Are you at risk of letting your extravagant feline out of its container?

By Zoe Holliday

I don’t profess to know, well, anything about quantum mechanics. But I do know that at the heart of it is the idea of indeterminacy – an understanding that there are certain things in the cosmos that we can’t know for sure – such as the precise location and speed of a particle. I also know that a rather clever chap called Erwin Schrödinger proposed a famous ‘thought experiment’ to show some of the limitations of quantum mechanics.  In this experiment, Schrödinger’s cat is put in a steel box with a device that has a 50 per cent chance of releasing deadly poison at some point in the next hour. 

I wouldn’t say that I relate to the cat, but as a child I probably spent more time than average in metal boxes. Mainly cars and planes, which luckily didn’t contain devices which could poison me (as far as I am aware, anyway). We lived abroad and did so many long-distance flights coming back and forth to the UK that I was a member of a frequent flyer club before the age of 10. And I tell you what, I loved it! Most children would be daunted if they were put on a flight to see their grandparents without any supervising adults. I was just excited about what would be in my on-board goody bag. 

These days I live a significantly more eco-friendly lifestyle, but as in quantum mechanics, there are unknowns in my life. One that concerns me is whether I have totally killed off that carbon-intensive child wanting a goody bag, or whether she is still inside me, waiting to jump out. In the same way that Schrödinger couldn’t know whether his cat was alive or dead unless he opened the box, I don’t think I will find out whether she is still inside me unless I land a cash windfall. 

You see, I may spend my days here endorsing energy efficient appliances and heating systems, but if I’m totally honest about it, I fear that there’s a good chance that if I won the lottery, I’d go out tomorrow and buy a range (and a house to put it in). I guess that’s another throwback to my childhood, when we would spend hours leaning against the warm Aga in my grandparents’ house, chatting while the home-made bread and marmalade cooked. 

Well, that’s the cat out of the bag (if not the box)! But I don’t think I’m alone in having a guilty urge for something that really isn’t the best for the environment. So, although I wouldn’t encourage anyone to buy the items below, if you are going to splash out, here’s some top tips about how to limit the carbon impact of your new purchases: 

  • If a heated swimming pool is your luxury item of choice, consider a renewable heating system (such as solar hot water panels) to heat the water. You can also minimise heat loss either by building the pool indoors, or by investing in pool insulation (to prevent heat loss to the ground) and a decent insulated cover (to minimise the amount you are heating the sky).
     
  • If your heart is set on a sports car or a 4 by 4, you can maximise your miles per gallon by choosing one of the greenest cars in class and using fuel efficient driving techniques.
     
  • If you fancy a power shower, make sure you invest in a water-efficient shower head, which is aerated to produce water flows that feel higher than they are. Also consider how long you are spending in the shower – if you’re spending more than about five minutes in a power shower, then the water saving advice you learnt at school goes out the window, and it would be more energy efficient for you to relax in the bath!
     
  • If you’re planning a holiday, then look into the sustainability credentials of the hotels/resorts you are planning to visit (check out our previous blog on this subject). Consider whether you can get away using sustainable transport options – www.seat61.com is a great source of information. And if not, consider whether you can reduce your air miles by taking one longer adventure rather than two shorter holidays in the year! 
  • Finally, if you’re like me and an Aga is your dream option, then try to reduce your overall energy use by avoiding using other appliances such as kettles, toasters and microwaves; dry clothes over the range rather than using a tumble dryer and close the hotplates when they’re not in use. Switch it off in the summer and use an intelligent management system to allow it to go into slumber mode when it’s not in use. If you have a local source of fuel, consider purchasing a wood burning Rayburn or link your range to a renewable fuel source.