The Carbon Cost of Skiing


We love to ski almost as much as we love the environment but there is an obvious conflict between the two. The two factors that most concern us most are the CO2 emissions from the travel and the air pollution from vehicles in the vulnerable mountain regions.

Looking into travelling to Mt Blanc, we found the following:

Mode Flying Train Driving Hybrid Driving Electric
CO2 750kg 50kg 300kg 208kg
Cost £1047 £1400 £103 n/a
Local Emmissions hydrocarbons, CO, NOX, SOX and black carbon No NOx / No particulates reduced NOx / few particulates No NOx / No particulates

Taking the train is the clear winner, apart from when you consider the financial cost which is around £1400 for four people at peak time. The attractive solution would be to go by electric car which would be very cost effective and negate the tailpipe emissions that are causing the air quality issues in the Mt Blanc region.

In conclusion, the only way to significantly limit the impact of our ski holiday on the local environment is to take the train or hire an electric car.

Relative Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Given the earth’s level of atmospheric CO2 has recently breached the 400ppm barrier and it is proven that CO2 levels in the atmosphere affect our climate, I thought I’d have a look into measuring and reducing the carbon dioxide my family’s activities emit.

co2

Using the excellent Carbon Calculator at Climate Care http://climatecare.org/calculator/ we can get some numbers.

Item CO2
Electricity 2.7
Gas (Heating) 2.94
Transport (Car) 1.54
Holiday 5.04
Total 12.22

For example, our electricity usage of 6000kWh per year, using a worst case scenario of UK power generation produces 2.7 tonnes of CO2. Our gas to heat the house at 14000kWh surprisingly works out about the same 2.94 tonnes of CO2.

I didn’t realise, that relatively, natural gas is a lot better from a CO2 point of view – I guess this is assuming that the UK power generation mix is not renewable powered. You can see the UK’s generation mix in real time here: http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk.

Considering our car, the Lexus hybrid over 10,000 miles a year at 65mpg emits 1.54 tonnes, which is almost half the 2.64 our previous diesel car emitted. We can also use this calculator to see how much my 2000 miles cycling a year would save (just under 1/2 a tonne of CO2)!

Looking at the figures for our last family holiday where we flew to Canada, the return flights to Halifax Nova Scotia for four of us were responsible for emitting 5.03 Tonnes in total. Which is the equivalent of driving for two years or heating and powering our house for an entire year.

I had previously thought that we were making good in-roads into our CO2 emissions, but how well have we done?

Being extra careful with our electricity usage and replacing the light bulbs and energy intensive appliances with A++ rating equivalents once they had failed our electricity usage has gone down 10% (from 6600kWh and it looks like this year will be even lower). We’re hoping to reduce our gas usage by 10% too by being more careful, using our Hive to give us a finer grained control over the thermostat and water heating times (you can turn it all off when you are away). However, the energy used to heat our leaky old Edwardian house is truly shocking, and a tough one to reduce – the house is very well insulated already, it is extemely well draughtproofed, we wear jumpers most of the time, use a wood burning stove, and the Hive helps us minimise our usage. We plan to add some double glazing where we don’t have any which hopefully will have a 10% impact.

Next year we won’t be flying to Canada so that will have a large impact on our CO2 emissions. We also hope the double-glazing will reduce the amount of energy required to heat our home. We have also found that solar panels can be fitted to our roof for a relatively small cost and we would assume that this would reduce our annual electricity emissions to zero.

Item CO2 Costs
Electricity 2.7 £924.78
Gas (Heating) 2.94 £713.24
Transport (Car) 1.54 £790.32
Holiday 5.04 n/a
Total 12.22 £2428.34

This costs us £91.65 at http://climatecare.org/ to offset. Hopefully next year we’ll manage to halve our emissions and therefore halve both our direct energy costs and also our offsetting costs.

There’s quite a few omissions in the emissions here, the CO2 for building a medium spec car is about 17 tonnes, therefore 1.7 tonnes per year. The food-chain emissions for the food we eat is around 2.7 tonnes for the family, and clothing could be another one tonne. Last year we travelled to Nottingham, Bristol & Settle by train which added a further 0.5 tonnes. We are also making the assumption that our wood-burning stove is carbon neutral as the wood has been harvested locally by council contractors and therefore would have been disposed of anyway.

So our grand family total is around 18 tonnes, which compares to the UK’s per capita average of about 8 tonnes per person or a family total of 33 tonnes.

References: