is about 6.4 tonnes
The average worldwide carbon footprint is about 5 tonnes
The worldwide target to combat climate change is 2 tonnes

For comparison with Derek’s calculations, our figures are as follows –
Carbon Footprint:
House 5.12 tonnes of CO2e
Flights 0.00 tonnes of CO2e
Car 0.00 tonnes of CO2e
Motorbike 0.00 tonnes of CO2e
Bus & Rail 0.05 tonnes of CO2e
Secondary 3.31 tonnes of CO2e
Total = 8.48 tonnes of CO2e

I am now feeling quite guilty because I thought we were frugal in the use of resources.

The ‘house’ element is clearly the biggie. Perhaps we use more energy than is necessary as we have a tendency to keep the house on the warm side. This is gas fired; our electricity consumption is modest although all cooking and water heating for laundry and dishwashing is electric-powered.

Our ‘secondary’ consumption breaks down as follows –
Food and drink: £2000
Pharmaceuticals: £30
Clothes, textiles & shoes: £500 [likely to be an underestimate!]
Paper based products (books, mags, news): £300
Computers & IT equipment: £500
Furniture and other manufactured goods: £500
Insurance: £150
All other ‘secondary’ items: £0

I couldn’t see how the money we spend on food converts into the carbon calculation; surely it is what you eat rather than how much it costs that matters. You can eat cheap meat or more expensive meat but the carbon profile won’t differ much, surely?

We have hardly travelled over the last twelve months compared with previous years other than by bus and the occasional car journey in and around Norfolk. Many car journeys are shared with friends and reciprocated thus reducing emissions per person.

The carbon footprint calculator informs me that I can salve my guilty conscience by making an offset payment of £117 for the planting of nine trees [at the rate of one tree per tonne of CO2e] in a region of my choice in the UK. That payment includes VAT which I think is a bit of a chizz. The Council charges £250 for sponsoring a tree but at least that is a heavy standard, about 2.5m tall, and is looked after individually for the first two years and then under the general tree inspection programme. It is possible to choose exactly where the tree will be planted unlike under a general CO2 offset tree planting contribution where it is explained that “the project mainly plants in school locations, helping to educate children and support wildlife habitats whilst sequestering carbon emissions”.

Overall I think the Carbon Footprint Ltd calculator is a fairly crude measure of carbon consumption, but that might not matter much if the relative values are representative and honestly estimated. No doubt other more sophisticated calculators are available to give the calculations more integrity.

The question now is will we change as a household and reduce our footprint to the average level if possible? Or should we just make an offset payment to cover the difference between our footprint and the UK average [2 tonnes ~ £26]?

I was also surprised by how the money spent on food converted into the carbon calculation. It presumably assumes an “average person” buying normal stuff from supermarkets, with all of the CO2 overheads of their large scale operations and supply chains.

Given that food and shelder are basic needs, these are probably not areas where we can easily make substantial reductions. Obviously, well insulated homes do help.

Keith Alexander says:
9 July 2020

It would be interesting if carbon footprint calculators could inform people not only of which consumption changes they could make, but also which parts of their footprint we need to advocate for greater government action to reduce; eg, electrifying rail lines, expanding renewable generation, tighter emissions standards for freight transport, heat pumps in, and retrofit of, public sector buildings.

I would add a requirement for new public and private buildings to either incorporate a solar roof (more attractive than added solar panels) or at the very least orientated so that panels would be effective if added at a later date. If gas is to be phased out within the foreseeable future then new buildings should have ground source heat pumps.

There is only so much economically accessible latent heat in the ground. Is an infinite number of heat pumps sustainable?

I am glad Keith specified “electrifying rail lines”; it worries me that the government and others consider electrification to be impractical or unaffordable and keep looking for alternative sources of power such as batteries or hydrogen.

Batteries are not especially efficient, require scarce resources to manufacture, and are heavy and take up space; they also require charging with electricity [which can, of course, be done out of peak demand times using renewable energy but requires more infrastructure such as tidal power to provide the assurance and reliability not offered by wind power].

Hydrogen power is not particularly efficient either and requires a disproportionate amount of electricity to produce the hydrogen which then has to be distributed to and stored on board the train where it is used to make electricity for driving the motors; the hydrogen production process can also [and should] utilise off peak renewable energy but more specialised infrastructure will therefore be needed.

The beauty of electric traction, powered conventionally through overhead lines or a third rail, is that there is a national grid network supplying power throughout the country to wherever it is needed [capacity enhancement will be required in places but a general increase in energy efficiency throughout all uses means the extra demand can possibly be contained within the existing overall provision for railway purposes]; it also means that the hauled weight is reduced because there is no requirement to carry batteries or store fuel and once the entire system is electrified any train can run any where on any track. Electric trains can also use regenerative braking which puts surplus power back into the grid. Battery and hydrogen locomotives would not provide the amount of power needed for freight haulage so unless the line has been electrified we are back to diesel engines.

I have a worry that we will become totally dependent upon one fuel, electricity, for all our activity – transport and heating particularly. Diversifying its origins, solar, wind, tidal, nuclear, is one way to help security but its distribution is wide open to disruption, whether from natural or mischievous causes. How do we deal with this?

That’s definitely the way we’re going. More efficient photocells, more use of geothermal energy and possibly a concerted and government-backed scheme to create tidal power lagoons would be a start but will it all keep the lights on becomes the question.

If we are to get rid of fossil fuels it limits the alternatives substantially. Heat has to come from electrical resistance or fire, or electrically assisted pumps. As you say, there diverse ways of producing the energy, but its distribution has to be by cable and grid unless each house has its own supply. For that to happen there would be a need for the house to have some form of expendable material that would need replenishing regularly. Currently, off grid, it’s oil and Calor gas or electric generator. Fuel cells would need a supply of hydrogen. Natural sun and wind are not reliable enough to use as a sole power source on a local basis. We are very poor at storing energy. Batteries are bulky and run flat quickly. Stone and other heat absorbent materials are also bulky and, as the Romans knew, need a good strong energy source to keep them warm. It is why energy comes from outside and is converted when it reaches its destination. I don’t see that situation changing any time soon. There are too many practical problems to overcome unless each house has a nuclear cell installed. We’d all be radiated to hell but even that would need renewing every so often.

Not necessarily; miniature fusion cells have been proposed by Sci Fi writers many times. Whether that will happen in our lifetimes is, however, open to debate.

Fiction can always dream up propositions. We need science fact to come up with workable solutions That is, unless we destroy the world in the meantime. Small nuclear power stations might enable local power to be independent of a disruption to the national grid.

The problem with conventional reactors at small scale is contamination. I’ve been re-reading Asimov’s Foundation Series and it’s fascinating how much he conceived in 1948 about the present day. Miniaturisation was a theme of Foundation and Foundation and Empire. However, small reactors currently available could easily power a small town. The real problem is probably fuel handling.

Silvi Lesse says:
10 July 2020

I use carbon footprint through energy provider Its very intetesting. to know my footprint is exactually what im doing so i think figure given very good so i went around the house turning off standby devices reduce more energy which lowers my bill too. Save little more energy reduce my bill at the same time i will be contributing by helping the planet and us. I do like checking the footprint chart once every so often knowning im also doing right thing for the future. Looking for more op up ideas sure more i can do.

Silvi – Thank you on behalf of the planet Earth for your contribution to reducing its carbon footprint. It’s a good example of how everyone can help.

People can do a lot more through small changes to their lifestyle – the amount of clothing they buy, the number of miles they travel, the sort of food they eat, not replacing things that are still working satisfactorily, making the optimum use of daylight. Reading a book for a couple of hours instead of watching television or spending time on a computer can make a positive difference to energy consumption and self-improvement.

One home delivery van could save around 50 vehicles driving to stores especially as their routes are planned for maximum efficiency.

We could probably cut down on the energy we use at home but otherwise our carbon footprint will be nearly as low as it can be.

I do have a problem with businesses who justify their existence by planting a few trees to offset their high carbon footprints.

Microsoft claims it has been carbon neutral across the world since 2012.
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/corporate-responsibility/sustainability

They reduce waste by recycling and reusing materials at their facilities. What about the mountains of e-waste they create by forcing people to replace perfectly good tech? Google says more than 900 million active devices were running windows 10 in September 2019. Many of those will have gone to an electronic dump along with other older devices that had to replaced when they wouldn’t work. Zdnet estimates 200 million PCs worldwide are running older Windows versions.

Samsung have received industry’s First Global Recognition for Environmental Sustainability of its Semiconductor Solutions. Really when they have stopped supporting my perfectly good 4-year old Galaxy S7 Edge? When their components include rare earths whose extractions pollute the earth?

No amount of data manipulation will convince me these tech giants are carbon neutral.

Evolution says:
13 July 2020

I guess the majority of people commenting here are likely interested in the topic for one and perhaps already make life choices to minimise impacts to the environment and through those choices carbon footprint may be reduced.
There are many aspects to this question of carbon footprint as a previous poster commented such as buying local (food miles), life cycle analysis considerations of buying new be it a new boiler or EV car. Consideration of the longevity of these new ‘cleaner’ products and the impact of disposing of the item they will replace whilst considering the impact of the manufacture of the newer improved version.
Whilst I have never used a carbon footprint calculator myself I suspect they don’t go into the detail of these ‘life choices’ that clearly affect the longer term carbon footprint of your lifestyle.

Of necessity, the on-line carbon footprint calculators [such as the one referenced in the Introduction to this Conversation] can only give a broad-brush approximation of any individual’s or household’s environmental impact but at this stage that is still helpful in getting people to think about decarbonisation of everyday functions and lifestyle changes that will make a positive difference. It might not satisfy purists and it might show that we are a still a long way off the target.

The lack of information is a drawback on the things you have mentioned – life-cycle analysis of replacement versus continued use – and some of the considerations, as we get closer to the target, will require sophisticated and expert scientific assistance to identify the best route. But at this point in the journey it is like being at the South Pole – you can turn left or right or any way you like but you will still be going North, so any movement in the right direction on carbon reduction will be a good thing and will provide a platform for further development. I don’t think we need to get over-specific on the details yet; the main thing is to point everyone in the general direction of travel and get their vision fixed on the objective.

This whole process will require strong leadership in the UK and across the world. One bad actor can ruin the project, and that is a serious worry. Getting unanimity of purpose on climate change has been an uphill struggle, and many people take the ‘not in my lifetime’ line to excuse themselves from action. We can all influence the future through our families and friends, through the things we do and the goods we buy, and by learning more about what will make the best net contribution to carbon reduction in each sphere of activity.

This will be challenging, for the task is immense and almost beyond our capacity to contemplate because it will mean, by 2050, unpicking the habits and expectations of a century of development – or what used to be labelled ‘progress’. This is to benefit generations as yet unborn to whom we have a collective duty.

I believe plenty of people will be willing to embark on this as individuals but I am not convinced the right mind-set is yet in place at corporate levels, whether industrial, commercial, or in public services. There could be a competitive scramble to have a final fling before changes become compulsory. Consumerism is an enemy of the project and, as Alfa has commented above, the tendency to make token offset gestures, or to pay penalties to avoid compliance, remains strong.

I found the carbon footprint calculator illuminating [I have indicated the results for our household above*] and a useful way-marker for future action. It might not be perfect but it is a good starting point.
* https://conversation.which.co.uk/sustainability/carbon-footprint-calculators-coronavirus-lifestyle/#comment-1601861

Evolution – I’m interested in the lifecycle analysis of replacing a boiler, but have my concerns about whether this would be a good move. My present boiler is about 22 years old and is in good working order, but is not a condensing boiler, so is less efficient than a modern one. On the other hand it has a cast iron heat exchanger which can last for many years. The one in my previous home worked fine for at least 35 years. Modern boilers usually have aluminium heat exchangers that can corrode and leak within 10-15 years. They are much more complicated, so there is more to go wrong. A friend who lives locally had a Worcester-Bosch boiler leak after 13 years. I suggested that it would be advisable to look for a different brand with a more durable stainless steel heat exchanger, but the easiest option was to fit another W-B. 🙁 I cannot make up my mind and will probably keep my present boiler for the time being.

Replacing a car with an EV seems an easier choice because the old one is no more likely to be scrapped prematurely even if it changes hands.

I’ve a Worcester condensing boiler now 12 years old and still going strong (is that tempting fate). I’d check how much gas you would save by switching; it is said that a condensing boiler may use between 80% and 50% of the gas used by a conventional one. That might make the financial decision easy.

I’m not convinced by an only electric car, partly because of the breaks that need to be arranged in long journeys and the time spent charging. Fine if all journeys are shorter. My choice if I were to change my diesel car would be a plug-in hybrid if it had a decent range on the battery so I could switch to electric in built up areas and use petrol on the rural roads.

My Potterton Suprima 80 appears to have an efficiency of 78.8% which is good for a non-condensing boiler. New boilers must have an efficiency of at least 88%.

The best that the user can do to prolong the life of an aluminium heat exchanger is to use a suitable corrosion inhibitor and to top this up periodically because the active components are lost with time even if the system is not drained.

My 27 year old boiler is still going and last September I decided now was the time to replace it in case it broke down during the winter months.

I obtained several quotes to include installation for a Worcester Bosch Combi, which ranged from the most expensive, around £5,000 from British Gas to the lowest Corgi, just under £4,000. The remaining quotes from small independent installers varied between those two figures.

It became increasingly more complicated however, with each quote I received regarding the amount of work involved, the best place to install it, to the BG salesman advising a conventional boiler would be my best option as a Combi would restrict the water flow to one tap at a time.

In the end I had to abandon the idea as I became too unwell to cope with the 3 day upheaval and thankfully my present boiler saw me through the winter following its annual service. One thing that stood out was the cost of the installation in comparison with the cost of the actual boiler and apparatus.

If you decide to go ahead Wavechange, the best time is now, as boiler engineers approach their busiest time from September through to December, mostly attending breakdowns from boilers being switched back on after the summer months rest and annual services.
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Keep me posted on your decision.

I’m envious of your vintage boiler, Beryl. 🙂 Compared with modern boilers there is very little to go wrong. Service engineers have told me to hold on to my present boiler and the older one in my previous home.

If you can say which make and model it is then I might be able to find the efficiency, or you could search for this yourself, which is what I did today. The more gas you use the bigger the savings would be if the boiler is replaced.

Combi boilers are the most efficient but the least practical because they heat water as required (hence supplying. one tap at a time) rather than storing it in a tank. If I did not have a hot water tank I might have to get a tumble dryer for when it is not practical to hang out washing.

My annual service is overdue thanks to coronavirus so I will get someone to check it over. Reading that my boiler is efficient for a non-condensing model has discouraged me from replacing it unless a problem is found.

My boiler is an old Glow Worm Hideaway, the company now owned by Valiant I believe, who make the cheaper models.

I replaced it soon after moving here when the hot water tank became too choked up with limescale, which could recur anytime soon after 27 years. I normally book a service in the autumn and wait for the engineer to report whether he thinks it will see me through until the Spring as a guide and then decide whether to keep it or ditch it. The new Combies have a much shorter life span but as you say they are supposed to save on energy.

There are numerous Hideaway models and this page lists their efficiencies: https://www.homeheatingguide.co.uk/efficiency-tables?make=Glow-worm

I used to have a Glow Worm Space Saver boiler in my previous home. I had not realised that the brand became part of the Vaillant Group nearly 20 years ago. The information on the Which? website suggests that the Glow Worm brand is used for cheaper models. Several years ago, Which? informed us that Vaillant offers a 15 year guarantee on their boilers, but I expect that it is necessary to use their agents for annual servicing.

When installing a new boiler it is generally necessary to have the system power-flushed for the guarantee to be valid, adding to the cost.

Our footprints have diverged from the carbon footprint!

I forgot to mention that spares are still available for the Glow Work Hideaway boiler. The one most likely to need replacement is the thermocouple for the pilot light.

My boiler is an old Glow Worm Hideaway, the company now owned by Valiant I believe, who make the cheaper models.

I replaced it soon after moving here when the hot water tank became too choked up with limescale, which could recur anytime soon after 27 years. I normally book a service in the autumn and wait for the engineer to report whether he thinks it will see me through until the Spring as a guide and then decide whether to keep it or ditch it. The new Combies have a much shorter life span but as you say they are supposed to save on energy.

Gremlins are at work again! It refused to delete so I have reported it!

Can you delete a comment once it is posted? I thought you could only edit it but not remove it. So you ( I) might use a . or 🙁 and perhaps an explanation.

If you are logged-in you can remove the text and replace it with something like ‘Please ignore’, as long as this is done within the 30 minute window after posting. Those who are not logged in cannot do this.

Beryl has reported her duplicate comment, so it should be deleted. The moderators might do this anyway.

I frequently get a red delete sign at the bottom right of a comment which I have not had occasion to use until now. In my personal comment box there is a delete sign under every post. I have just activated the last comment in there and it has disappeared but not so here.

I work from my tablet usually and have been experiencing quite a lot repeated jumping back to the last posting when back reading to comments which is a bit annoying.

Thanks for the .Glow Worm Efficiency Table Wavechange, it was most helpful. I didn’t realise there were so many different models to choose from. I do think 27 years is one of the best guarantees one could wish for, unless, just like so many other appliances, standards are inclined to lower over time.

The red delete button only deletes your comment from your personal list, not from the Convo.

I have inadvertently deleted in the past and thus lost a reminder. Don’t think one can be restored, can it?

You are right Malcolm, it would seem only the mods can delete, but since it is now tomorrow, it will probably have to wait until today to fix it!!!

I asked the function of the Delete button in 2015 and Patrick thought that only the moderators could see it. He said it would be removed. 🙁 https://conversation.which.co.uk/which-membership/welcome-to-the-new-which-conversation/#comment-1417019

I don’t remember ever, as a contributor, being able to delete a comment from a Convo (other then by editing it in the short period allowed). You could, and can, ask the moderators to do it.

You can delete a comment from your personal activity list to, presumably, only leave “important” contributions. I don’t do this, except by accident.

I would like to be able to store specific contributions from other commenters that I want to refer to either temporarily or permanently for reference. I could bookmark them in my browser but it would be nice to do it in the Convo. I seem to recall this was a facility once but no longer. Does it still exist?

The big Elephant in the room in this Conversation, and it is a Mammoth, is population. Unless something serious is done to check the growth of Earth’s population, no amount of tinkering around the edges with cars and boilers will make a scrap of difference to the survival of the planet in an inhabitable and satisfactory form. Population = Consumption so is at the root of the problems of exploitation, climate change, depletion of natural resources, floods, erosion, and desertification.

If society cannot contemplate curtailing longevity in humans [and I don’t advocate that] then it will have to control births. The alternative might be what we are currently experiencing, uncontrolled population reduction through epidemics, famine, and natural disasters or extreme weather events. We might need to develop a new philosophy to set the boundaries of intervention in an equitable, proportionate and sustainable way. Best of luck with that!

Pandemics, natural disasters, wars or other such occurrences have had no significant impact on the relentless growth in world population. We encourage it with advances in drugs, health care and intensive food production despite the damage it does to the earth’s future. Quite a dilemma. It will at some future time be self-limiting but I wonder just what sort of a world it will be.

What can we do about it? Other than perhaps some mass imposition of birth prevention, perhaps introduced sneakily through the water supply, I really don’t see anything we can do. Our biological programme is to reproduce and we will continue to do so.

The theory for relentless population growth is high infant mortality. In poorer nations, parents often had several children, as many died before the age of five.

The solution is unknown. No political party in the West is going to propose birth regulation.

Unlike other animals, humans are capable of learning about the risks of continued population growth. I don’t know if this is covered in the school curriculum. It certainly should be, togethers with the dangers of consumerism.

We might learn about the risks but don’t appear to put lessons into practice.

When we have more money than we need we generally use it for what we call “discretionary spending”. That means buying unnecessary stuff that we might call consumerism. I don’t see how we stop that.

Consumerism is taught at secondary level, but from a purely pragmatic perspective. Year 12 students are encouraged to establish their own limited companies and sell products. The inherent risks of over population and rampant consumerism are not officially taught.

Thanks. I’m disappointed but not surprised.

I think the rot set in when both parents ‘needed’ to go out to work.

The cost of housing is why in many cases both parents have to work, I suspect.

Here is a recent article that suggests that it might not be necessary to take any action to control population growth: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-53409521 This is encouraging but it will take more to convince me that the problem of population growth will go away.

There is rather more comprehensive data and explanation herehttps://ourworldindata.org/future-population-growth

Those essential symbols of the impact of austerity, nail bars and tattoo parlours, have been allowed to reopen and deep joy was expressed on the TV News last night that people could resume their personal adornment episodes. I make no judgment on such indulgences, of course, just the observation that as we slowly sink down the plughole of existence we shall at least look pretty.

I have never understood the obsession some have with extensive tattoos. Apart from the pain and cost do they ever think what they will look like in later life when their skin sags and wrinkles? When I was little we bought transfers that, when soaked, slid off their backing and were applied to your skin. In time they disappeared. Perhaps theirs a business opportunity there?

However, we need to return to some sort of normality before a vaccine is available, otherwise the country will be in an even worse state mentally and economically. What many have learned and will continue to practice are sensible precautions to take when out and about. As for those who are irresponsible and behave stupidly nothing will change them; they will be a danger to others when any illness is around, particularly winter flu. The key is, in my inexpert opinion, to monitor any significant increase in local outbreaks and take swift action to reintroduce local restrictions.

I don’t understand why anyone wants a tattoo, large or small, but unlike a gold watch or expensive car it does not promote consumerism.

If you need a watch or a car I’m not sure whether it is gold or expensive makes much difference to a stainless steel one or a Dacia Duster. Buying additional watches or more than one new car, buying a new phone and chucking out a perfectly good older one, not repairing something that has plenty of life left in it, having a new tv just because it has more features and putting one in the bathroom seems to me to be what consumerism is about.

So if gold watches and expensive cars are not symbols of consumerism, I wonder what are.

Clearly there’s plenty of scope for higher taxes so long as benefits and tax allowances are maintained. That might curb expenditure on things that deplete the earth’s resources.

Until the early 70s we had purchase tax, where a higher rate was payable on luxury goods.