We see and hear about it everywhere. It’s in the news, on our social feed and in daily conversation. The earth is struggling and we need to look at ways of stopping and reversing the damage we have caused. We hear about the need to recycle more, to stop the use of plastics and look at renewable energy sources.
At last we are hearing about the need to stop consuming animal products. Big companies have jumped on the bandwagon and of course in many ways that’s a good thing. Although it easy to see that some use it simply as a marketing ploy to try and increase revenue rather than really being a core value.
So what about renewable energy sources? Particularly those that are supplying gas and electric to your home? Well the good news is that there are more green options than ever with many suppliers offering 100% renewable electricity and 100% carbon neutral gas.
So that’s great news particularly for vegans most of whom are passionate about the environment as well as animal rights. But actually it’s not that simple because believe it or not the vast majority of energy suppliers, even those who offer green options, often use animal products to generate energy.
So let’s take a look at vegan gas and electricity, explore why your energy might not be vegan and see what options we have.
Why Isn’t My Energy Vegan?
So as vegans we know that a product is only vegan if it doesn’t involve the use of animals or animal by-products. So how is it then that these products are being used in the production of our gas and electric. Well there are two main sources of non-vegan energy generation in the United Kingdom.
These are Anaerobic Digestion (AD), and Biomass. Both AD and biomass energy production can contain by-products of animal farming. This can include things like slaughterhouse waste, fish parts, and animal slurry. Anaerobic Digestion is by far the most common method, so how does it work?
Well in simple terms AD is the breakdown of organic materials into the gases methane and carbon dioxide with water as a by-product. Methane is a flammable gas which can be used as a fuel for generators to produce both gas and electricity. The problem here is the use of animal products and by products.
There is a much larger debate to be had over the use of animal slurry and we will touch on that in a moment. However there is really no debate to be had when we hear of animal body parts being used for energy as was the recent case with the energy supplier SSE.
The Times newspaper reported that SSE had shipped vast quantities of dead salmon to an energy plant in Scotland to produce bio gas. And once you take a closer look at the fuel used by the vast majority of energy companies in the UK you quickly realised that virtually all have some form of animal by-product in their supply chains.
Can Non Vegan Energy Be Green?
Whilst the use of fish carcass and animal body parts is wholly unacceptable. The use of slurry does tend to cause more debate. As a vegan my natural reaction is to say that it’s not vegan and is still linked to animals that have likely been bred for the food chain so I will avoid it.
However I like to think that I am opened minded enough to consider the bigger picture in everything that we do. As a vegan I make every effort to avoid any form of animal exploitation or cruelty. In the real world I am well aware that animals are killed every day to protect and harvest fruit and vegetable crops. For me it’s about understanding where your actions have the least impact. So let’s come back to that slurry.
Regardless of what we would like to happen the reality is that the world won’t go vegan overnight. That means there is a waste product that needs to be disposed of. Yes that’s right poo! Of course manure, typically cow dung and chicken droppings have been used as fertilizer for crops for years.
Energy suppliers are now utilising slurry to produce energy via Anaerobic Digestion. It is actually an effective way of disposing of waste that would otherwise contribute to further pollution. As animal slurry breaks down naturally, it produces large quantities of methane which we know is a direct contributor to climate change.
Anaerobic Digestion turns this harmful greenhouse gas into CO2, feeding back into a natural carbon cycle. Another interesting fact is that by disposing of the slurry in this method we actually reduce the amount of chemicals that would normally be used to break it down. Many of these chemicals have been shown to be harmful to bees.
So Poos Ok Then?
Personally I don’t want to support any company or industry that is compliant in animal exploitation, particularly factory farming which is where a large quantity of slurry comes from. However as a realist I dont have an issue with utilising waste manure for energy particularly if it is helping the environment by doing so.
At least that is until there is no more slurry and manure to dispose of! Hopefully through education and over time we will see the practice of factory farming and meat consumption decline and eventually vanish.
Because factory farming is horrendous and yet it is slurry from one such pig farm that was used by the firm good energy to provide green energy to thousands of homes in the UK. Animal welfare group Viva filmed undercover at the Lambrook Pig Farm in Somerset and exposed pigs in appalling conditions.
When consumers take an ethical decision to purchase what they believe to be green energy, I am sure none of them would imagine that any of it would come from a hell-hole like this.Viva’s Justin Kerswell
So is poo ok then? Well in an ideal world there wouldn’t be the quantities of manure and slurry to think about. But in the real world in which we live I don’t actually have a problem utilising a waste product if it is beneficial to the environment which in this case it clearly is.
After all organic vegetables are often fertilised with animal dung. The problem is knowing where the waste has come from and that’s something that’s more difficult to determine.
Green And Vegan Energy
It’s worth knowing that regardless of the suppler that you choose the energy that actually charges your phone, powers your washing machine and turns on your lights will actually have come from multiple sources. That is just the nature of how the grid works.
However by choosing an ethical 100% renewable energy company you are ensuring that the quantity of fuel that you use in your home is at least 100% renewable. So what are the renewable options? Well the main ones are wind, which come from both onshore and offshore wind farms.
Hydroelectricity which uses the energy from heavy streams of water, often tidal. Solar energy which most of us are aware of and of course anaerobic digestion and biomass. As we now know it is the latter two which can mean that our energy isn’t vegan.
Even though only around 1% of energy in the UK is made by non-vegan methods it does form part of most green energy options. So what are we to do as vegans? Well there is some good news so let’s sum up vegan gas and electricity and see what options we have.
Vegan Gas And Electricity The Options
Well there is good news at least for those of you in the UK. There are now numerous smaller independent companies that offer 100% renewable energy and that only use slurry or manure for their anaerobic digestion and biomass.
And if you are concerned about slurry and manure having seen the horrific report from Viva the UK also has it first vegan energy supplier with Ecotricity. Ecotricity are the only energy company in the UK that is registered with The Vegan Society.
So who should you use? Well like anything that you are going to buy I suggest you do your research. No doubt there will be a range of factors important to you as well as the ethical ones including customer service and price.
I changed supplied at the end of 2015 with my focus on green energy never really giving a great deal of thought to it being vegan. I did lots of research and decided on Bulb Energy and have been delighted with their prices and customer service.
Now I only have electricity and although not certified vegan the electricity they supply is vegan and 100% renewable. Their gas is 100% carbon neutral of which 10% is produced by food or farm waste. The farm waste is slurry and manure that comes from farms in Oxfordshire. >YOU CAN CHECK OUT MORE ABOUT BULB THEIR ETHICS AND THEIR TARIFFS HERE<
Bulb really do seem to be an ethical company and their prices and customer service is excellent. However if you have gas and are not happy with the use of slurry and manure you do have the fully vegan option of Ecotricity.
Based on my research Ecotricities prices seem to be higher and their customer service not quite as good as Bulb but at least you can be content that you are using a full vegan option. >YOU CAN CHECK OUT MORE ABOUT ECOTRICITY THEIR ETHICS AND THEIR TARIFFS HERE<
You don’t have to be vegan to change to a green energy supplier and if you are vegan its great to know you have options. Either way I’d encourage you to make the most ethical choice you can. For now I’m staying with Bulb as I know my electicity is vegan, 100% renewable and my bills are low. But check out your energy supplier to see if there is a more ethical, vegan and maybe even a cheaper option for you.