We try hard to ‘save the planet’ … we compost all our peelings and garden cuttings, we switch off the television at night to avoid using standby energy*, we recycle all our cardboard, glass and cans … batteries, too. But we go further – I cut the bottom off our milk cartons and use them as plant pots, I use toilet roll middles as biodegradable root trainers, I have a stack of yoghurt pots to use as plant pots too, although they are rather small and not all of them are suitable. We buy local produce, indeed we grow as much of our own as we can, though if we had to depend on it we’d go hungry! We produce our own eggs and in the process create more quality compost to grow more plants (well, we don’t, but the hens do!). I try not to leave my mobile phone charging overnight.

I’m sure we could do more – I won’t give up my tumble dryer for drying towels even in summer, we still use the car to go on holiday (though we may go by train if we book something in Yorkshire for October half term and with a family rail card it might be about the same cost as the petrol it would take), and I leave the computer on standby at night, sometimes I don’t even shut down. We use the dishwasher a lot (now there’s a dilemma, do I save water by using the dishwasher, or electricity and wash up by hand?).

We’re trying to pass on our philosophy by nagging the girls to turn off the light, television, radio and computers when they leave the room (how can they use them all at the same time?!).

But when is enough, enough? At what point does the good of the planet become of less importance than my own needs/comfort/convenience? (It’s hard to decide which is what … how cold should I have to feel before I can turn the heating on with a clear conscience?) And what about him down the road who does little if anything for the cause? It’s not fair that some take this issue seriously while others consider only their own pleasures. I know that ‘every little helps’ and that ‘if we all do a little it means a lot’ (have I read that somewhere or did I just make it up? It’s good, whatever!), but just how much is enough?

It’s not as if we’re setting an example on a national scale … for all their apparent commitment to renewable energy, to what extent has the government put it’s money where it’s mouth is (not that the current incumbents have had time to make a difference yet – but I’m not holding my breath)?

Yes, we all have cupboards overflowing with cheap/free energy saving lightbulbs (we have been given so many around here that we can’t give them away – everyone has more than they will ever need!), and we hear regular debates in the media as to the merits of wind power and wave power. But the investment needed to maintain our energy supplies at their current level will cost us far more than than is currently spent on the petroleum industry. Besides, no government will legislate for something that will lose them as many votes as making the price of petrol realistically represent the real cost in material terms, or taxing our vehicles off the road by road tolls or increased vehicle excise duty.

You’ll note that I’ve said nothing about nuclear energy as a clean source of electricity – it is a clean, safe and reliable source of power, but IMO the cost of the one chance in a million/billion that something may go wrong is simply too high. I simply can’t get over that thought when I consider it … despite the many, many reassurances I hear from experts and the industry itself. If you think that the current disaster in the Mexican Gulf resulted from a failure of up to 8 failsafe mechanisms … well, mistakes always happen and nuclear fuel is one we just can’t afford.

So we will continue to depend on oil for the foreseeable future until one day it all runs out and we are forced to face up to reality … if the planet survives that long. So perhaps our efforts at ecological living are, in the end, counter productive? Surely the sooner we get to that point the better?

* I have to confess that putting the television on standby is a recent development, having been given a free Intelliplug by an energy company.