Costing the Earth (Series 1-10)

Below are episode descriptions for each episode of BBC radio show and podcast Costing the Earth. The show focuses on topics relating to the environment such as energy, pollution and technology.

The episode descriptions are broken out on to two other pages for Series 11-20, Series 21-30, and Series 31 and onwards.

Series 1

The Environmental Impact of Professional Football

Tom Heap looks at the impact on the environment of professional football, with analysis of the travel required, litter generated, and requirements of water and electricity. Heading abroad, there is optimism in improvements made by other clubs.


Perth is considered the most isolated city in the world, and is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Environmentalist Tim Flannery looks into drought problems and the fragile ecology as it is predicted to become a future ghost city.

The Battle for the Murray Darling

As drought looks to become a permanent way of life for Australia even outside the summer months, this episode looks at how the driest continent will manage its water supplies as its population continues to increase.


This episode looks at the new biofuels available and whether they will be used with enthusiasm, or if a slow and cautious approach will be required. It also observes how they will be best utilised.

War on Waste

Miriam O'Reilly investigates the reality of recycling rather than sending it to landfill. Identifying the vast differences across England and Wales in recycling policy, this episode checks up on the public confusion, the move to fortnight collections, and how it encourages recycling.

Green Cities

Tom Heap looks at how cities can play a role in providing homes for diverse fauna and flora. As wildlife spaces become more important in urban areas, this episode takes on how the environment will cope in the rush to build more houses for people.

Series 2

The Wind Rush Generation

This episode features Miriam O'Reilly who reports on the current state of wind-powered energy, and how effective it is. It also takes into account the subsidies provided for an unreliable source of electricity.


Charlotte Smith presents and looks into if and how agriculture can play a larger part in the prevention of flooding as the climate continues to change, and rainfall increases.

Plenty More Fish in the Sea?

Miriam O'Reilly looks at how the Common Fisheries Policy tries to preserve fish stocks. She also heads to Iceland and looks at the country's efforts to sustain fishing via a cut to cod catching quotas. Back on mainland Europe, a look is also taken at whether scientists are listened to enough.

The Bugs Bite Back

Tom Heap analyses how insects are fairing as the guard drops after years of pesticide usage which have kept them at bay. Mosquitoes, ticks and bed bugs are reportedly on the rise again and experts say that the fight against them is getting harder.

Population Overload?

With the expectation that the population is to reach nine billion by 2050, this episode looks at whether population growth is ruining the country. With life expectancy rising during the twentieth century, this episode in particular wonders how carbon emissions can be significantly cut.

Food Versus Fuel

With the increase in use of biofuels, this episode considers the impact its generation might have on space used for growing food. A large switch to biofuels due to oil insecurity and the subsequent price rises, the question is how much this had to do with the tortilla riots in Mexico.

Series 3

The Ice Cream Man Cometh

A report by Tom Feilden who interviews Jerry Greenfield, one half of the famous Ben & Jerry's ice cream company. The episode looks at the impact of climate change and allows people to gain a first hand experience of the problem.

Consuming the Earth?

As the consumption of Earth's resources continues to increase, this episode looks at whether the individual can make a difference by changing their ways, and how many would even prepare to go green. Analysing the Christmas and New Year period in particular, the amount of waste is put under the spotlight.


Tom Heap investigates the rodent problem in Britain and the subsequent effect of rises. With a look at how the populations can be controlled in urban and rural environments, the episode asks why there does not seem to be much of an impact.

Seeds of Discontent

Presented by Tom Heap, this episode looks at whether genetically modified seeds are the answer to feeding the worlds growing population, and also what the problems may be.

Carbon Labelling

A new label on supermarket food packaging looks to teach people about the impact of the food they consume. Detailing the carbon cost in manufacture, Tom Heap tries to understand some of the dilemmas.


Tom Heap looks at the country's attempt to meet the European Union target of generating one fifth of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. The key question is how good are the chances of us getting there?

Bring Me Sunshine

Miriam O'Reilly looks at Britain's use of solar power, and reports on the progress of plans to build solar power plants in northern Africa, with the aim of exporting energy to Europe.

Series 4

Greening the Building

With the government demanding improved energy efficiency for housing, Tom Heap questions whether the industry is ready. Heading to Manchester, this episode looks at a new estate build and finds that there is work to do and mindsets to change.

Do Happy Animals Cost the Earth?

Tom Heap takes to look at some of the truths and falsehoods which surround free range farming, and the benefits for both animal welfare and the environment.

A Clean Break

Green holidays are becoming more popular, and the tourism industry is capitalising on the trend with some dubious products. This programme looks at carbon offsetting, and how holidaying at home or abroad can affect the environment.

The Great Green Gadget Makeover

New electronics are added to our lives each year, which is having an impact on electricity consumption. Tom Heap talks to a self-confessed gadget addict about the chase for the latest technology.

All Wrapped Up and Nowhere To Go

Plastic bags and single-used packaging are a bane for the environmentalist due to their disposable nature. However, these items also help sell products, which leads to a complex problem of balancing the needs of the environment with the business.

The Shipping News

Miriam O'Reilly takes a look at what the shipping industry is doing following the beaching of MSC Napoli in Lyme Bay, and how the companies are attempting to prevent an ecological disaster which greatly impacts marine wildlife.

Series 5

Summer of Mud

New technologies such as renewable energy powered stages, biodegradable tent pegs, and car-share schemes are ideas for reducing the impact of summer festivals, but do they actually make any difference? This episode asks how concerned festival-goers are about the environment.

Gulls: Code Red

As seagulls have been breeding rapidly, they have had to move inland as conditions in coastal waters make fishing difficult. Experts fear trouble if the gulls continue to breed unchecked, however measures to control the population are proving ineffective.

Green on Green

With an urgent need for alternative sources of energy, there are difficult choices to be made in the battle between power and the environment. Groups such as the RSPB, WWF and Greenpeace have also been encouraged to decide on their stance and make sacrifices for the greater good.

Old Bricks, New Tricks

Miriam O'Reilly explores solutions to the housing problems with eco-towns providing a means to cut emissions and make suitable homes for young families. However some experts thing recycling existing buildings may be a better solution.

Can You Spare Some Change Please?

A look at the politics of famine as food insecurity is heightened. The question surrounds the food aid policies of many UK-based aid organisations, and whether they are contributing to the problem.

Hurrah for the Eco Car

As promised eco and green cars have been muted since the 1990s but not yet materialised on the UK roads, this episode looks at which of the technologies such as electric or hydrogen will make the breakthrough. This show is presented by Tom Heap.

Series 6

Better Living Through Chemistry?

Tom Heap presents this show which investigates how being exposed to pesticides can potentially damage our health. It also looks at potential European Union bans on some chemicals, and how crops may be affected by changes in yields and prices.

Black Monday, Green Tuesday?

With the recession front and center, Tom Heap looks at how it might affect attitudes toward the environment. An economic slowdown suggests fewer cards on the roads, and fewer flights being made which may be a step in the direction to a greener planet.

The Greens Revolution

Vowing as a teenager to never play golf, Tom Heap re-examines his prejudices and investigates whether golf courses actually have a negative impact on the environment. He questions if courses are sustainable and managed in a eco-friendly way or threaten wildlife and ruin good countryside.

Energy Use High

A look at the government's school building programme which takes aim at complicated 'green features' which are being built into some new schools, with reports that some schools are using up to three times more energy than older ones.

Totally Uncool

As conditioned air becomes more prevalent, Tom Heap looks at how organisations over-use air conditioning and the impact this has on the planet. Some supermarkets are making efforts however to switch to eco-friendly refrigerants, though others are reluctant.

Crisis, What Crisis?

Miriam O'Reilly presents this programme which looks at whether the crash in prices for old paper and plastic bottles had led to recycling becoming a waste of time.

Series 7

Antarctic Treaty

Tom Heap looks into an Antarctic Treaty which is a little known piece of legislation, and has kept military activity at bay at the south pole, and allowed scientists to harness the continent for the last fifty years.

A Burning Solution

As sales of wood-burning stoves have skyrocketed recently, this episode looks at whether they are really the environmentally-friendly product they are marketed as well as how their use could allow the United Kingdom to reach its renewable energy targets.

Virtual Warming

This episode looks at the cost of running computers as their usage grows exponentially. With over two percent of carbon dioxide emissions coming from computing usage, a look is taken at how the industry can be made to be more green.

Obama's Green Dream

Barack Obama looks to lead America to a greener future, but questions remain over how vested interests and political opponents may affect this. The biggest challenge will be weaning the country off fossil fuels and making clean energy 'profitable'.

Raising a Stink

Dr Alice Roberts analyses the potential of harnessing sewage through anaerobic digestion and the use of fertilisation farms of human waste. A look is also taken at the Victorian sewer systems and how the wastewater plants process the large amount of sewage they receive each day.

The Environmental Cost of Ageing

A look at the cost to the planet of an ageing population. Tom Heap looks at the elderly carbon footprint which is affected by many being the largest consumers, however they may also play an important part in preparing for climate change.

Whose Amazon Is It Anyway?

Negotiations for a global climate change deal due to be finalised at the end of 2009 will focus on a key issue of whether tropical forests such as the Amazon are a global asset. There are concerns in Brazil however that they may lose control of their own territory.

Carteret Island

Tom Heap witnesses the first large scale evacuation due to climate change. As the Carteret Island becomes consumed by the waves, the current residents are forced to retreat to Papua New Guinea.

Series 8

Turbines or Tearooms

Across the country, renewable energy schemes are being fought against by locals. Tom Heap investigates if radical changes are required to allow green energy schemes to be rushed through urgently, or whether there needs to be more effort to get people on board.

Sell-by Dates

Five million tonnes of food is thrown away each year by people following use-by and best before dates, or by couples who dispose of produce before it each reaches the consumer. Tom Heap looks at whether the industry needs to enact change to prevent waste.


Buildings use more energy than all forms of transport. This episode looks into whether we are looking in the right place to make changes, and what can be done to retrofit offices and homes that have already been built.


A proposed idea is to create a European-wide 'Supergrid' which will share green energy across the continent. Looking at the political will and the potential cost, this episode takes a view on what forms of energy could power the electrical supplies.

The Great Mineral Heist

In the past seventy years, minerals in food have declined significantly. This is particularly bad news, so Alice Roberts sets about uncovering the culprit. This includes de-intensifying our agriculture, shortening food chains, and turning to older varieties of crops.

The Three Peaks Challenge

Alice Roberts presents this programme which looks at the sixty thousand people who set out to complete the Three Peaks Challenge, and questions how much damage is done to the environment in the process.

The Art of Protest

A number of charities and officials have been leading the calls about increasing numbers of rules and regulations which target environmental campaigners. This episode looks at a number of protestors who have taken steps to highlight their causes.

Guilt-Free Flying

Tom Heap talks to keen pilot and Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson. They discuss the potential for 'green aviation', and new technologies such as lighter materials, air traffic control changes, biofuels and airships.

Countdown to Copenhagen

The climate change summit in Copenhagen takes place in December 2009, and Tom Heap looks at the jargon and politics about whether a deal will come out of the summit or not. He also speaks to people who will have to live with the consequences of decisions made at the conference.

Series 9

The New Diggers

Alice Roberts presents and heads across Britain to find groups and individuals who guerilla garden or operate as part-time farmers. Operating on derelict land, she visits Todmorden and Gateshead to see whether these people can transform countryside and town.

Keep on Trucking

Tom Heap investigates how much pollution is generated by freight movement. Although aviation is the focus of much ire, shipping is by far the greatest polluter and road is often overlooked. Looking into unnecessary journeys, business small and large are analysed to find out what can be improved upon.

Protecting the Past

Heading to three sites in Britain, Alice Roberts takes a look at the impact of climate change on heritage sites, and what is being done to save them from events such as flooding and erosion. The question remains as to whether there is enough will and money to save them, or if recordings of them will be all that is left in the future.

Greening Fido

Dogs and cats have an impact on the environment, with some suggestions that a large dog could emit more CO2 than a 4×4 car. Alice Roberts looks at the impact dogs have including food, waste, and toys. She also considers the environmental effect of cats on nature.

The Big Clean Up

Corby Council was ruled to be negligent in the handling of its efforts to convert the towns former steelworks into a site for housing. Alice Roberts investigates what this may mean for future developments and whether greenfield land will be under threat again in part due to risk-averse councils.

Fusion Future

Tom Heap looks at the future of fusion power, and whether it will soon be powering devices in our homes and offices. He also questions how safe the process is, whether there will be enough fuel to move it to production, and what the arms industry will do with the technology.

Plants to Pills

A look at the Interpol operations which target the trade in endangered species. Across Europe, the organisation has been busy seizing traditional medicines which are suspected of containing material from at-risk animals and plants.

Turbines in the Back Garden

New rules mean that it may become profitable to generate electricity at home with solar and wind being options. Tom Heap lives on the Isle of Mull, and plans to install a wind turbine, so crunches the numbers to find out exactly what to expect from his power generator.

Eco-City Limits

The eco-city has been the lore of architects, designers, and visionaries for decades and various plans around the world have been muted. Tom Heap heads to Masdar City in Abu Dhabi to find out whether this city will become the first zero-carbon urban area, or if it is just a smokescreen fuelled by oil money.

The Price of Nature

This episode enquires about whether nature needs to be costed to get politicians, businesses and individuals to pay attention. Looking at the price of flood protection, money generated by recreation, and earnings from tourism, Tom Heap meets accountants who could be key to safeguarding biodiversity.

Deep Sea Treasure

Tom Heap tours with the National Oceanography Centre to look at the species being discovered in the Caribbean and the Southern Ocean. The launch of Isis, a remote-controlled submarine, will use its high definition cameras to explore the deep sea.

The Great Flood of Paris

In 1910, Paris suffered the greatest flood to affect an urban area in Europe. Tom Heap discovers what lessons were learnt from the disaster and how the city recovered from an event which almost destroyed it.

Volcanoes: Friend or Foe

Volcanoes have been instrumental in shaping the climate of the planet over its history, but the eruption of Eyjafallajokull has brought them to attention. Environmentalists have been delighted at the grounding of aircraft, however there are concerns about the impact more eruptions may have to the atmosphere and neighbouring glacier.


The Cerrado is located in Brazil and is a savannah featuring a rich and diverse habitat for flora and fauna. However, the environment is under threat with the grasslands being destroyed at twice the speed of the Amazon rainforest.

Rethinking Climate Change

2009 was a terrible year for those involved in the battle against climate change, with the Copenhagen summit failing to agree on action required. Some scientists believe a new approach is required with action undertaken by coalitions and individuals, and that the focus on carbon dioxide is misguided.

Rare Earth Metals

Demand for rare earth metals has sky-rocketed in recent years with China being the largest exporter of these materials. The government has imposed restrictions on the amount which can be exported, and this will affect a range of technologies including those developed for "green" purposes.

Cleaning Up the Ganges

The Ganges river is well-known for providing spiritual and physical sustenance for millions of people. It is however heavily polluted. The World Bank is loaning over one billion dollars to India to aid the cleanup effort. The challenge is monumental due to its length - ten times that of the Thames - and travelling through several major cities.

Series 10

Katrina: An Unnatural Disaster

Five years after Hurricane Katrina struck, Tom Heap investigates the real reasons why 1,800 people died. Looking into corruption, complacency and racism as factors, the oil industry and United States Army may also have parts to blame.

Blackpool: The New Dallas?

As oil and gas exploration moves into more hostile territories, the Deepwater Horizon disaster highlighted the problems that are faced when things do go wrong. This episode questions whether exploration will need to move closer to home.

Working from Home

Alice Roberts looks at whether working from home can actually aid the fight against climate change. As more people tele-commute, the expectation is emissions from commuting and offices will drop, however some studies are showing the opposite effect.

The Revenge of the Stairs

New York has enacted building design guides which prioritise stairs over elevators in an attempt to encourage people to improve their fitness. However, this will mean changes that prevent stairs being related to out of the way corridors.

Carbon Capture and Storage

Carbon Capture and Storage is projected to be a multi-billion pound industry in the UK, and provide up to one hundred thousand jobs. This episode questions whether Britain being at the forefront is an opportunity or a potentially big mistake.

Plastic Pollution

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now estimated at twice the size of France, and it is not the only one. Meanwhile, the impact on wildlife is still increasing with a doubling of the amount of plastic being washed up on beaches in the last fifteen years. Alice Roberts looks at what technologies can help solve the problem.

Can Lawyers Save the World?

Lawyers are projected to be more involved in climate change cases as more displaced refugees from Carteret Islands, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia have to move. However, currently these people have no refuge rights due to the lack of recognition, however this is expected to change as more cases are brought forward.

Grapes of Wrath

Wine drinkers face an uncertain future with problems mounting regarding land use and climate change expected to affect grape crops. As temperatures increase the grapes lose their subtle flavours - and Burgundy wine is particularly under threat.

Spring Forwards, Fall Backwards

Evidence is mounting that the bi-annual clock change increases energy consumption and an environmental cost. Alice Roberts speaks to people who could both benefit and be affected by scrapping the time changes.