Band it like Beckham

Published: July 31, 2008
(Page 1 of 1)

I have a voice like a sharp high A!

By Kylie MacHattie

How big is David Beckham’s carbon footprint?

Apparently, he’s solely responsible for 163 US tons of carbon dioxide per year, or about 153 to 155 tons more than the average European or North American. Yikes! A record for one human being, they say.

But what about a pipe band? Could a competing grade one band, let’s say from Canada, match that astounding feet – er, feat?

This hypothetical band is based just outside of Toronto, and has the World Pipe Band Championships as the ultimate goal each year. It has 24 pipers, eight sides, four tenors and a bass.

And a drum-major.

Practices start in October, since there might be a rebellion if the members aren’t given September off to get to know their families again and make peace with their livers. They go once a week every Sunday until early December, and start up again in January.

By April, the leadership starts to panic, and practices increase to twice a week. Let’s say, then, this band practices 57 times before going to Scotland. Let’s also assume that there is an average of 30 players per practice.

Load a bollcks, this global warmin'!Factor number one: Car travel. Canadians are notoriously bad at using public transit, and so let’s assume that only five take a subway up to meet their lift out of town to practice. Each return trip (let’s say 10 km total per practice) is 0.002 tons. If these five dedicated players go to every practice, their emissions add up to 0.57 tons annually.

Nowhere near Becks yet!

So Canadians are bad at using public transit, but we’re also bad at carpooling. For the average of 30 players at each practice, 20 different cars make the return trip. I’ll arbitrarily say that the average total distance travelled by each is 60 km. Total car emissions then add up to 15.96 tons of CO2 spewed into the atmosphere – assuming the drivers aren’t speeding or idling their engines too long. Oh, and they all drive an average car in average working condition . . .

I’d figure out how much the band hall would contribute, but I can’t be bothered. It would be heated through the winter anyway, right?

So, we’re up to 16.53 tons!

I forgot about the summer circuit. Let’s say the band plays six contests through the summer, and the average distance is 400 km round trip. This time, 24 cars travel to and from the event. That adds up to 0.106 tons per vehicle, and 94.128 for the six games, if all members attend.

Factor number two: flights to Scotland. So, that’s 37 members to fly from Lester B. Pearson airport to Glasgow International and back. Since Posh isn’t factored into Becks’s footprint, I don’t plan on factoring in spouses, groupies, or other sorts of hangers-on.

A return flight per person is responsible for 1.187 tons of carbon dioxide. The flights for the full band contribute 43.919. And that’s for human bodies and standard luggage only.

Bass drum is extra.

Grand total now is 154.449 tons in this highly sophisticated study. We’re on Beckham’s heels!

Pipe band attire of the futureWe’ve found the biggest contributor in travel and transportation. Members would be eating and conducting their normal lives anyway, so we don’t need to worry about everyday food and shelter.

Factor number three: beer. The average human being exhales 1150 litres of CO2 per day. Just imagine the composition of the drum-major’s beer belches! That has to account for something. Let’s now officially call it a score-draw with David Beckham.

How can we offset the hazard to the environment posed by a competitive pipe band? Well, we could stop going to practice and going to the World’s. But we’re obsessed, so that’s not going to happen.

Maybe we could try to cut that other greenhouse gas: methane! I read somewhere that the world’s cattle emit almost 100 million tons of methane into the atmosphere each year.


Apart from the damage caused by the odour, that’s enough methane to warm the planet.

Ogden Nash wrote a little verse on these productive beasts:

The cow is of the bovine ilk;

One end is moo; the other, milk

Not so scary, eh? Well, I would add:  

In goes grass; out, biogas!

Methane – what a pain.

So, I think I have the solution for how pipe bands can offset our contribution toward destroying our planet . . .

Play hide bags.

Kylie MacHattie is a piper with the Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band, a group that, over the last 25 years, may be responsible for melting the entire southern tip of Greenland. MacHattie lives in “The Big Smoke,” Toronto, but is from British Columbia originally, a place where lots of green gets fired up.

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  1. JoelKimball

    Kylie, this is one fine article! Your summary reminds me – speaking of bovine-related matters, if it’s not too much trouble, please pass along to James that I gotta have more cowbell. Thanks! Good luck in Scotland…hope the midges don’t outnumber the oxygen molecules.

  2. JamieDE

    Kylie, this is Brilliant!!! I guess you could delve even deeper into the waste made using all the synthetic material we do today, (reeds, etc.) I have already started saving the enviroment by recycling drum sergeants.

January 31, 1974Donald MacPherson leaves College of Piping teaching position.
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Drummers: When a drum corps is practicing the person in charge of tuning should stand behind the corps to listen rather than stand in front. The corps sound is completely different from the back which is where the drumming judge will be standing when youre performing.
Michael Hunter, Toronto