Green facts

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Interesting facts on green topics.


Australia meeting emission reduction targets

  • For Australia to meet a greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 50% by 2020, one coal fired power station the size of Hazelwood needs to be decommissioned every year from 2009 to 2020.
  • The Victorian Labor government has announced plans for the construction of a new brown coal fired power station in the Latrobe valley and describe this as a "clean coal" initiative.


From Optus & Australian Wildlife Conservancy

  • Australia has one of the worst rates of animal extinction in the world
  • In 2007. more than 1500 kinds of animals and plants are close to dissappearing forever

Where are we at in 2007?

From The New Inventors, Episode 35 - 02/10/2007 Download

  • In the past 20 years Australian homes have increased in size by 40%, while our families are getting smaller.
  • Australians spend 90% of their time inside.
  • 20 years ago there was no Internet. Today if MySpace was a country it would be the 11th largest in the world.
  • Every year 125 million computers are thrown out across the world, most of these go to landfill.
  • 10 years ago, half the people in the world had never made a phone call. Today, half the people in the world own a mobile phone.
  • Demand for rooftop solar panels is increasing by 16% per year in Australia and by 40% globally.
  • 0.25 hectares of land is required to feed each person. By 2025 there will be less than one third of that area each.
  • The world's population is 6.5 billion, and is increasing by 77 million people per year.

Car fuel consumption standards

  • Japanese cars are required by law to get more than 45 miles per gallon whereas for cars in the U.S. the standard is under 25 mpg.
  • Australian cars have a voluntary target set in 2003 of 6.8L/100km for petrol passenger cars by 2010. This represents an 18% improvement in the fuel efficiency of new vehicles between 2002 and 2010.

Cycling saves carbon emissions

A cyclist who commutes 18km each way every day on a relatively flat commute will save each year:

  • 2.6 tonnes C02 and $7000 compared to a large car like a Land cruiser
  • 0.9 tonnes C02 and $3000 compared to small car like a Corolla

Trains are the best form of urban transport

Rail passenger transport has the lowest carbon emissions - full trains are clearly much more energy efficient than cars. Relative to a trip in a car, carbon emissions are:

  • Train trips - one eighth (8 times better)
  • Light rail - one quarter (4 times better)
  • Buses - one half (2 times better)

Australian households create 9 tonnes of CO2 per year from electricity usage

  • The average Australian home uses about 20kW/h of electricity per day, which translates to about 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
  • A solar efficient house with a solar array can greatly reduce or eliminate these emissions. More information.
  • The British Government estimates eight percent of all domestic electricity is consumed by devices in standby The Energy Challenge (PDF)

Rail vs road - some points to consider

  • A modern small automobile with two passengers generates almost 25 times the air pollution, per passenger mile, as a four car commuter train at 35% capacity.
  • Two sets of commuter rail tracks will handle the passenger traffic of at least six lanes of highway.
  • A new light-rail line costs about a third of a new highway or loop road, and recent developments in track-laying technology can shave 60% to 70% off that cost.
  • Trains are faster, quieter, and smoother than buses. In addition, they avoid traffic jams and most accident scenes.
  • Modern commuter and light-rail trains are built to run forward or backward, eliminating the need for huge turnaround loops.
  • Rail deaths and injuries are much lower compared to those in automobiles.
  • Rail cars and locomotives last much longer than cars and trucks (in some cases up to 100 years) with appropriate maintenance.
  • Railroad tracks are cheaper and easier to maintain than roads and highways.
  • There is no rubber tire disposal problem with trains (a much bigger issue than many people realize).

Source: 13 Reasons We Need Passenger Rail, Rails - New Mexico's Passenger Rail Action Group

Melbourne house price rises

  • The median house price in Melbourne soared 13.1% ($50,000) to $431,000 in 2006.
  • This is the largest dollar increase over a twelve month period.
  • $50,000 would pay for a solar panel system that would supply more than the average house electricity usage.

Source: Median house price soars in Melbourne, Sydney Morning Herald

Water consumption in Australia

  • Melburnians' daily average water consumption average in 2007 was 277 litres per person, down from 303 litres per person in 2006. This reveals a massive change in habits from the 1990s, when the average for personal use was 422 litres a day.
  • However, while the figure of 277 litres per day is celebrated by the Victorian State Government, it is still almost double the amount being used by residents of Brisbane and south-east Queensland, who have been limited to 140 litres per person a day since May 2007.

Source: The Age

Carbon emission offsets

  • By the end of 2007, over half a million Australians have purchased carbon credits to help neutralise their greenhouse gas emissions. See Green travel for more information.

Plastic shopping bags

In 2008 in Australia, plastic shopping bags are given out at no direct cost to shoppers. Here are the facts:

  • The energy consumed in the life cycle of a plastic bag is estimated to be equivalent to 13.8 millilitres of crude oil, or about a teaspoonful.
  • 3.9 to 4.5 billion plastic bags are thought to have been used in Australia in 2005.
  • 34% fewer bags were used in 2005 than in 2002.
  • Most lightweight plastic bags in Australia are made overseas.

Source: The Age

  • Americans use 100 billion plastic shopping bags a year, according to Washington-based think tank Worldwatch Institute, or more than 330 a year for every person in the country. Most of them are discarded.
  • They can take from 400 to 1000 years to break down,. Their constituent chemicals remain in the environment long after that.
  • They are made from crude oil, natural gas and other petrochemical derivatives; an estimated 12 million barrels of oil are used to make the bags the US consumes each year.
  • Countries from Taiwan to Uganda, and cities including Dhaka in Bangladesh, have either banned plastic bags outright or imposed a consumerlevy on them,
  • Britons use 13 billion single-use plastic bags a year, or more than 200 per person. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has urged the country's biggest supermarket chains to cut use faster than planned and said Britain could eliminate them altogether.

Source: The Age


  • Shipping is now a booming global industry, with most manufacturing being concentrated thousands of miles from consumer centres in Europe and the United States.
  • Nearly 100,000 cargo ships transport 95% of world trade by sea
  • The world shipping industry is expanding rapidly as countries such as India and China become major players in the global economy.
  • The cost of shipping or "bunker" fuel has nearly doubled in the past two years, forcing the industry to consider alternatives.
  • Concerns have grown about climate change and air pollution from shipping.
  • It is estimated that commercial shipping uses nearly 2 billion barrels of oil a year and emits as much as 800 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 4% of the world's man-made emissions.
  • Shipping also releases more sulphur dioxide than all the world's cars and lorries.
  • The industry has so far failed to harness renewable energy, either because conventional fuel has been cheap, or because modern cargoes, mostly carried in containers, need to remain stable on deck or in holds.
  • Sails or spinnakers have been proposed for merchant ships, but these can take up storage space and cause vessels to keel.
  • Sails could pay off their cost within 3 years with oil priced at $US60 per barrel
  • One kite on one ship over one year would save the equivalent amount of oil as converting every single automobile in California to a hybrid
  • A United Nations study in 2008 has reportedly found that carbon emissions from merchant shipping are nearly three times greater than previously estimated - annual emissions from global shipping equal about 1.12 billion tonnes of CO2, or an estimated 4.5 per cent of global carbon emissions.
  • Emissions from merchant shipping are not taken into account by the European Union (EU) when making its targets for cutting greenhouse gases.


How to live an extra 14 years

  • People who drink moderately, exercise, quit smoking and eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day live on average 14 years longer than people who don't.
  • Overwhelming evidence has shown that these things contribute to healthier and longer lives, but a new British study actually quantified their combined impact.

Source: What could you do in 14 years?, The Age

Forest destruction and climate change

  • Forest destruction around the globe is the largest single source of carbon emissions after energy, contributing up to 10 times as much as aviation.
  • The Stern Report warned that rainforest destruction alone would, in the next four years, release more carbon into the atmosphere than every flight from the dawn of aviation until 2025

Source: Flying clouds the real climate culprit, BBC NEWS

Antartica, climate change and sea levels

  • Antarctica , a deep freeze holding 90 percent of the world's ice, is one of the biggest puzzles in debate on global warming with risks that any thaw could raise sea levels faster than U.N. projections.
  • If a fraction of Antartica's ice melted, this could damage nations from Bangladesh to Tuvalu in the Pacific and cities from Shanghai to New York.
  • Antartica has enough ice to raise sea levels by 57 metres (187 ft) if it melted, over thousands of years.
  • A year after the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected sea level rises by 2100 of about 20 to 80 cms (8-32 inches), a Reuters poll of 10 of the world's top climatologists showed none think that range is alarmist.

Source: Antarctic ice riddle keeps sea-level secrets, Reuters, January 31, 2008

Facts about business computing

Some facts about business computing:

  • Leaving a computer running consumes electricity and adds to computing costs.
  • The use of screen savers does not save energy.
  • It is estimated that a typical desktop PC with a 17-inch flat panel LCD monitor requires about 100 watts - 65 watts for the computer and 35 watts for the monitor.
  • If left on 24x7 for one year, this system will consume 874 kilowatt hours of electricity - enough to release 341 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the equivalent of driving 1312 km in an average car.
  • According to the Columbia University Guide to Green Computing, if the paper used each year for personal computing were laid end to end, it would circle the Earth more than 800 times.
  1. Source: Five steps to green computing, Hewlett Packard
  2. See also: Green computing

Household airconditioner power consumption

Typical wall mounted household airconditioning units consume a lot of power. For example, Mitsubishi Electric reverse cycle airconditioners advertised in Autralia in early 2008 are:

  • from 2.5kW cooling / 3.2kW heating (A$831)
  • to 8.1kW cooling / 9.0kW heating (A$2397)

The smallest of these units consumes 1kW more electricty than a solar panel array of twenty 75W panels, which produces 1.5kw. The larger unit consumes over five times the amount of energy the array produces.

The increased usage of household air conditioners is one of the major factors causing increases in peak load - usually experienced on very hot days - which is a contributing factor to the possibility of more coal fired power stations being constructed.

A good passive solar design house can avoid the use of airconditioners entirely.

Data centre power consumption

Data center owners such as Google are building data centers in places where power is cheap. A decade ago, the main consideration was where broadband would be cheapest. Now, data centers can take up 50,000 square meters of floor space and require 40 to 50 megawatts of power.

Biodiversity in Victoria, Australia

  • 30% of Victoria's native animals are extinct or threatened
  • 44% of our native plants are extinct or threatened (ref: Environmental Sustainability Issues Analysis for Victoria, CSIRO)
  • Forests that provide habitat for threatened species such as Leaderbeaters Possum and the Powerful Owl are still clearfelled in Victoria
  • more than 70% of Victoria's native bushland has been cleared in just 170 years
  • 92% of Victoria's native bushland on private land has been cleared

Source: Victoria Naturally Alliance

Computer games consoles are not green

  • Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer espouses what the world's largest software company is doing for the environment - but the company's Xbox games console does not rate a mention in this context.
  • Microsoft have sold 18 million Xbox 360s sold as at March 2008.
  • Worldwide computer use requires 14 power stations for the necessary electricity, producing more harmful carbon dioxide emissions than the entire airline industry - not including the emissions created and manufacturing and shipping the products.
  • Games consoles - of which 62 million of various brands were sold in 2007 - are the high consumers of this industry, using huge amounts of energy to generate the necessary graphics and sounds.
  • When played online, games consoles link up to huge server farms which use even more energy.
  • With each generation of console - we are currently on the seventh - previous platforms are made obsolete by the newest technology. Millions of consoles, games and other accessories are thrown away.
  • A personal computer setup for gaming with a powerful processor and video cards can have a power supply with a peak load rating of 1kW and consume up to that amount of power.

Source: Greenpeace takes on 'gas guzzling' gamers, The Age, March 9, 2008

Why GM is not green

  • 114 million hectares of genetically modified (GM) crops is just 1.3% of the world's productive land.
  • 98% of all GM crops are grown in just seven countries and five of those are in North and South America where most GM is used for animal feed or ethanol production.
  • The US alone grows over half of all GM crops
  • Since the GM cotton crop in Australia topped 90%, the area of cotton has fallen each year, from 230,000 hectares to 134,000 hectares, to ~65,000

in 2008. GM cotton is no magic bullet.

  • Concerns have been raised about whether GM licences are subject to a rigorous 'science-based' assessment process.
  • In Australia, the ACT has a ban and GM and SA now prohibits the passage into or through its territory of any GM crop product - seed for planting, cleaning, crushing or export.

More information:

Energy efficiency measures can repay their cost

  • You can get a financial payback from embracing energy efficiency measures such as using low energy lighting.
  • Councils and governments can save money by establishing revolving energy funds to provide a financial incentive to implement energy efficiency measures and practices. Energy efficiency projects reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. They can also save money.

Transport trips in Melbourne, Australia

On a typical weekday in 2008, Melburnians:

  • make 13.5 million personal trips
  • 10 million of these trips made by car.

On a daily basis:

  • around 78 per cent of people travel by car
  • 7 per cent by public transport (train, tram or bus)
  • 15 per cent by walking or cycling.

Source: Eddington Report

Australian coal exports

  • Australia exports approximately 300 million tonnes of coal per year
  • This coal potentially generates 720 million tonnes of CO2 if all was burnt for power generation.
  • That means that while Australia emits approximately 20 tonnes per capita of CO2 domestically, Australia is exporting in coal terms, the equivalent of 720 million/24 million Australians = an additional 30 tonnes per capita
  • In 2006, Australia's exports of black coal were worth $24 billion, which makes coal easily Australia's biggest commodity exporter. Source: Lateline - 15/02/2007: Coalfields to become climate change battle ground

Minimisising and offsetting carbon emissions

  • Average yearly emissions per car: 4.3 tonnes of CO2
  • Emissions for an economy return flight Sydney London: 10 tonnes of CO2
  • Average computer left on for 1 year: 340kg of CO2
  • Average yearly emissions per Australian household: 14 tonnes of CO2
  • Australia's yearly emissions per citizen: 28 tonnes of CO2

Source: Yourbit - doing your bit easy. Act against climate change. Erase your carbon footprint.

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