Energy consumption and the holiday

This post is not designed to give facts nor figures, it is really about my observations and thoughts about the amount of energy involved in a holiday in Spain.

Introduction

Recently I took the family to the Spanish island of Menorca, a smaller neighbour of the more famous Mallorca.  Here’s my story and observations relating to the carbon footprint and energy consumption.

Starting from home

We got in the car and drove about 50 miles to the local airport and met our car parking company, who took the car to their safe compound for us.  Next we did the usual check in stuff and eventually found our way to the boarding gate.  So before we’s actually even gone anywhere, a decent amount of energy was being used.  Not just for use, but all the same, the airport was using energy.

Think about the CO2 of the car, the heating/cooling, lighting, the security scanners and of course the cafes and bars.  Next we were greeted by large fuel tankers seemingly filling up an endless number of aeroplanes.  Closely followed by the food wagon, carrying about 300 pre-packed meals, probably produced in some remote locations, about to clock up another thousand miles.Of course it almost goes without saying but the two massive engines strapped to each side of the 757 plane weighs heavily in, in terms of the whole carbon footprint of the holiday.

Arrival in Spain

On arrival at the small but pleasant Mahon airport, the same energy consumptions as with our departure airport.  Then of course we got on a coach and was taken about another 30 miles or to our hotel complex.  The amount of buses buzzing around taken holiday makers from all over Europe was actually absolutely frightening.  All pumping out thick black smoke and judging by their appearance, quite old and possibly very inefficient.

The hotel complex

The hotel complex was made up of several central communal buildings, housing the food halls, sports and entertainment areas and about 400 2-3 bedroom apartments.  There were three half sized Olympic swimming pools and well maintained grounds.  Just think about this for a moment.  I’ve previously posted a short post on the carbon footprint of a swimming pool, the chemicals, the pumps and of course the water.  Image all the air conditioning units in the apartments and the central areas.  If that isn’t bad enough, what about all the water used by the visitors, the long showers and the WC flushes.

Food miles

Whilst eating a meal with my family in one of the restaurants, I suddenly noticed just how much carbon was being used by these places.  The amount of laundry for example, the waiters were changing tablecloths every few minutes for a three hour sitting and there were three sittings per day, breakfast, lunch and evening meals.

Next the sheer amount of food and the associated food miles.  I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of guests were consuming greatly more food that they would at home.  This was due to nearly everyone I saw was on an all inclusive packages.

Summary and thoughts

I can’t begin to calculate the amount of carbon our family caused by our week away in Spain, but we must have completely undone all our good work during the year.   We are told by all sorts of people that we need to reduce the amount of miles we drive in our cars, the need to make our homes more fuel efficient and yet we think nothing about boarding a plane and enjoying a week or two in the sun.  I remember reading recently, that a European flight uses more CO2 on a return flight, than your home produces in a year.  So really a flight to Spain means that I am powering two homes!  Doesn’t that make you think.

I think this is an example of if we are going to really tackle the fuel and climate problems, then the lives many of us take for granted must change.  But are we ready to change.  It was very noticeable during my holiday, that the people from different countries are taking foreign holidays.  For the last say 30 years the traditional Spanish holiday taker, has been either German or British.  I met people from all over Europe, and most interestingly from parts of Eastern Europe.  So even if we in the UK decide to reduce our holiday carbon footprints, are our neighbours?