Saturday, August 09, 2008



You might have read my somewhat emotive introductory chapter on environmental issues and sustainable action (Our Planet’s Future, July 24). In this next episode I aim to offer some positive suggestions and recommendations that you might consider both as “ordinary” citizens, but more especially as Nordic Walking citizens. And I stress… might consider… is not my intention to “preach”.

What is sustainability?

Having been defined in the 1987 Bruntland Report the concept of sustainability is key to global environmental management:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

The report (also called “Our Common Future”) highlighted three fundamental components to sustainable development, which are: social equity, economic growth and environmental protection. Whilst there is some disagreement about how the term translates into practice most will accept that it revolves around the idea that economic development must go hand in hand with a healthy planet and social justice.

Healthy Humans

Whilst poor health is often linked to poverty, it has become the case that it is also linked to affluence, and in particular “affluent inactivity”. Here in England the Government’s Department of Health has estimated the financial cost of inactivity as being £8.2 billion annually! (That’s just in England, not the whole of the UK!) This figure includes the mounting costs of treating chronic disease, the cost of absenteeism and loss of production. It is mind boggling to try to imagine the quantity of resources wrapped up in this level of expenditure, and the size of the “carbon footprint” is inestimable!

Additionally, the above figure does not account for dealing with the consequences of obesity which is estimated to cost the nation a further £2.5 billion each year. Of course, none of these figures can demonstrate the levels of human misery associated with failing health.

In response to the accrual of kilos some have attended their local gym and have attempted to right the balance by using powered treadmills operating at over 1kW electric power. Even when trying to lose weight, many do so in energy-inefficient ways. Furthermore, thirty minutes of frenzied action is often followed by many hours of inaction and thus no improvement is obtained. People lose heart in more ways than one.

However, as Nordic Walkers, and therefore as active outdoor people, you might take pride that you are already endeavouring to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Whilst exercise is no absolute guarantee against disease, the participation in regular moderate exercise gives excellent odds in your favour.

As far as the maintenance of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle is concerned, you are already taking the right steps. Of course, there is still an expenditure of resources associated with our form of recreation, plus a carbon footprint, (eg. you have to be fuelled) so it makes sense to audit how we “manage” our walking and to consolidate our actions.

CO2 emissions - what’s my share of the challenge?

As far as the UK is concerned, if you divide greenhouse gas emissions by the population you get an average figure of about 12.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per annum. About half of this – around 6 tonnes – is created by each individual in running a home, driving a car and using other forms of transport. The other half is generated by all of those additional social, commercial and industrial activities which go to make up our national living. The overall figure of 12.5 tonnes needs to fall to a total of no more than 3 tonnes if we are to meet any of our long term climate change control measures.

Both as a citizen, and as a Nordic Walking citizen, there is much that we can do.

Your car

Considerable savings are possible when it comes to personalised transport, but it does mean we would have to modify our behaviour. When you next change your car, you might want to consider the purchase of a small diesel vehicle. Or, you might reconsider private ownership altogether and consider joining a “car club” instead.

If you need to keep your current car for some time, why not consider driving less often. When you go for your Nordic Walk do you drive to your usual venue? Could you walk, go by bike or take a bus? If you go with others, could you all share one car?

When you do drive, can I persuade you do so as economically as you reasonably can and to make a point of keeping your vehicle well maintained and tyres properly inflated.

An efficient home - some general issues

It’s quite possible that in your homes you are already taking action to make your house as efficient as possible with the inclusion of uprated insulation, a condensing boiler and the fitting of thermostatic radiator valves. However, there is a catalogue of low/no cost options you might like to consider:

When not in use, consider turning off at the mains all those appliances which have a “standby mode” – stereos, TV sets, DVD players, set-top boxes etc. Be mindful that some appliances actually expend about 113kg of carbon dioxide per annum in standby mode.

Only operate your dishwasher when fully loaded (I now cut our dishwasher tablets in half!) and run on an “eco setting”.

Turn your central heating thermostat down by 1deg.

Consider replacing your light bulbs with long life, low energy types.

Resist using a tumble drier.

Consider switching to a green electricity tariff.

Only put into your kettle as much water as you need – or buy an “Eco Kettle”

About 90% of energy used in a typical washing machine goes to heat the water. Run your washing machine on a cooler wash (modern powders work just as well)

Ensure that your doors and windows have effective draught proofing tape fitted, and don’t forget putting a “brush seal” on the back of your letter box.

In chapter three I plan to talk about other resources, such as drinking water and how you carry it on your walk, eco friendly outdoor clothing, and last, but not least, is there a problem with poles?

Malcolm Jarvis, Nordic Walker Leeds UK

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