How whales and washing machines can help reduce greenhouse gases

Funnily enough, both whales and washing machines including other household items can help reduce greenhouse gases. I don’t expect anything other than a tiny change. But ‘every little helps’ in the words of Tesco, a supermarket chain in the UK.


Unbeknownst to humankind, the mass slaughter of whales contributed to global warming. From 1910 to 1970 humans killed an estimated 1.5 million baleen whales in the waters around Antarctica. The Antarctic blue whale population fell from 125,000 individuals in 1926 to about 3000 in 2018.

A study has found that baleen whales which include blue, fin and humpback whales consume about three times as much food as was thought. They also produce about three times as much excrement. These whales feed on krill which contain a significant amount of iron. When they eat the krill, they convert the protein into blubber and defecate iron-rich waste. This provides a source of iron for diatoms which is a macroalgae that removes large amounts of carbon from the air through photosynthesis. The diatoms live near the surface of the oceans.

The researchers calculated that whale populations before their numbers were vastly reduced by 20th century whaling produced about 12,000 metric tonnes of iron in the Southern Ocean. This is 10 times the current amount.

The diatoms have vanished and they absorbed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They assisted in minimising global warming by reducing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Krill eating whale
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Krill eating whale. Slaughtering them alters the ocean’s ecosystems and has a negative impact on climate change. Image: Pixabay.

In order to work out how much food they were eating researchers tracked the movement of 321 whales of seven species which had been tagged with sensors and cameras. Drones were also used to watch more than 100 whales while they fed.

At the beginning of the 1900s, they estimated that minke, humpback, fin and blue whales in the Southern Ocean ate some 430 million tonnes of krill annually which is double the weight of krill estimated in the entire Southern Ocean today. It is also more than twice the total global catch from all human wild-capture fisheries combined. I think that paints a very clear picture of what has happened in the oceans thanks to the uncontrolled intervention and greed of humankind.

Washing machines and household appliances

You can save thousands of pounds by making your kitchen greener and you can also help save the planet. Certain appliances such as the Miele TCB140WP tumble dryer costs £29 a year to run when using it about three times a week compared to £135 for a Hoover HLV10LG-80. The Miele costs more to purchase but over the lifetime of the appliance it was estimated that you could save £1580. It is rated A**. It is a heat pump tumble dryer costing £929 (!) but you still save money if it is used in family homes.

Miele energy efficient tumble dryer
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Miele energy efficient tumble dryer. Photo:

The running costs are lower because they consume less electricity and in consuming less electricity you help (depending upon where you are) in reducing greenhouse gases. This is because greenhouse gases in places like China are emitted from coal-fired power stations which generate electricity. Clearly, if you live in a country where all the electricity is generated through sustainable ecologically friendly methods such as wind power and tidal power then the only benefit of using a Miele over the Hoover is to save money. But to the best of my knowledge there isn’t a single country on the planet which has attained that utopian state of affairs as yet.

This basic methodology applies to tumble dryers, washing machines, fridge freezers, ovens and dishwashers. The research was carried out by independent laboratories which revealed big differences between the efficiency of some A-rated machines. They found that in some instances B and C-rated machines were more efficient and cost less to run than A-rated machines. The report is in the Which? magazine and online, I presume, provided you subscribe.

In all they say that households could save £3,360 in a decade by switching to more energy-efficient appliances. The report in The Times newspaper does not mention the benefits to the environment but they must follow.


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