Carbon footprint shock for Blue Peter presenters!

23 Mar 2011 16:20:07.170

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One night in a specially equipped eco-home at The University of Nottingham has shown the Blue Peter presenters Helen Skelton and Barney Harwood that their 24 hour sleep-over left behind an energy carbon footprint three times larger than for the average family home. They also discovered that when it came to lighting energy they were 80 per cent wasteful.

Helen, Barney and Barney the Blue Peter dog, were presented with the shock results after a 24 hour living lab experiment in the 2016 E.ON Research House on Green Street, University Park at The University of Nottingham for part of their Climate Week coverage. They’ve come away promising to go greener.

Barney said:  “The more you waste the more it costs so why would you waste anything when you are the one paying for it. Even more so in the bigger picture we are all paying for it aren’t we — it’s the environment — so there are lots of lessons to be learnt on this very location”.

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The experiment was conducted under the watchful eye of sustainable energy expert Dr Mark Gillott from the University’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment.

The 2016 E.ON Research house is part of the University’s ‘Creative Energy Homes’ project — a research and educational housing project of seven low energy research homes. The 2016 E.ON house is a re-creation of a 1930s semi-detached home which is being used to test energy retrofit solutions aimed at reducing the carbon impact of the UK’s existing housing stock.

The 2016 house project is also the trial house for a real time and location energy and occupancy tracking system which has been developed by Dr Gillott as part of the EPSRC/E.ON funded research project CALEBRE — this system was used for the 24 hour Blue Peter experiment.

During their 24 hour sleep-over the presenters were told to live as normally as possible. Meanwhile, their energy and water consumption throughout the home was tracked in real time. The central heating system, hot and cold water, lights and all appliances were monitored to determine where the energy was used and who was using it. Cameras and occupancy location devices picked up their every move (within reason) to determine their carbon footprint. At the end of the 24 hour experiment the presenters were shown the findings and more importantly ways in which they could have significantly reduced their carbon intensity.

Dr Mark Gillott, Creative Energy Homes Research and Project Manager, said: “Their total carbon footprint for the 24 hour period in the house was 41.7 kg of CO2. If they lived like that for every day of the year it would amount to 15,220kg CO2 — a value that is three times the average UK home of 5500kg CO2. Although a high value was expected as the occupancy reflected a more energy intensive weekend day in the winter heating period the presenters were still shocked to discover how much CO2 production they were responsible for.

“It’s hard for people to quantify and visualise CO2 emissions so we choose black party balloons to represent the CO2 emissions from our living lab during the 24 hour monitoring period. Over one year a typical home in the UK is responsible for the production of enough CO2 to fill a hot air balloon. When you consider there are 26 million homes in the UK then that's a staggering 26 million hot air balloons worth of CO2 produced from UK dwellings alone!”

During the 24 hours they used:

Electricity — 26.24 kWh of electricity which equates to about £3.14 and 14.17 kg CO2.

A breakdown showed that 8.35 kWh was used on lighting and the remaining amount was used on cooking, appliances (sockets) and the immersion heater.

Examples of individual appliance use:

Kettle 2.19 kWh
Laptop 0.22kWh
Toaster, 0.23 kWh
Wii & DVD 0.52 kWh
TV 0.66 kWh
Digital Photo Frame 0.16 kWh
Hairdryer 0.15 kWh

The gas they used for heating was 144.79 kWh which would cost around £4.55 and was responsible for 27.5 kg of CO2.

In total they were responsible for producing enough CO2 to inflate 2,300 party balloons which would equate to approximately 840,000 balloons worth in a year.

Dr Gillott said: “They wasted a significant proportion of their energy use on over heating the house (24 degrees centigrade average temperature throughout) and leaving lights and appliances on all the time. The results showed that 80 per cent reductions in lighting energy could have been achieved just by switching lights off when they weren’t needed.

“The CO2 equivalent number of party balloons from lighting was 250 which could be reduced to 50 balloons through behavioural change and then further reduced to 10 balloons by switching to low energy light bulbs — significant reductions with very little effort. Just by overfilling the kettle they produced 3.5 balloons worth of unnecessary CO2 each time they needed boiling water. 

“Their water usage was also high — an important factor if you consider the “Water Wise” statistic that the average family emits the equivalent of two transatlantic flights in carbon through their water consumption each year. The two presenters consumed 700 litres of water — a value that is very high when you compare it to the UK average water use which is 150 litres per person per day.  Again this could have been significantly reduced by simple things such as not leaving the tap running each time they brushed their teeth.

“A running tap wastes approximately six litres of water a minute. “Water Wise” estimate that if everyone in the UK who currently leaves the tap running when they brush their teeth turned it off instead — we would save 446 million litres of water — enough water to supply 2.9 million people for one day — that’s the entire population of Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow and Sheffield (the UK’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th largest cities) for one whole day.”

Although only short the 24 hour experiment proved to demonstrate just how much CO2 is released in to the atmosphere from our everyday household activities. However more importantly it also illustrated how simple behavioural changes can make a significant difference.

To watch the Blue Peter programme go to:

— Ends —

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

More news from the University at:

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Mark Gillott

on +44 (0)115 846 7677,

Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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