Carbon footprint of a swimming pool visit

Before I launch into this actual post, I just want to say that this is the first post in a new category.  This new category is my everyday thoughts about the environment I have whilst doing everyday things.  I am not aiming to answer they questions I raise about the topic.  But I want to perhaps ask many questions to prompt discussion and debate.

Swimming time

Today I took my daughter to the local gym to use there swimming, as we have a family membership.  The gym is about 3.5 miles from home and has been open about 7 years (at the time of writing).

So have you ever thought about the carbon footprint of firstly going swimming and the actual environmental cost of running a pool?  Well I must admit until today and now that I’ve started thinking about it, I keep thinking about how damaging it is.

Travel

Due to time pressure, we had to drive to the swimming pool and it’s a real shame.  To use the car for those 3.5 mile each way, is not ideal by anyone’s standards.  Now that the weather is improving, we might be able to switch from the car to cycling soon.  But of course family life, always seems to be about time pressure, especially at the weekends.

Shower, soap and the drier

Before we even consider the environmental impact of running a pool, the rest of our trip has to be explored.  So having driven to the pool, enjoyed their warm changing rooms, bright lights and electronic gate, we used the pool for an hour or so and then it was time to start the journey back home.  Firstly, we needed to get washed and dry.  So we get our shampoo, condition and body wash, all nicely bottled up in plastic and have no doubt done hundreds of miles during their process.  For example, the bottles themselves, the chemicals in the mixes and of course the overall production energy.  Just so I can use it after a trip to the swimming pool.

Then you have the hot water in the shower, which I’m sure we all use far too much when its in this sort of situation.  A bit like the extra long shower/bath in a hotel room.  Finally, the shower is over and then its time to get dry.  Guess what, time to use the hair dryer.

So you can see that simple everyday activities use so much energy and most of it, we don’t even realise it.

Directly running the pool

Forget the amount of energy in the construction phase of the pool and let’s concentrate on the amount of energy used to run it.

Firstly, the water.  It is nearly always pure drinking water, which of course has been treated and pump for miles to get to the filling point.  Loads of chemicals have been used to get it to that standard.  I don’t know what replenish rates are required for a typical 25 metre pool, say average depth of 1.2 metres?  But it must require regular top-ups.

Secondly, you have the on-site treatment, probably sodium hypochlorite (form of bleach) pured in by the barrel and I do have some knowledge of the process required to make this chemical and let’s say that it requires vasts amount of power.  There is a chlorine site along one of the motorways near Runcorn, UK and this factory has it’s own transmission lines and sub-stations.  The chemical again is transported by road/rail in large plastic drums.

Thirdly, what about pumping and heating costs.  Every swimming pool I have seen, as a special plant room, where pretty decent sized pumps and boilers are situated.  I can’t imagine that these would be lower power uses.  But to keep a large volume of water at 33oC or whatever temperature it is, can’t be exactly green either.

Summary

Just to make this clear, I am not suggesting that people shouldn’t go swimming or pools are in some way bad for the environment.  But I’ve written this to point out that something as innocent as going swimming can use lots of hidden carbon.  You might argue that my trip is one of thousands and by the time you have divided the resources over the thousands of visits, its not excessive visit.  Whilst that is true, I would argue that my trip is one tens of thousands being made all over the UK on any given day.

As stated at the top of this post, I am going to add more everyday environmental thoughts.  They are great ways to open up debate and discussion.  Please feel free to comment using the usual comment’s box.  Or if you prefer, send me an email, mail@energywatersaver.co.uk or tweet me at www.twitter.com/energywatersave