Pie Camping

Every year I take my wind and solar powered sound system to a camping expedition called the Pie Camp (don’t ask why).

It’s always fun and a challenge, making sure that the pie campers have music for the whole bank holiday weekend, relying only on the wind and the sun for power. But this weekend had more challenges in store even than usual!

The first night a friend of mine who makes his own music decided he was going to play it over the sound system. I run my laptop with a voltage stepper which converts the 12v supply from the battery to 19v for the laptop directly, without having to go through an inverter and a transformer, which is incredibly inefficient. Anyway, this friend of mine had to use the latter arrangement because my adapter wouldn’t fit his laptop, and he also turned up the volume on the system, which meant that the following day we had a complaint from an adjacent camping field, and the batteries were almost completely drained. Nightmare!! What was I going to do for power? I needed wind or sun, or preferably both!

The following day was predictably still and wet, no wind but lots of rain – grim, and no power into the bargain. One of the people at the camp started to play some music over their car stereo, with the engine running – so I hooked up a couple of jump leads to my batteries from the car, to give them a bit of a charge, which helped a bit. We managed to get through the second night with music, albeit very quiet and finishing early.

I was completely unprepared for what the third day brought. Gale force winds during the night had destroyed two gazebos, and the sound system gazebo was similarly destroyed not long after I had got up. A huge gust of wind just ripped all of the cloth off it, and bent it over leaving it a mangled mess of scrap metal. Nightmare!! I just had to hope that it didn’t rain.

But another effect of the gale force winds was that the wind turbine was going absolutely full tilt, along with the solar panel, as it was really sunny too!! So the batteries were overflowing and I was connecting up people’s car batteries, ‘phone chargers and iPods to get rid of some of the excess electricity!! Crazy stuff!! A mangled gazebo but lots of nice loud pumpin’ sound!!

The last day was quite calm so I finished off with some folk music.

Of course I could just take a small petrol generator to run this small system, but that would defeat the point. We are going to have to rely on renewable energy in the future – less reliable than fossil energy, but if you respect it and don’t abuse it, it is completely possible to make it work. And it was quite ironic that the same weather which was driving the sounds also destroyed much of our accommodating infrastructure. These are the kinds of issues we are going to have to get used to dealing with!!

A friend suggested getting a geodesic dome as a replacement gazebo – apparently they don’t suffer in high winds because of their shape. And they look pretty cool too, so I might just go down that route.

Crazy weather at the minute though!!

Sunday Roast

Absolutely the hottest day of the year so far today. You can almost see the plants growing, they are loving it!!

The garden is very, very dry though – even though it’s only just warmed up, there has been very little rainfall for weeks. I have very nearly exhausted both of my water butts, they are both down to a trickle.

The wildlife is dealing with the heat in various ways – the frogs have nice cool pools to sit in, but the cat has had to seek out a cool spot next to the North-facing garden wall in the shade, from where he hasn’t budged much!!

Garden Update 19th May 2010

After a very slow start, the garden finally seems to be getting going this year. Even the purple spinach!

Pond Life

The main pond had become completely taken over and clogged up with water plants, fallen leaves and silt over the past few years so on the weekend I decided to clean it out and make it fit for habitation again.

One extra thing I’ve done as well is to line it with hessian sackcloth – the plastic I originally used to line the pond was bright white, it wasn’t a proper pond liner just some spare plastic sheet I had. The whiteness looks very unnatural and too unyielding for plants to take hold around the side, so the hessian sack should give plants some purchase, and hopefully look a bit more natural.

Freezing Theory

Having a great time at Bearded Theory festival, or as Justin Sullivan, frontman for New Model Army had it last night, the “extreme weather festival”.

Last year the main stage was completely destroyed, and technicians hospitalised, by a freak tornado. And last night rumour has it that the temperature got down to -4 centigrade!!

World Average Carbon Footprint


The world-wide average is 4 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year

The average of all industrialised nations is about 11 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year

In the medium and long term, a world-wide average emission of maximum 2 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year must be targeted. This amount is nowadays considered to be the maximum allowed quantity for a sustainable living on earth.

More Carbon Footprint Stuff

More links and things . . .

Carbon footprint of CafeDirect tea and coffee:-


Carbon footprint of food calculator:-


Carbon footprint of an average Western domestic cat – 480 kg

Carbon footprint of an iPhone – about 120 kg:-


A bit more of a breakdown of the flying calculations from someone on another forum:-

OK … the oldest type of 747 has a maximum range of 5800 nautical miles. Its roughly 4200 MILES (not nautical but here figures do get a bit more complicated) to Delhi from London so it can be done in one stop.

Now that smallest 747 can hold around 184,000L of jet fuel. At a density of 0.84Kg/L thats ~155,000Kg (or 155 tonnes) of fuel. Taking the 3.03 C02 per tonne thats gives ~469 tonnes of C02 if you burn all the fuel. It can carry 366 people in a 3-class set up. 80% of 366 is 293 people. 469 / 293 is 1.6 tonnes of CO2 per passenger to fly the MAXIMUM range of the first generation 747. Also note I have rounded up at EVERY point there. Less fuel on board means you need to burn less fuel. Therefore the figures will be significantly lower.

Of course this is a return flight so double it to 3.2 Kg.

Again that IS using figures from wikipedia … but I can’t see how they could be THAT wrong …

I’ve taken the absoloute worst case scenario and rounded against getting a nice result at each point. I’ve also assumed the plane is fully loaded and burns all its fuel over a significantly shorter distance (4200 miles is ~3700 nautical miles). I’ve also failed to take into account jet streams for lowered fuel burn etc. I would wager that that figure is nearer to 2.5 in reality. Though thats on a first gen 747 … is also worth remembering I AM talking 3 classes there …

Its also worth noting that you get very similar figures by doing max range in the most modern 747 (comes out at 3.4tonnes per head return) but your maximum range is now 8000 nautical miles.

Oh and for those interested the same figures for an A380 are about 3.8 tonnes per head return with a max range of 8200 nautical miles (On a cattle class only flight that drops to 2.4tonnes per head 80% loaded!!).

Actual distances airport to airport:-


All good stuff!! 🙂

Carbon Footprints

In an effort to reduce my fat hippy carbon footprint, I have been doing a bit of research to see how mine compares to people living in other countries of the world.

I already measure my electricity use, but I’ve decided to keep a log over the next few months of my petrol, tram, train and any other travelling fuel consumption, daily food intake and where the food has come from, and anything else I can think of, to see if there are any areas where I can improve. I am hoping that just the act of keeping the log will make me think more carefully about my choices.

Initial research has turned up some interesting facts though. Wikipedia has a list of countries by per capita carbon footprint:-


Some interesting ones which jump out are:-

USA – 19 tonnes per person per year
Canada – 16.7 tonnes
Falkland Islands – 17.2 tonnes
Netherlands – 10.3 tonnes
Russia – 10.9 tonnes
UK – 9.4 tonnes
South Africa – 8.6 tonnes
Spain – 8 tonnes
France – 6.2 tonnes
Jamaica – 4.5 tonnes
China – 4.6 tonnes
Brazil -1.9 tonnes
Morocco – 1.5 tonnes
India – 1.3 tonnes
Pakistan – 0.9 tonnes
Kenya – 0.3 tonnes
Myanmar – 0.2 tonnes
Nepal – 0.1 tonnes
Afghanistan – <0.1 tonnes

This is pretty interesting as carbon footprint is, in today’s world pretty much related to quality of life, because it reflects the replacement of manual labour with fossil fuels. So an average UK citizen uses about 94 times the amount of fossil fuel that an average Nepalese uses, and about 5 times what the average Brazilian uses.

Also found this pretty interesting page for calculating the carbon footprint of air travel:-


According to this page, a return flight from London to Morrocco emits about 1.3 tonnes of CO2 per passenger, London to Delhi about 3.3 tonnes and London to Brasilia about 4.1 tonnes. So someone flying from London to Morocco and back uses almost as much energy as an average Moroccan uses in an entire year! Someone flying from London to Delhi and back uses as much energy in doing so as an average Indian uses in about 2 1/2 years of their day-to-day living, and someone flying from London to Brasilia and back uses about as much energy as the average Brazilian uses in around 2 years of life.

I found these statistics quite humbling, it really helped me to realise what a privileged life we lead here in the rich West.

I am trying to find some information on the carbon footprint of various different foodstuffs. I have already found these websites on eating seasonally, which can go a long way towards reducing the amount of food brought in from overseas:-


I already grow some of my own food but I am hoping that learning a bit from these websites will really help me to cut the emissions associated with my ‘food miles’ too – and maybe help me to eat a bit more healthily as well!

Meat production is a big carbon emitter, I spent 10 years of my life as a veggie but I eat meat these days. I try to source it ethically but still try to go without whenever I can. I found this page about the carbon footprint of a cheeseburger:-


Each burger has a carbon footprint of about 5kg!

This gives some interesting thoughts, a return flight to India is the equivalent of eating 660 cheeseburgers in CO2 emissions! That’s nearly 2 a day for a whole year!!

A bit of a shame that, as I love a tasty cheeseburger. Although hopefully growing the lettuce myself and using home made pickles – or even baking my own buns – might help.

Fascinating stuff. It will be interested to see how my calculations work out – I’ve just started recording my food and petrol consumption today, it hasn’t started well, I’ve bought 15 litres of petrol and eaten a bacon roll, and it isn’t even midday yet.

Eco Footprint

I bought the “Ecological Footprint” iPhone app, which is a very rough measure of home, eating and travel habits.

It calculates my footprint at 19,773.4 square metres, or about 2 hectares.

Absolutely no idea what that means to be honest, or how accurate it is! Comments welcome!

Stealth Food: Update 3rd May 2010

I went down the road today to visit the community planters which were built a couple of months back, to see how my plants are getting on. At the last community group meeting it was reported that people had been stealing plants from them, so I expected to be disappointed.

But when I got there, everything I had put in was still there and going strong!! Neither the blackberry or the raspberry cane had sprouted though, but the onions are growing nicely, as are the blackcurrant, strawberries, rhubarb and cranberry. The spuds are just starting to come through.

All going well so far!!! 🙂