We have to stop being carbon junkies

2011-12-03 11:41

We love carbon. Even though rampant energy prices might have forced us to tighten our energy belts, South Africa still has the dubious distinction of being the 13th biggest carbon emitter in the world.

About 90% of South Africa’s energy is produced in coal-fired plants, which means every time you switch on a light, carbon dioxide gets pumped into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

Though businesses carries the weight of South Africa’s carbon heavy diet, South African households consume about 17% of South Africa’s energy in total – the bulk of it from heating our homes and storing and cooking food.

City Press families reveal that green thinking around energy does not necessary rule the way we run our households, but that it is a nagging little thought that plays at the back of our minds.

It is the usual suspects that inflate a household’s carbon footprint: the fridge, freezer, cooker, washing machine, dishwasher and tumble dryer.

But the biggest culprit is the geyser. Geysers are responsible for 30% – 50% of the average household’s electricity bill.

Statistics from the Household Energy Network show that households cook at least twice a day. The most common method is boiling, and often involves staple foods that take a long time to cook.

Low-income households use a variety of energy forms for cooking: electricity, paraffin, wood, coal, gas, and cow dung.

About half of South Africa uses electricity, but low-income households also depend on kerosene, coal and wood. Only 1% of South African use gas to warm themselves.

In an average South Africa household 80% – 85% of the energy used to wash clothes comes from heating the water, and a hot water wash generates up to five times more greenhouse gases than a cold wash.

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