Saturday, 18 July 2009

Bristol's Carbon Emissions by Postcode

A Daily Telegraph article reports on research produced for the Greenaware programme by Experian and the Stockhom Environmental Institute which used data from various official sources to calculate the average carbon emissions per household for individual postcodes for the UK.

Purely by chance BS postcodes are equally represented in both the 1,000 highest carbon emitting postcodes and the 1,000 lowest carbon emitting postcodes with 12 entries in each.

So which postcodes in the Bristol area are environmentally friendly and which are the fossil-burning dinosaurs?

The 12 BS postcodes with the highest carbon emissions per household are;

1) BS9 1 Stoke Bishop, Sneyd Park at 28.88 tonnes of carbon per year
2) BS8 3 Clifton, Abbots Leigh, Failand at 28.59
3) BS40 8 Winford, Chew Magna at 28.25
4) BS48 3 Backwell, Barrow Gurney at 27.94
5) BS32 4 Almondsbury, Tockington at 27.65
6) BS48 4 Nailsea, Brockley, Backwell at 27.57
7) BS6 7 Westbury, Redland at 27.5
8) BS9 3 Westbury-on-Trym at 27.45
9) BS28 4 Wedmore, Blackford, Theale at 27.21
10) BS40 5 Wrington, Langford, Redhill at 27.1
11) BS20 8 Portishead, Weston-in-Gordano at 26.68
12) BS31 3 Saltford at 26.28

Whilst the 12 BS postcodes with the lowest carbon emissions per household are;

1) BS2 0 St Philips, St Philip's Marsh at 15.63
2) BS13 0 Hartcliffe at 16.01
3) BS5 0 Easton, Lawrence Hill at 16.63
4) BS13 9 Withywood at 16.81
5) BS5 9 Redfield, Barton Hill at 17
6) BS23 1 Beach Road, Weston super Mare at 17.06
7) BS11 0 Shirehampton, Lawrence Weston at 17.08
8) BS4 1 Knowle at 17.2
9) BS23 3 Locking Road, Weston super Mare at 17.73
10) BS2 8 Kingsdown, St Pauls, St James at 17.87
11) BS13 8 Bishopsworth at 18.3
12) BS10 5 Westbury-on-Trym, Southmead at 18.41

The obvious, and depressing conclusion looking at the two lists is that, in general, people's effect upon the environment has much more to do with their level of disposable income than with any conscious effort to behave in a more environmentally aware manner - a conclusion that has been apparent to most of us in the environmental movement for some time. Simply put, and allowing for some rare exceptions, the richer people are, the more they pollute.

A short travel journey north from Redland to Southmead will see you move from one of the areas with the largest emissions to one of those with the lowest - the reason for the difference of some 10 tonnes of CO2 per annum is almost certainly due to the fact that if you lived in one area you would almost certainly make that journey by car whilst if you lived in the other you may have to rely on public transport and that this reliance upon public transport in unlikely to be one of free choice.

The level of any individual commitment to a "greener" lifestyle appears to be of small impact in the overall scheme of things and is almost lost amongst the underlying level of emissions produced. This highlights the biggest barrier for future efforts to reduce the level of carbon emissions - individuals are unlikely to vote for a programme which involves any apparent reduction in their standard of living, a measurement which has become inextricably linked with the accumulation of possessions despite increasing evidence that an increasing number of possessions fails to improve the well-being and self-esteem of individuals once their basic needs have been met.


  1. Fascinating post. As you say disposable income is what it's all about. But I think it's the size of people's houses (heating)and tendency to take flights that are most significant. Mind you the rural BS postcodes include a lot more cart commuting than the urban ones of course.

  2. "a conclusion that has been apparent to most of us in the environmental movement for some time."

    If that's the case, then the environmental movement have been very poor at communicating this.

    The message I pick up from environmental movement is almost entirely lifestyle consumer-based - the whole locavore, organic, Fair Trade, Smart Car schtick.

    In fact, anything concerned with offsetting the guilt of wealthy consumers. It then manages to combine this with a moralistic and didactic tone toward those who can't join in.

    As a household on below average income I feel the environmental movement is pretty disdainful of the realities and the limited choices I'm presented with.

    I certainly don't get the impression their on my side against 'them'. They are 'them'.

  3. BB, there's no monopoly on environmentalism. Anyone can call themselves an environmentalist and even be one (though they're by no means the same thing). The Green Party, Greenpeace, FoE, etc. don't own the word Green or the concept of environmentalism.

    Many prominent 'environmentalists' lead utterly unsustainable lives (Charlie W and Al G for example), particularly in terms of air travel. Are they charlatans? I would say so.

    So you and I can have as much right, and a lot more credibility, to call ourselves environmentalists if we believe that the environment on which our survival depends deserves respect and is worth protecting (and who wouldn't agree with that?) and if our own lifestyles attempt to moderate our personal impact on the environment.

  4. could be a function of commute distance, that BS8 3 clifton abbots leigh is everyone the other side of the suspension bridge -they need to get in somehow. And looking at the full telegraph list, its those places near to cities where you can live a semi-rural drive-everywhere lifestyle (which, near a city, implies you have the money for the premium housing, and extra opportunities to travel with it)

    I am in BS6 6, not listed, therefore can be even smugger than normal as I drive to the supermarket in my 4x4 to stock up on organic brebis cheese freighted in from the french pyrenees to eat under my halogen lights. Though I'm slowly moving to LED over halogen lighting, to be even smugger.

  5. "If that's the case, then the environmental movement have been very poor at communicating this"

    I am not going to argue with that because, as you probably know, that is my own opinion as well. I think that the environmental movement in general has tended to focus on differences between rich and poor countries rather than the gaps between individuals within those countries. To be fair, I guess to the average family in Malawi, all British families seem wealthy but in a purely British context it is a wasted opportunity.

  6. Good post and comments.

    I have relatives who think they are Green, 'cos they recycle plastic bottles and then take long haul flights. I think the Green Movement (and Green Party) have sometimes been a little shy in making these arguments.