The fifth commandment

The New Scientist describes 5 “eco crimes we commit every day”; acts of thoughtless decadence that are killing the planet. Are you a climate criminal? Listen to these indictments and decide if you engage in any of these heinous activities.

  • Drank coffee. The average cup of black filter coffee is still responsible for 125 grams of CO2 emissions. Of this, two-thirds comes from production and most of the rest from brewing. … The environmental group WWF has calculated that it takes 200 litres of water to produce the coffee, milk, sugar and cup for just one regular takeout latte. So if everyone ditched their pre-work coffee fix that would do wonders for the planet.

  • Used toilet paper. The average American gets through 23 toilet rolls each year, adding up to more than 7 billion rolls for the country in total. Of these, just 1 in 50 are from 100 per cent recycled fibres. As Greenpeace pointed out earlier this year, this not only wastes energy and water, it also puts additional logging pressure on old-growth forest in North America, forests which play a vital role in supporting native biodiversity.
  • Bought clothes in a store instead of searching through dumpsters for something to wear. This surge in manufacture and consumption has been helped by fast-moving fashion trends and sweatshop price tags. As a result, much of the clothing we buy ends up being discarded long before it has worn out. In the UK, where the average item is worn for less than a third of its useful lifespan, more than a million tonnes of clothing are thrown away each year. The bulk of it ends up buried like woolly lasagne sheets in landfill sites or being used as multicoloured incinerator fodder … Switching to second-hand alternatives could therefore yield some big energy savings and cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Washed your clothes. A full load in a washing machine uses around 1.2 kilowatt-hours of electricity per cycle and tumble drying clocks up a further 3.5 kilowatt-hours, resulting in over 2 kilograms of CO2 emissions per wash. … For the largest cuts, simply washing less frequently is the way to go.
  • Eaten. US households throw away around 30 per cent of their food, worth $48 billion every year. Similar levels of wastage are seen in Europe. In the UK, some 6.7 million tonnes of food is binned annually. … For almost all the food we buy, the bulk of its greenhouse gas emissions arise here. This is especially true for meat and dairy produce. For example, 40,200 tonnes of milk are wasted each year in the UK, adding up to the equivalent of 40,000 tonnes of CO2. This is comparable to the annual CO2 emissions of 10,000 cars, or of flying 30,000 people from London to New York and back. … Check what you have already got, make a shopping list and, most importantly, don’t do the weekly shop when you are hungry.

In fact, you will probably do the environment the most good if you’re a homeless bum living out of a cardboard box made of recycled short-fiber paper. But even the homeless are not automatically innocent of eco-crime. Even they must be aware of the danger of hurting the planet by say, consuming trans-fatty acids. However sharp the pangs of hunger, even people living on the pavement must never succumb to the temptation to eat unwholesome foods. Fortunately, the authorities are onto this.  Metro International describes how New York City regulations now compel the operators of homeless shelters to throw away fried chicken in order to conform to the law.


When a small church comes to the Bowery Mission bearing fried chicken with trans fat, unwittingly breaking the law, they’re told “thank you.” Then workers quietly chuck the food, mission director Tom Bastile said.

“It’s always hard for us to do,” Basile said. “We know we have to do it.”

A Manhattan deli going out of business delivered a pickup truck’s worth of lettuce, sundried tomatoes, hamburgers, sausages and other food to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen last week.

With 1,400 meals to serve daily, Operations Manager Michael Ottley was extremely grateful. He didn’t check the trans fat content of the food.

There you have it folks. All food providers, including the operators of homeless shelters, are obliged to banish trans-fats. Proof that coffee, toilet paper, clothes, and even food are dangererous substances not to be lightly approached without a prosper political consciousness.  Live Green, live clean. How long is another matter for discussion.

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