Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Have a NoFF day

What's a NoFF day? We can all have 'off days', or even naff days. But what about NoFF days? 'NoFF' stands for 'No Fossil Fuels'. The idea is simply for anyone to find out just how dependent we all are on fossil fuels. Not using any is something which sounds easy but you might surprise yourself at how difficult it is. The concept of NoFF days is brilliant for concentrating the mind on our gross dependency on carbon-based fuels.

Hypocrisy and honesty: I have actually had a number of NoFF days, partly as a means of Home: my little tent under Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoepractising what I preach. On my NoFF days, I used no fossil fuel of any kind, either directly or indirectly. On each day, I was eating some hot food, travelling for several hours and spending the nights in heated accommodation. How did I do this? It wouldn't be most people's idea of fun for I was backpacking alone in the Scottish mountains. I cooked my food on a simple methylated spirit stove (I use just 1 litre over a period of 7 days away from civilisation), travelled on foot and camped in a tiny one-man tent with a good sleeping bag to keep warm in. (That's the 'heated accommodation' bit.)

OK, that is cheating, in a sense. Not many of us would want to do that for fun, let alone with the serious intention of trying a day without fossil fuels or living the low-carbon life. But at least you can see that I have honestly had a number of NoFF days so I know whereof I speak - as the cliché goes.

Checklist for a real NoFF day: So let's get real and think. Such a day would need to be as close as you can get to a normal working day. So if you walk to work, that's your NoFF transport taken care of. If it's not too cold or too hot, you don't need any heating at home or at work so that's ok too. If you're one of those who has had the foresight to put their money where their mouth is and use genuinely renewable energy for heating, lighting, cooking and sundries like computers, then you don't need a NoFF day as you're already there!

  • Transport: no car? no bus? no plane? No sweat: walk or cycle. If you're so far from work or shops that NoFF is not an option, then consider moving house sometime soon so that it isThis stove heats most of my stone-built farmhouse very efficiently. The wood is all collected, sawn and split by me from the farm. Yes, I know this isn't an option for most of us.. Or what about teleworking?
  • Heating: no oil, coal or gas heating but you can use electric if it's from a guaranteed renewable source, or wood (wood-burner like mine on the right) which is also renewable and so carbon neutral.
  • Cooking: as above, not easy without a range that burns wood. Or biogas if you happen to have it. Or you could use a spirit camping stove like the one I take backpacking. Alcohol fuels can be derived from plant matter and so, like wood, are carbon neutral. An electric stove is fine subject to the power being from a utility company which guarantees its renewability.
  • At work: use no machinery or equipment which isn't hand-powered or getting its power from renewables (very unlikely).
  • Eating: only locally-grown food or, better, your own-grown food which has zero food miles. If you don't know where your food is from, fossil fuel will have been used to get it to you for sure. If it's packaged and/or processed, fossil fuel will have been used in its manufacture.

It's not easy being green: You'll have read through my list, thought about it a bit, and probably decided that the whole idea is impossible. And to a large extent, you'd be right. You can look upon it as a sort of 'thought experiment'; an exercise in assessing dependence. Or you can give it a go anyway and see how much you can manage. Devise a way to give yourself some points; more points for less FF. What did you score? What was the maximum you could score using your assessment? (If you come up with a good way to do this, add a Comment to this post.)

Points mean prizes! And the eventual prize: a habitable planet for our children to inherit. So... have a NoFF day!