Wild About Africa

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Biogas bursting with Energy

We’ve been away for a few days and received this email

Subject “Full of goodness, Bursting with energy”

Content – of the email was simply this photo

bursting biogas.jpg

You cant imagine my pride… my cow dung has done that! Wow!

I hope you’ll agree that’s pretty serious expansion if you compare photos of the system just a few days ago. And if it’s your first time to participate in my biogas experiment, then you must check out my condom experiment here.

Well, we finally made fire!biogas fire.jpg

Check it out! I’m so happy 🙂

We all knew it would work – so why were we so impressed when it actually did?


There’s something quite delicious about making this thing work – but truth be told, while it was fun flaring the gas around and enjoying the warm blue flame, we have come across a snag. The pressure in the bag is insufficient to run my kitchen stove.

So now we have another plan, it involves two bright blue tanks, more pipes, wrenches, glue and a hose… and some rather ingenious ideas of creating pressure using water… watch this space.

Please note that This is a home experiment to create biogas for our home consumption – we (Paula, Peter and Dominic) would love to hear your comments, get your involvement and hear your ideas.

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June 8, 2010 Posted by | carbon emissions, carbon footprint, Climate change, Conservation, green house gases, Kenya | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Video on climate change – Rhoda’s footprint

I made a mistake in a previous guys – no not about gays or wife beaters, but about Rhoda’s carbon footprint.

It’s actually much smaller than I’d estimated so I’ve made a movie about Rhoda’s Footprint.

Watch it here

Poor people living in African countries are feeling the brunt of global climate change even though it is believed that most Africans cause hardly any green house gas emissions. To find out more about the average Kenyan carbon footprint I spoke to my neighbor Rhoda.  Rhoda is a domestic worker and she came to Nairobi from her rural home in search of a  job. Like me Rhoda she rents her house, and lives with her husband and one child.  What’s her carbon footprint?

You can also  listen to the podcast here on PRX

December 4, 2009 Posted by | carbon emissions, carbon footprint, Climate change, Conservation, green house gases, Kenya, Podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


In a previous post I was disgusted with the size of my carbon footprint. Do you know the sources of your carbon footprint?

Based on a little research I figured out that it’s easy to calculate your own footprint with out using those web based black box carbon calculators

  1. Air Travel is pretty bad- for every km you fly you emit 0.119 kg of CO2 – the good news is that it’s half or less per km of what you emit from your car, but the bad news is that you tend to fly long distances. This Carbon emissions website helps you to calculate distances you travel and will even calculate your emissions for you.
  2. Fuels – In Kenya we use fuel primarily for transport, cooking and lighting. Our electricity in Nairobi is mostly generated by hydro and thermal power so I’m leaving this out for now. For people in Mombasa where power is generated from diesel and heavy fuel oil and where we tend to use the air conditioners the carbon impact could be significant. 1 kilowatt hour is equivalent to 1 kg of Carbon dioxide emissions.
  3. HOLY COW! I’ve included cows because they are especially bad news. Each cow produces 90 kg of methane per year in form of farts. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon Dioxide as a Green House Gas. This means that every cow you have contributes 1,890 kg of Carbon Dioxide equivalent per year.
Fuel and carbon emissions

Carbon emissions by fuel type

*1 Based on how charcoal is produced, I’ve assumes that for every 1 kg of charcoal produced is equivalent to 3 kg of raw wood. Charcoal and wood are both carbon neutral as they are not fossil fuels – but unless you are harvesting them sustainably their use is contributing to carbon in the atmosphere
*2 See Holy Cow! above

(Note that different websites give slightly different rates of carbon emissions for things like petrol/diesel)
Based on the above rates, here are my calculations for my carbon footprint.

Sources of my carbon footprint

Ok despite the fact that I mostly use cotton bags at the super market, I generally don’t buy water in bottles, and I compost my garden wastes, I’m still pretty disgusting – my carbon footprint is nearly 16 tons!!! I’m weeping..… despite everything I’m doing, compared to the global average of 4 tons, my footprint is truly massive (though I should indicate that this is the combined feetprints of me and my partner ;}
How do I compare with carbon emitters elsewhere?

Some Australians on average spend 14 tons on household energy in warming homes alone!
The Average American uses 11 tons of carbon per year  – the range is vast
The Average Kenyan uses .31 tons (but I don’t think the average estimates include all those farting cows, burning of fields and all the firewood burned every day).

Looking at the figures it’s easy to see that my massive footprint is because I travel too much and drive a 4×4. But it’s all necessary for work. Thank God I don’t have a cow! Turns out cows may be worse for the planet than car and this article tells you why. Well, surely I can offset these emissions fairly easily?
Options for offsetting my Carbon Footprint

Planting trees – everyone is doing this it’s a treeplantingmania in Kenya. But to me it seems futile, most seedlings aren’t cared for and just die….while more and more trees are being felled daily.

Take into consideration the fact that  seedlings hardly absorb any carbon at all…they are just too small with too few leaves. I’ve calculated how many seedlings I need to plant if we estimate that the survival rate of my seedlings is likely to be about 75% (feeling confident here).

They will need a liter of water every few days – that means I need to find about 150 liters of water per seedling per year to achieve this rate of survival. I must not use pesticides or fertilizers as these are carbon emitting products.

After 5 years or so these seedlings will be absorbing about .5 kg carbon each per year. At this rate I need to plant 15064 x 1.25 (survival rate) x 2 (kg of carbon) = 39,160 seedlings and sustain them for the next 100 years.

For this I need to find 5.9 tons of water every year for their first 5 years or so – that’s 804 20 liter jerry cans per day! That’s just a rough estimate.

As if that’s not bad enough, for these trees to survive I need to find a place to plant them ..lets see for a tree to do well and grown into a giant carbon sucking machine, they must be at least 5 m apart – that’s 400 per hectare so I’ll need 94 hectares and I’ll have to keep these tree alive.

If these calculations are right, then planting seedlings seems totally ridiculous! Where on earth will I find that much land?

Ok, let me look at the alternatives

If I don’t have ninety something hectares I could invest in grown up trees as they are more efficient at absorbing carbon. A mature tree absorbs between 1 – 1.2 kg of Carbon Dioxide per year and will live for approximately 100 years.
What if I just save grown up trees that are already massive carbon sucking machines rather than invest in all that water and care to seedlings that spend their first five pathetic lives doing very little to offset my footprint. It will mean that to offset my footprint I must ensure that 15,000 trees are protected each year. That’s 37.5 hectares of forest land. I know that I can’t afford that!

What else can I do to mop up my mess? Can I sequester my own carbon?

You’d be surprised. I’ll let you in on a secret in my next post …keep reading

November 30, 2009 Posted by | carbon emissions, carbon footprint, Climate change, Conservation, green house gases | 7 Comments