This article is the first part in a three part series looking into circular economy principles and how they can be applied to the built environment.

I just finished reading Building Revolutions by David Cheshire, which I though was a really good book that I highly recommend. Even if you don’t work in the built environment, we all engage with an interact with buildings on a daily basis, and we all share a common interest that they be designed, built, used and demolished in the most efficient way possible. This book is packed full of ideas that will help to make this a reality.

Principles are something that is really important and are probably not talked about enough in sustainability.

I am minded to quote from Ray Dalio and his book Principles, which I thought was one of the best non-fiction books of recent years. He explained that:

Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behaviour that gets you what you want out of life. They can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.”

Whether we need more principles in sustainability is a good question, it is probably more the case that we just need to make better use of ones that already exist and make sure that they are properly applied in all cases.

Principle 1: Design out Waste

This is the sort of principle that is commonly associated with circular economy thinking. It is also the sort of principle that is really easy to pay lip service to and to not actually deliver in real life.

This principle is all about refitting and refurbishing buildings as opposed to demolishing the existing structure and starting again. Exponents of this principle see waste as a resource, that can be extracted and then put to productive use again. It is also about using lean design methodologies to create buildings that require fewer resources, with reduced complexity.

In the book, there is a really important figure from a RIBA paper called What colour is your building? Their research showed the following:

Roughly speaking, half the embodied carbon in a building is tied up in the foundations and the structure.”

For people wanting to adhere to the design out waste principle, this should make them think about whether they can retain the substructure and superstructure of the existing building and refurbish it. Rather than demolishing these and building new ones from scratch. These two elements are high carbon investments and should be treated as such.

A little later on there was a good observation about the conflict between a desire to build developments with low embodied carbon as well as strict adherence to circular economy principles. David Cheshire had the following to say:

Focusing only on reducing embodied carbon does not necessarily fit into the circular economy ideal, as it can drive designers to substitute highly recyclable (and recycled) materials, such as metals, with materials with lower embodied carbon – for example thermoset plastics, which are difficult to recycle. Also, focusing on embodied carbon does not consider the other impacts associated with mining and processing the raw materials, such as its scarcity or the impact on biodiversity of mining or drilling operations.”

This was an interesting perspective that I had not though much about before. It calls for a balanced approach, where circular economy principles and embodied carbon are traded off, with win-win solutions being the ideal outcome.

The section that was dedicated to designing out waste was really good and was packed full of useful information.

We already touched upon the need to refit and refurbish buildings where this is possible, because of the high amounts of carbon locked inside the building’s frame and foundations.

In terms of designing out waste on site, this can be achieved by moving from construction to production, with components made in factory settings and then delivered to site. It is important to always check that the waste created in the factory is put to good use.

Designing to match the standard size of sheets and panels is another way that waste can be substantially reduced on site.

Reusing components and materials is another hallmark of the designing out waste principle. Disappointingly there is a downward trend in using reclaimed materials in the UK.

The advice from David is that this cannot be an ad hock pursuit, but rather needs to be a primary consideration from the beginning of the project. From fit out components to bricks, kerbs and roof tiles, it is amazing what can be reclaimed from another site for use on a project. It is certainly not an easy thing to make happen, but it is worthwhile.

Another technique is lean design. This has a number of benefits. Each component in a building has its own lifecycle, with associated environmental costs, by aiming to have only the bare essentials, means that these costs can be reduced. This is something which if done correctly can reduce the embodied and operational carbon footprints simultaneously.

What you need to know

This article looked into designing out waste as a circular economy principle.

We looked into how the frame and the foundations are responsible for a significant proportion of a building’s carbon footprint, so if they can be retained, then savings can be made.

The we looked into a number of focus areas that are important if the design out waste principle is to be out into action, these include: refitting and refurbishing where possible, using offsite manufacturing techniques, reusing materials from other sites or industries and lean design.

Overall, I thought Building Revolutions was a great book and I will go into more detail on creating structures that are built to last in part two of this three-part series.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make the circular economy a reality in the built environment?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into wooden buildings and sustainability. What does this material have to offer sustainability?

It seems poignant on the 3-year anniversary of the Grenfell fire in London to look again at this material and its potential. Following the fire, the UK government banned timber as well as other combustible materials from the exterior of residential buildings more than 18 metres high.

Instead of being reviewed with a pathway towards supporting wood in the construction of buildings, the government is planning to reduce the maximum height of wood-framed buildings from six storeys to four.

This does not seem to be a balanced interpretation of the science, which would indicate that wooden buildings can be constructed to the highest fire safety standards and would perform very strongly on sustainability at the same time.

Wooden buildings lock up carbon that was stored in the trees during their lifetime. If this wood is not turned into durable products, the carbon can re enter the carbon cycle as the wood decomposes and contribute towards anthropogenic climate change.

Similar to the articles that I have written about bamboo. There is a dual benefit to using low-carbon natural materials such as timber and bamboo. Where these replace high-carbon non-renewable materials such as steel and concrete, you can achieve significant carbon reductions by targeting carbon hotspots in a buildings design.

Wood has a lot of other benefits in that it does not contribute to the urban heat island effect as much as comparable materials and aesthetically it can be used to create stunning buildings.

No other governments around the world have taken the steps that the UK government has. Around the world there is a wooden building arms race as developers compete to build the world’s tallest wooden structure. Unfortunately, the UK is being held back by regulations that bear no resemblance to the risks posed.

I appreciate that to the lay person it may seem that wooden buildings are incredibly risky, but engineered timber can be created that has excellent fire proof properties. There is an excellent video here that was produced by the Estonian government.

What you need to know

This article looked into wooden buildings and sustainability.

3 years on from the Grenfell tragedy, it does very much appear that wooden buildings have been a casualty of an overly strict regulation.

I am sure it was designed with the best of intentions, but when wooden buildings can be designed to exacting fire safety standards, the regulation really needed to be reviewed and not enhanced.

Perhaps it has something to do with the relative paucity of forests remaining in the UK. When you look at the list of countries that are making great strides in wooden buildings they all have significant forest resources. Whereas the UK is a significant importer of wood products.

People are looking for hope and looking for change. We don’t need bad regulations standing in the way of progress.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to encourage the development of more renewable energy?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into green electricity and asks if this is actually as green as it is made out to be?

The good news is, that on the supply side the UK electricity system just recorded its greenest ever month in May 2020, with 0 coal burned for an entire month. Sunday 24th May was also the greenest ever day for the electricity grid. Both of these accomplishments were helped by record low demand, coupled with abundant wind and sunshine.

As you can see from the National Grid chart from Friday 5th June, in terms of wind and solar, the UK is able to produce more than 40% of its electricity from these two sources alone. This is a good thing and is a cause for celebration.

This is all excellent, but there are two things that I think do a disservice to the overall goal that renewable energy is trying to achieve. One is misleading marketing claims and the other is the murky world of renewable energy certificates (RECs). Both of these piggyback off of the good work done by others, without contributing anything positive for the environment.

Misleading marketing

I am singling Ovo out purely because there is a recent example of them being exposed. Please see here for more details. There are other providers who have been guilty of such claims in the past.

Regarding their standard rate tariff, this has been shown to have a higher carbon intensity than the UK grid average.

Then for their supposedly 100% renewable premium tariff, this allows Ovo to submit enough Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) to the energy regulator Ofgem each year to cover that used by the consumer.

The only problem is, that for a £60 premium, only £1 goes to pay for these REGOs. Ovo also spend some money via the Woodland Trust, but it is not clear how much.

Unfortunately, what this means is that customers of Ovo are spending money on a premium product that does not support the growth of renewable energy in the UK.

Renewable energy certificate (REC) accounting

When a lot of people see that a company is claiming to have purchased 100% of their electricity from a renewable source, they would assume that they have a contract with a provider who matched their demand with an equivalent amount of renewable supply. Unfortunately, this is not the case and there is a significant aftermarket, where certificates are traded and the additionality can become weak.

For more information there is a great article on clean energy hub here.

The main problem stems from the unbundled RECs, as the link between the electricity and the renewable certificates is broken, making it open to abuse. This makes it very hard to verify whether the money being paid for the certificates actually led to the development of new renewable energy production.

What you need to know

This article looked into renewable energy and the green claims that surround this industry.

From a UK perspective, particularly wind power and to a lesser extent solar have been a great success story of late.

Low demand, coupled with abundant wind and sun has seen record after record broken. This proves that the technology does work at scale and can lead to real and meaningful emissions reductions at a grid level.

There are two things that I identified as being problematic. One was that of so-called green tariffs sold to customers which offer little towards sustainable outcomes. The other is the REC aftermarket, where certificates are traded and used to make claims of being 100% renewable energy, but where it is not clear this actually led to the development of new renewable energy generation.

Whilst the technology is both necessary and desirable, like with anything consumers and businesses need to do their own research to make sure what they are buying is actually sustainable.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to encourage the development of more renewable energy?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into the recently announced partnership between several Danish companies to create breakthrough sustainable fuels.


I have written about partnerships before as they are a very important tool for helping to make sustainability a reality.  Back in 2018 the NextGen Cup Consortium stood out for its ambition. Likewise, the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 17, which is Partnerships for the Goals is for me the enabler that will make achieving all the other goals possible.

The businesses involved in this exciting initiative include the following. I have included the exact industry that each company specialises in, in case my readers are not familiar with exactly what each company does.

  • Copenhagen Airports – Airport operator

  • P. Moller – Maersk – Integrated shipping company

  • DSV Panalpina – Transport and logistics

  • DFDS – Shipping and logistics

  • SAS – Airline

  • Ørsted – Multinational power company

The aim of the partnership, is to create an industrial-scale production facility to produce sustainable fuels for road, maritime and air transport in the Copenhagen area.

The project’s first stage, which aims to be operational by 2023, is comprised of a 10MW electrolyser which can produce renewable hydrogen used directly to fuel buses and trucks.

The second stage is comprised of a 250MW electrolyser facility which could be operational by 2027, when the first offshore wind power from Bornholm could be delivered.

This is when the industrial ecology of the partnership really kicks in. In the second stage, the production of renewable hydrogen is combined with sustainable carbon capture from point-sources in the Greater Copenhagen area to produce renewable methanol for maritime transport and renewable jet-fuel (e-kerosene) for the aviation sector.

Then later on in stage three the project is developed further. In stage three, which aims to be operational by 2030 when the offshore wind potential at Bornholm is fully developed, this would upgrade the project’s electrolyser capacity to 1.3GW and enable the capture of more CO2. This could supply more than 250,000 tonnes of sustainable fuels, which could be used in buses, trucks, maritime vessels and in aviation.

What you need to know

I think this is a really exciting partnership and I hope it is the catalyst to encourage other businesses around the word to develop partnerships to think and act big on sustainability.

There are two caveats that I think it is important to mention. One is that the whole initiative is still the subject of a feasibility review and no investment decisions have yet been taken.

The second thing that could limit the impact of the initiative is born out of the fact that by its very nature, this initiative is focussed on the Copenhagen area. This is not a problem for providing sustainable fuels for busses and heavy goods vehicles.

But by providing sustainable fuels at airports and sea ports in the Copenhagen area, these vessels will only be able to make a 1-way journey on low carbon fuel. What is required is a network of similar schemes in other parts of the world to make aviation and shipping dramatically more sustainable than they are right now.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to encourage more partnerships for sustainability?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


As cities and regions around the world begin to shape their transport systems for a socially distanced future, the hidden costs that cars impose on society should not be forgotten. Now is the time to envision car less streets, towns, villages and cities.

I am minded to share the following quotation, which is attributed to Rudiger Dornbusch:

“In economics, things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.”

After years of campaigners pointing to cycling success stories in the Netherlands and Denmark in the hope that their local area could have space for cycling, lots of people are waking up to find that their politicians have finally answered this call.

Interestingly in these areas which are often held up as having the apex of cycling infrastructure, their local politicians are calling for even higher levels of cycling, to facilitate socially distanced mobility.

In all this, we should not forget the hidden costs that cars impose on society. Car less cities and rural areas are a good idea with or without a highly infectious virus.

The figures that I will go through can be found here.

In this European Commission study, the following externalities were taken into account: accidents, air pollution, climate change, noise, congestion, well-to-tank emissions, and habitat damage.


The total external costs of transport in the EU are estimated at €987 billion.

These are significant costs and it is important to look at the differences between transport modes.


As we can see in the table, passenger cars is the largest contributor to external costs, making up 57% of the total costs, at €565 billion.

This is a significant burden placed upon society, so it is only right that this is called into question as to whether this is a desirable long-term solution.

What you need to know

This article looked into the hidden costs of cars.

It was based on a 2019 European Commission report that showed that transport is responsible for almost €1 Trillion of external costs on society, with passenger cars making up the vast majority of that number.

It is only fair that these hidden costs are taken into account as cities and regions look to remodel their transport systems to facilitate socially distanced mobility.

Whilst the study is purely academic, the costs imposed on society by the excessive and unnecessary use of passenger cars are real.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to communicate the hidden costs of cars?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into the recently released documentary Planet of the Humans. I was interested to watch this as I saw it getting a surprisingly warm reception online.

I was initially hesitant as I am a big Christopher Hitchens fan and I was aware of how he had intellectually disassembled Michael Moore and exposed his many weaknesses. I will post a video of Christopher doing this below.

Upon watching it, it became immediately obvious how one sided the documentary was. There was no attempt to be balanced. It reminded me of some of the worst instances of corporate greenwashing, but in reverse and in documentary form. The documentary is using bad science and inaccurate information to put across a one sided point of view. It is ironic that the documentary is guilty of a crime they are accusing others of.

For those who are unaware of what greenwashing is, it consists of misleading communications, to insinuate that a product or process is more environmentally friendly than it really is.

There is a 7 step framework originally created by TerraChoice that you can find here and I have my own article on the subject that you can find here.

So what I thought would be interesting, would be to re-watch the documentary and highlight where it commits sins highlighted in the 7 sins of greenwashing.

Sin of the hidden trade-off

This is used to describe claims that suggest a product is green based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues.

There are several scenes where music festivals are shown to be attempting to be powered 100% by renewable energy without success. The documentary is guilty of this sin, as there is no attempt made to investigate whether these technologies work at a grid level, which they do.

If the documentary makers would have watched this video by Amory Lovins, they would have learned that modern renewable power doesn’t need a breakthrough in energy storage in order to be highly successful.

Sin of no proof

This is used to describe environmental claims not substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification.

There is a scene at 1 min 22 where it was suggested that there was a seaweed forest that was promoted as being a sustainability game changer, but that was dead 1 year later. Why was it dead, were there specific reasons, should we give up on seaweed, what about algae? The documentary merely leaves the suggestion out there that this technology is useless, but no evidence is provided as to whether this is correct.

Sin of vagueness

This is used to describe claims that are so poorly defined or broad that their real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer.

This is probably the sin that is most synonymous with the documentary as whole so there are quite a few examples to get through.

There is a scene at the launch of an electric car where a question is asked about the electricity that is charging the car. Yes it was likely from non-renewable sources in the USA, but that could change, and electric vehicles are superior at turning energy into power, something that was not explained in the documentary.

There is a scene where a hydrogen salesman was asked where the hydrogen comes from. This was cute, but there was no attempt to explain that ammonia could end up being a breakthrough source for hydrogen, with the ability to reduce carbon emissions substantially.

Sin of worshipping false labels

This is used to describe claims that give the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement exists.

I don’t want to sound too harsh, but the documentary repeatedly uses cutaways to social scientists who espouse views that humanity is doomed and there are no technological fixes that will save civilisation. I would have preferred for a diversity of views to be aired, including those from engineering, physics and sustainability backgrounds. Why was no attempt made to interview people who hold the opposite point of view?

For instance, Project Drawdown has recently catalogued the top 100 most powerful climate change solutions. Is it not strange to not have interviewed someone from their organisation, such as Paul Hawken?

Authors such as Richard Heinberg where wheeled out and promoted as having widespread respect for their viewpoints. I say this as someone who got interested in sustainability by reading books by Richard Heinberg. He has been wrong about many issues, such as his opinion on the timing of peak oil. His book titles are deliberately provocative, he is but one view among many, there are reasons to be optimistic.

Sin of irrelevance

This is used to describe claims that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products.

There is a fairly odd scene with a tour of what can only be described as a group of activists who espouse views on the efficacy of wind turbines. I appreciate their sincerity, but are these really the best people to listen to, to get a balanced view on the costs and benefits and environmental trade offs of wind power? I don’t want to say that their viewpoint is irrelevant, but their elevation and promotion via Michael Moore’s platform bear no resemblance to their subject matter expertise.

There are other technologies put forward for mockery in the documentary. These include elephant dung and animal fat. I have never heard these promoted as mainstream solutions, these have been included for no other reason than to be immediately shot down. It makes for good TV, but it is not scientific.

Sin of lesser of two evils

This is used to describe claims that may be true within the product category but that risks distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole.

The treatment of renewable energy in this documentary is very disappointing. The documentary would have been fine if it focussed its attention on the questionable sustainability benefits of biofuels and biomass.

Unfortunately, it became a very poorly executed hatchet job on wind power, solar power and electric vehicles. Interestingly, I do not remember there being a single mention of nuclear power, which is strange, as it is normally something that stokes a strong degree of debate.

The first time that energy return on energy invested is even touched upon, the documentary is 32 minutes in, and it barely comes up again. This is the benchmark against which all energy sources should be judged against.

Sin of fibbing

This is used to describe environmental claims that are simply false, I think we all know what that means.

I have found 1 particularly egregious example. At around 1 hour 4 mins, I saw a chart of the German electricity mix, this was used to demonstrate that they have not been performing strongly and are in fact over reliant on biomass to meet their renewable energy obligations. I will post a screen shot of this chart below.

Germany Energy Mix POTH

The source for this was said to be the German federal government, however I noticed that there was no date attributed to this data.

After an easy search online, my suspicions were proved to be correct, and biomass does not make up a preponderance of Germany’s renewable energy mix for the 2019 data. I will post a pie chart below.


What you need to know

This article looked into the recently released documentary Planet of the Humans through the lens of the 7 sins of greenwashing. As we can see, there are many examples where the documentary is guilty of these in reverse.

I haven’t even felt the need to touch upon the conspiracy theory nature of the documentary, the assertions made speak volumes about Michael Moore’s quality control filter.

I think it is important to point out that the environmental and sustainability movement is much bigger than Bill McKibben, Al Gore and Robert F Kennedy Jr. There was no mention of corporate sustainability, commitments to net zero or progress to date.

My worry is that this will find widespread appeal and those that watch it won’t follow up with any fact checking of their own.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to promote effective climate solutions?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article investigates the sustainability benefits of green roofs. It was inspired by reading Green Roofs: Ecological Design and Construction. I thought this was an impressive book, and I learned a lot by reading it. It comes highly recommended from me.


In the preface by Earth Pledge Executive Director Leslie Hoffman, she shares an excellent quotation which I will post below:

Green Roofs represent an elegant opportunity to simultaneously mitigate environmental problems and create immediate life-enhancing value. They individually offer building owners savings on energy and roof membrane replacement costs, while also greening the cityscape for owners and residents of neighbouring buildings. Flowering and native plants help cool the urban landscape and combat the pollinator crises in our region, and one doesn’t need to hear much about combined sewage overflow and the erosion and runoff issues in coastal zones to understand why pervious surface is desirable.”

In terms of the environmental benefits of green roofs, these can be broken down into a few categories.

Climate change

Green roofs help to address climate change by reducing the urban heat island effect. This is a phenomena where urban areas warm to a greater extent than rural areas.

Green roofs accomplish this by warming less in summer. Where an asphalt roof could reach 160oF, a green roof would rarely exceed 80 oF.

There is also another green roof phenomena called evaporative cooling, which reduces heat transfer through the roof into the building, making the inside cooler and reducing the air conditioning load.


Urban infrastructure disrupts the natural movement of water, known as the hydrologic cycle.

Green roofs can help to solve this problem. They retain and detain stormwater, reducing runoff volume and slowing the rate at which it enters the sewage system.

Delaying the runoff is as important as reducing its volume, as this helps to prevent waste water systems from becoming overloaded.

Urban ecology

Green roofs can act as an ecological beacon in urban areas and support biodiversity.

Green roofs can be designed to protect endangered plant species, or to blend in with the local habitat.

Other roofs, so called brown or rubble roofs take material that is excavated during the build and use that soil to create a green roof on the finished build. The hope is that this is naturally colonised by indigenous plants and supports local ecology.

Green roofs can also support many varieties of bird and insect that would not survive without the habitat that they provide.

What you need to know

This article investigated the sustainability benefits of green roofs.

It was based on the book Green Roofs, by Earth Pledge, it comes highly recommended from me.

Green roofs provide many benefits, but particularly in terms of climate change, hydrology and ecology.

People are always looking for breakthrough technologies that will make the built envelopment more sustainable. Green roofs could be one of those solutions.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to promote the benefits of green roofs?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into wasted time and sustainability. Climate change has risen in importance in recent years, but is it possible that a lack of action on the initial warnings has left too much to do in too little time?


This article was inspired by an excellent comment piece in Nature by Niklas Höhne, et al. that I read recently. You can find a link to this below.

Emissions: world has four times the work or one-third of the time

Reading this left me with a feeling of disappointment, as so much time has been wasted, leaving a lot of catching up to do. The 2020s will have to be a decade unlike any other.

Their paper was based on a synthesis of all ten editions of the Emissions Gap Report produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

This is an annual report that examines the difference between what countries have pledged to do individually to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and what they need to do collectively to meet agreed temperature goals — the ‘gap’.

Let’s begin by analysing their findings, unfortunately, they do not point towards a successful response:

Our analysis shows that the gap has widened by as much as four times since 2010.”

I will post their explanation in full below:

There are three reasons for this. First, global annual greenhouse-gas emissions increased by 14% between 2008 and 2018. This means that emissions now have to decline faster than was previously estimated, because it is cumulative emissions that determine the long-term temperature increase. Second, the international community now agrees that it must ensure a lower global temperature rise than it decided ten years ago, because climate risks are better understood. And third, countries’ new climate pledges have been insufficient.”

I liked the fact that they were highlighting the importance of cumulative emissions. In the rush of net zero by 2050 commitments, I think a lot of people are forgetting that the various pathways to net zero in 2050 matter. It is the intermediate targets and cumulative emissions that matter.

It was one of the following paragraphs that struck me most, and I will paste it in full below:

Had serious climate action begun in 2010, the cuts required to meet the emissions levels for 2°C would have been around 2% per year, on average, up to 2030. Instead, emissions increased. Consequently, the required cuts from 2020 are now more than 7% per year on average for 1.5°C (close to 3% for 2°C).”

The only thing you can take away from the above paragraph is a feeling of wasted time. The annual cuts required are now significant, requiring rapid alterations to economic and social systems as well as the uptake of new technology.

The authors close with the following ominous statement:

“The gap is so huge that governments, the private sector and communities need to switch into crisis mode, make their climate pledges more ambitious and focus on early and aggressive action. Otherwise, the Paris agreement’s long-term goals are out of reach. We do not have another ten years.”

What you need to know

This article looked into wasted time and sustainability.

It was based on a recent paper in Nature that analysed historical Emissions Gap Report data provided by UNEP.

The paper’s findings paint a bleak picture of global climate action in recent decades. Much time has been wasted, which has made the challenge between now and 2030 all the more challenging.

We have to hope that the 2020’s go down as a historic decade of climate action, unlike the preceding decades, that were largely squandered.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to limit global temperature increases to below 1.5°C?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into how bad emails are. Is it possible that this seemingly harmless activity, when repeated by billions of people every day is having an outsized impact on the environment?


The data that I am basing this article on is largely from Mike Berners-Lee’s 2010 book How Bad are Bananas: The Carbon Footprint of Everything. I really enjoyed reading this book and it is one of my all-time favourite books on sustainability.

His research revealed that the average spam email has a footprint equivalent to 0.3g of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e).

That is lower than the carbon intensity of the average email. According to Mike an average email, has a footprint of 4g of CO2e. This is created because of the power drawn for data centres and computers when sending, filtering and reading messages.

There are emails with a carbon intensity significantly higher than average. Emails with large attachments and high-resolution images have a carbon footprint of 50g CO2e. Significantly higher than average.

According to Mike Berners-Lee’s estimates, a typical year of incoming emails adds 136kg of emissions to a person’s carbon footprint. This is the equivalent of driving 200 miles in an average car. Whilst each individual email may only be responsible for a small quantity of carbon emissions, when repeated often by many people, these emissions add up.

At a global scale, the world’s data centres account for three percent of electricity consumption and about two percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. This gives data centres around the same carbon footprint as the aviation industry, when the impact of radiative forcing is not taken into account.

What you need to know

This article looked into how bad emails are for the environment.

We looked into the wide variety of carbon intensities associated with emails.

We looked into how these small releases of carbon emissions multiply over time. This is not helped by the seemingly endless proliferation of emailing in society.

We looked into how data centres are on par with the aviation industry in terms of carbon emissions. It seems strange that there is not more public focus on these emissions. I think the public struggle to make the link between their clicks online and the carbon emissions associated with that online activity.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to help make the connection between emails and carbon emissions from data centres?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby