Earth Notes: Aircon On, Windows Open!

Updated 2020-06-12 19:53 GMT.
Uncool: pointless behaviour that endangers the climate and benefits no one? #aircon #waste #podcast
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I'm Damon Hart-Davis.

I'm the man in cabin Q1 at the moment, for a family holiday by train to sun, sea and sand in the south of France on the Med.

A minor 'off beach' rant from me today!

The camp site we are on has various types of accommodation, from RVs and real tents through "glamping" to mobile homes. We're in a mobile, and in common with many of them, ours has a 'mini-split' air-conditioning unit that can be used for cooling or heating.

(Since these cabins are empty October to February, I don't suppose that they get used for heat much...)

Generally our fellow holiday-makers (from all over Europe, maybe some Americans too) seem pleasant and sensible.

When we came to our cabin at the start of our stay here, the air-con had been left on for things to be pleasantly cool. We did leave it on for a maybe an hour or so after arrival, but have not used it since. (Temperatures have not been above low 30s Celsius, and there is usually a light breeze, so it hasn't really been needed.)

When I am wandering around the camp I notice a few of the outside units for the air-con whirring. Fair enough. People want to be comfortable. And on our deal at least the electricity for it, cooking and lighting (and indeed fuel for hot water) is part of the accommodation charge.

The downside of the 'utilities included' charge is that there is no direct incentive for people to manage their use and conserve energy (and money for the campsite). So if anyone is wasteful, the rest of us pay in raised charges and damaging CO2 emissions.

Maybe in about 1 in 50 of the cabins that I pass on my wanderings, the windows and doors are wide open and the air-con is on. People are inside in the kitchen area, or lounging outside. The air-con is not making them cooler, and it's a terrible waste.

Really, why do people do that? I suggested to the camp office that they put a sign up under each air-con unit inside politely asking people not to, and save themselves [the camp] possibly thousands of Euros per month, and help the planet too...

(The advanced version would be to put switches on the windows and doors near each air-con unit to disable it automatically when open. And/or when it's been left on for a long time continuously. That would likely be fiddly, expensive to do, and unpopular, though.)

I've been trying to stay calm about it: I should be relaxing! But it's frustrating.

(It is possible that in some cases that the aircon has simply been left on permanently since arrival without the holiday-makers twigging what it is, other than a free cool breeze.)

One could argue that the French electricity is pretty low-carbon given that it's mainly nuclear. But it isn't all nukes and renewables, and if the French had more left over (less wasted) then they could be exporting it elsewhere to lower carbon footprints. Indeed, this week there have been some nuke plant outages and France has been importing from the UK, I read.

So until Europe is 100% zero-carbon electricity, and even then since it won't be free, we shouldn't be wasting resources like this!

Listen to more on my "Earth Notes" Web site at Earth.Org.UK!


It seemed hard to eat vegetarian there, and there was no separation of food waste from non-recyclables. These are relatively minor points, however. There was recycling of most other stuff, and there was a well-stocked Spar mini-supermarket on camp and a twice-weekly market with lots of fruit and veg.

We travelled to our holiday via local train, Eurostar, TGV (all electric), then taxi.