Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mending my wellies

One of the drawbacks of taking global warming seriously is that you can come across as something of a nutter. This isn't a great problem for me because I already have other claims to nuttiness, like having a GCSE in Esperanto. However, this post is about my obsession with making-do and mending.

Recently I repaired a couple of pairs of wellington boots. Wellies, I find, have a habit of splitting when my partner wears them. She got me some new ones for my birthday a year or so ago but took to borrowing them with the inevitable result - a split that let the water in. I now had two pairs of leaky wellies, one of which I had tried to mend before.

The secret, I find, is to stick a cloth patch over the split and put adhesive over the top of the patch to seal it in. Bostik all-purpose adhesive seems to do the job OK but I found a better product called Stormsure. Combined with the cloth patch the Stormsure did a superb job on one of the split wellies, but I wasted the rest of it trying to mend the split on the other without a patch. Having run out of Stormsure (it comes in small tubes) I have redone the job with a cloth patch and some rather old Bostik and it seems to have worked. If that repair doesn't last I'll get some more Stormsure.

The question is: what energy have I saved by mending my wellies rather than buying a new pair? For guidance on this, I have turned to my usual source: David MacKay's Sustainable energy - without the hot air. According to this (p 325), the embodied energy in plastics (wellies aren't made of rubber these days) is generally about 25 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per kilogram. Each welly weighs about one kilogram, so if I have stopped myself buying two pairs of replacement wellies, that would seem to represent an energy saving of about 100 kWh. OK, I have ignored the rest of the energy involved in manufacturing, transporting and retailing wellies, but I have also left out the embodied energy in the adhesive.

100 kWh is the energy I would on average use as gas and electricity in my flat over a period of about 14 days (see my post of August 31st). It's also equivalent to driving about 52 miles in a car that does 33 miles per gallon (83km at 12 km/litre or 8.3 litres per 100 km, see MacKay p29). Not a spectacular saving, but, as David MacKay says, every little helps a little.

What I missed out of the calculation may be important. By not buying new wellies I have declined to support the manufacturers, transporters and retailers of wellies. As a result, these people will have less to spend on things like new wellies and there will be energy and emissions savings as a result. My money has stayed in my modest, private hoard and has failed to help the economy out of recession. That gives me some satisfaction. I have to be cruel to be kind. To save our civilisation from a future catastrophe from global warming, I think we in the developed world need to give up our hopes of economic growth and get used to a steady-state or even a receding economy. My make-do-and-mend obsession is part of my contribution to that much-needed recession.