Hogwarts Achieves Carbon Neutrality: Living in a Closed Loop

Imagine an isolated castle surrounded by sloping hills and a glassy lake with the looks similar to the circa 1900 era: Welcome to Hogwarts School of Whichcraft and Wizardry. For those of you who don’t know, Hogwarts is the school of magic in the well known Harry Potter series. After much musing, I’ve determined Hogwarts (though fictional) is probably the greenest, most carbon neutral school in the (wizard and muggle) world.

There are a few things that really stand out when I think of Hogwarts being the greenest school–the fact that there is no electricity is a huge one–but there are other nuances that allow the school to operate on a virtually closed loop system.

I’ll go ahead and get big one out of the way since I’ve already mentioned it: no electricity. Hogwarts is lit solely by fires, lanterns, and the efficacy of your lumos spell. During drafty nights in the library you’d be forced to get a thicker cloak to wear. On hot days you’re better off spending the afternoon in the dungeons than plan on turning on air conditioning. Furthermore, there aren’t computers, copy machines or other pesky vampires (no, this isn’t a jab at Twilight–apparently it’s an actual term) to keep the kilowatt clock running at all hours of the day and night.

School districts in the US spend six billion dollars a year on energy which translates to over 64 billion kilowatt hours of energy. If you’re using coal to generate that electricity, we’ve just emitted about 133 billion pounds of carbon dioxide. Hogwarts is skipping right over those carbon emissions (not to mention the other emissions associated with electricity generation) by not being connected to the grid.

It’s never quite discussed how the kids of Hogwarts are fed day in and day out, but I’m going to assume a good deal of that food is grown on the grounds thanks to Hagrid’s garden. Thankfully, the use of magic appears to have eliminated the need for pesticides and fertilizers, so they’re operating on a fairly organic basis (I’m not sure if enhancing food with magic could really be considered “organic”, but roll with me). Growing their own food–or most of it–diminishes the costs associated with food transportation.

Transporting food into California alone emitted 70,000 tons of carbon in 2005. Whatever isn’t grown on the Hogwarts premises can be obtained in the nearby village, Hogsmeade, and visiting the village is a great way for the students to support their local wizard economy.

If something isn’t readily available locally, the students of Hogwarts can always order from Diagon Alley. Unlike regular mail, all deliveries in the wizarding world are made by owl post–eliminating the carbon emissions associated with postal fleets.

Like electricity, another huge factor in keeping Hogwarts’–and really all of the wizarding world’s–carbon emissions at bay is their unique transportation systems. Whether traveling by broomstick, floo powder, or apparating, wizard’s modes of transportation rarely contribute to greenhouse gases (the exception being the Hogwarts Express train and the few wizards that drive cars).

According to the EPA, a car’s average carbon dioxide emissions is 11,450 pounds per year–this doesn’t include the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the gasoline used in each vehicle. Multiply that by the 250 million vehicles registered in the US and you have a whole lot of carbon dioxide.

My final point regarding Hogwarts virtually carbon free system is water. Granted, this issue is probably a bit of a stretch, but it’s fun to imagine anyway. In my mind, Hogwarts runs solely on recycled water–toilet to tap, if you will. The only conceivable way I can structure this is by having an underwater waste water treatment plant in the lake, most likely operated by the merpeople. Like I said, bit of a stretch, but obviously J.K. Rowling doesn’t go into much detail on the inner workings of the Hogwarts sewage system, so I’m left to my own devices.

Even though I’ve taken a few liberties with my analysis of Hogwarts’ carbon neutrality, I think it’s important to think of different ways to create closed (or more closed) loop systems in our society and make big moves to lower our greenhouse gas emissions. In my Earth Day post, I touched on simple things people can do–conserving electricity, buying local, not wasting water–and basically that’s all that’s done at Hogwarts, but at a much larger scale which allows them to live in a closed, carbon neutral loop.

We need to think a little bit outside the box, get creative, and take a leaf out of Hogwarts’ book to make a difference in our society and live greener lives.