American Ambivalence

I recently moved to Wales from the eastern United States. For years I have wanted to live in Europe. Many aspects of culture, politics, society, and lifestyle here appealed to me far more than the individualistic, rampant consumerism all too commonly associated with the ‘American Dream’ that I was fed growing up in a rural […]

Darrick Evensen, Wales/USA

What is ‘essential’ energy use?

Back in June, Chris Groves went to talk to the Year 5 classes at Roath Park Primary School about Energy Biographies research. The children offered us in return some of their thoughts on what, for them, are ways of using energy that they couldn’t do without. I would find it so hard to live without […]

Chris Groves, Cardiff

On Flying and Driving: An Overgrown Boy’s Efforts at Heroics

Ever since I was a boy, I’ve imagined myself as a hero of sorts. I’ve given up on the 24-inch biceps, but elements of the hero image still have a pull. The Energy Biographies website includes inspiring stories about environmentalists who have virtually given up on flying, which is a personal sacrifice that strikes me […]

Kai, British Columbia

Saving energy – what for?


I cannot recall a time when I consciously decided to reduce my domestic energy use – and yet energy saving is something that matters a lot for my sense of identity. I think it was drummed into me as a child – my parents are impressively frugal with resources. And so from a young age […]

Michael, Edinburgh

Saving energy … with moderation

electric shower

Since I was a very young girl I’ve been very sensitive about energy issues. I would always  turn off tap water when I didn’t need it (for example, while washing my teeth, I used not to let water run); always switched off lights when leaving a room; always tried to use public transport or my […]

Alice, Italy

I Bathe in Liquid Sunshine – my journey towards a low(er) carbon home

sunshine through willow trees

STEP ONE I became a householder for the first time in January 2004 when I moved into my new home. A three-bedroomed semi-detached ex-council house built in the late 1940’s, it came complete with an old solid fuel central heating system that ran off a coal-fired stove. After a couple of winters spending many hours […]

Tania, Wales

Obsessed with Technology


Energy usage has always been important to me, growing up in a large family has made me conscious of everything I do which uses energy. I grew up in the middle of nowhere and I remember frequent power cuts with a seemingly endless supply of candles, being told to put on another jumper if I […]

Elspeth Spence, Wales

Shock and Denial

children in the 1950s

In 2005 my son told me that the average UK carbon footprint was 12 tonnes of CO2 and that a sustainable average would be 1.5 tonnes. As I questioned him, demanding more information, I became incredulous. I didn’t believe him. I didn’t want to believe him. I didn’t think it would be possible to live […]

Ro, Scotland

Thinking carefully

Photo of an office recycling bin

My childhood memories are of frequent car journeys for no particular reason and shopping trips for very few items. Petrol was very cheap, put into a mini a poundsworth at a time. No central heating but multiple electric fires. Hardly any insulation. When we got central heating there was some insulation but a tiny amount […]

David, South Wales

Hoodwinked by car manufacturers

Photo of a road

Elisabeth Dütschke (Freiburg, Germany) has been putting some figures onto the ‘rebound’ phenomenon ie the degree to which expected savings are not made when converting to more efficient technology. She indicates that this figure is c.5% for domestic lighting and up to 30% for domestic cars. I lived in the Netherlands 1977 – 2011 where […]

Peter Badcock, Cardiff

More Efficiency but Increased Demand

terraced house

Up to the age of around 40 years old I lived in shared accommodation and rented homes. None were particularly well insulated – from the 400 yr old cottage I grew up in, to living with friends whilst living and working in London. I’ve never owned a car. In my late teens to early twenties […]

Mike, York

The Van Sticker

smiley sticker

It was a smiley orange sun on a yellow background. That was such a happy picture. But the words were scary. ‘Nuclear Power? No Thanks’. I was only 9, but my dad was intent on getting my brother and me into green politics. As a candidate for the national Green Party, he had an allotment, […]

Rachel, South Wales

To Fly or Not To Fly

Travelling by train

About ten years ago I realised how significant flying was (in terms of your individual carbon footprint). If you try and work out roughly how much energy you can use in a year and still live within ‘sustainable’ limits, a couple of return trips to Europe would take up your entire yearly allowance in one […]

Adam, Bristol


EPC certificate

We’re selling our flat, and so have to get an Energy Performance Certificate to show how energy-efficient (or not) it is. The Estate Agent told us no one ever looks at these when they buy a place, but it’s a legal requirement to have anyway! The EPC man just came round to assess the flat, […]

Lorraine, Bristol

To Car or Not To Car

close-up of car headlight

I decided to get a car three years ago so that I could pursue my photography hobby more seriously. I was tired of persuading other people to get up before sunrise, so getting a car seemed like the obvious solution. When I decided to become a student again about a year later, I faced the […]

Anon, Wales

Going Solar

Solar panels on the roof of Bridget's parents' home.

Through my work transcribing interviews on research projects on a number of environmental issues for Cardiff University I have become very passionate about (some say obsessed with) going green. The most exciting part of this for me has been the installation of 18 solar panels on the roof of my parents’ home last September. I […]

Bridget, Wiltshire

Baby Changes

Mountain of nappy bags

In March 2012 my wife gave birth to our baby, Ben. Events both before and after this time have changed my own and our family’s energy use in different ways. Although I have a driving licence, I have always avoided driving – both for environmental reasons, but also because I just don’t like it (especially […]

Stuart, Bristol

My Moment of Clarity

Aeroplane at Cardiff Airport

My moment of clarity came when I attended a green energy workshop at the Brithdir Mawr intentional community as part of my Permaculture Design course. The first part of the day saw us being given a guided tour of the community, which is currently 80% self-sufficient in energy and 60% self-sufficient in food. As well […]


The Pandora’s Box that is Energy

Cardiff Bay at night with New Moon

My ‘energy epiphany’ came last year when I started a new research job. Despite being interested in environmental issues as a teenager and despite having worked in the general area of sustainability for 7 years, this was the first time that I’d focused specifically on energy – and it was scary! Scary because, the more […]

Beccy, Lancashire

Forming Habits

Being part of the Energy Biographies project has prompted me to think about my own energy use and what kind of things I do in the same way as my parents:   Using fabric bags for food shopping – seeing something of a revival thanks to plastic bag charges in Wales        Re-using […]

Fiona Shirani

Off to a flying start?

Canada Airlines jet in flight

After living in London for many years, I recently moved to Cardiff to begin my PhD, leading me to re-examine my travel habits and think about choices such as how will I get to the office every morning and how often should we use the car? In particular, one prominent aspect of academic life, the […]

Catherine Cherry

The Ford Van and Funny Plumbing


My own energy story starts in the mid 1970s, having packed myself off to Stoke-on-Trent to broaden my academic horizons at University. Despite the fact that the punk rock revolution was about to explode ‘down south’, my attentions turned to the question of serious music: Matching Mole, Weather Report, Hatfield and the North. I had […]


The trapezoid of death

bike at filey

I’ve been riding a bike to work for eight years now, ever since coming to Cardiff, in fact. For the same stretch of time my wife and I have been driving our young family out of Wales and around England, several times a year, to visit three sets of grandparents. Life stories punctuated by moves […]

Chris Groves

Moving On Up?

Having recently moved home I was prompted to reflect on the kinds of decisions involved in ‘moving’ and their implications for energy usage. Where we live plays an important role in the formation of our energy consumption. It impacts on how far we have to travel to get work, to see family and friends and […]

Catherine Butler

Growing up in North Wales

View of Porthmadog

I grew up in rural North Wales, a beautiful place to live, but in some areas remote and lonely. Throughout my early childhood I have fond memories of riding my bicycle around the village and running up to the hills and woods surrounding it with my friends (often to my mother’s dismay at my refusal […]

Erin Roberts

Electrical Foes

electrical switch

When moving flats there are several rules (beyond the obvious like affordable rent!) I have to help me choose a suitable place: commutable to work via public transport not too high ceilings absolutely no electric storage heaters Well I guess one out of three is, well terrible. I remember when I was moving my stuff […]

Karen Parkhill

Through a child’s eyes

Luba Sockets

Today it is not rare to hear about energy security and risk in the media, but when we were children, the risk our parents were most concerned about was not getting electrocuted accidentally. Taking the point that this is an energy biography and as such by essence very personal, I offer the following story – […]

Luba Pirgova

When I Let My Guard Down

computer screen

Whenever I think about energy and how it affects my life I often find myself staring hypocrisy straight in the face. Most of the time I like to think of myself as a bit of an eco-warrior, running round the house turning lights and appliances off, nagging at my girlfriend to unplug her phone/laptop charger […]

Sam Hubble

Drying Clothes the Feline Way

Happy cat washing its face

Since the 1950s, and the advent of consumer durables such as washing machines, electric irons, and tumble dryers, domestic labour has become easier. Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, my memories are of taking these electricity-using gadgets for granted. They were a nuisance when they broke down and costly to repair or replace. When […]

Karen Henwood