Friday, 17 December 2010

Oxfordshire town uses human waste to heat homes

Householders in Didcot have become the first in the UK to use gas made from their own human waste and supplied via the national grid to heat their homes. Up to 200 Oxfordshire homes will be using biomethane made from sewage they had flushed away three weeks earlier. British Gas, Thames Water and Scotia Gas Networks now hope to roll out the process across the UK.

China now the largest energy user in the world

Figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that China's energy demand has doubled in the last decade. China’s surging economic growth means that it has now overtaken the US to become the world’s top energy user. Whilst China has challenged the IEA findings, it sets a precedent since the US has been the biggest consumer of energy for more than 100 years. The surge in demand for energy in China was further fuelled by its rising population.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Big increase in animal populations in Ugandan national parks

It seems as though the number of animals in Ugandan national parks and game reserves has soared over the past decade. In fact, Lillian Nsubuga from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) claims that the population of some species has actually doubled since 1999.

The biggest increases in population have been for zebras, impalas, buffalos, giraffes, elephants, hippopotamuses and waterbucks. The successes are believed to be due to improved monitoring, the expulsion of rebels from the country, and offering incentives to local communities to protect wildlife.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Fortis buys Kwik-Fit Insurance, owner of the Green Insurance Company

We reported in February 2010 that Kwik-Fit was selling its business. Well, it’s now been sold to Fortis UK for £215m. The deal gives Fortis a combined retail customer base of 1.6 million, making it the 4th largest personal lines intermediary distributor in the UK.

This is important for the green and eco-friendly insurance market since Kwik-Fit owns the Green Insurance Company, one of the flagship eco-friendly insurance companies offering to offset 100% of a driver’s annual emissions.

It is unclear at this stage what will happen to the Green Insurance Company, and its promise of offering to offset a driver’s carbon emissions. Last year we reported that I Buy Eco had abandoned its commitment to offset drivers' carbon emissions and were instead offering a £5 charity donation

Friday, 3 December 2010

Is Africa's wildlife being eaten to extinction?

Rapid growth in the global demand for bushmeat is leaving many African species facing the possibility of being eaten out of existence. Whereas traditional bushmeat hunting was a subsistence activity it’s now a multi-billion dollar international trade involving hundreds of species including elephants and primates.

Commercial logging and road building has also given hunters easy access to previously impenetrable African forests, and ready-made transport routes to towns and cities.

It is estimated that more than a quarter of all mammal species hunted for bushmeat are threatened with extinction.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Arctic ice melts faster but shrinks less

According to initial findings from US scientists, ice floating on the Arctic Ocean melted unusually quickly this year but did not shrink down to the record minimum area last seen in 2007. However, 2010's summer Arctic ice minimum remains the third smallest recorded by satellites.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Call to stop fossil fuel subsidy

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has urged nations to stop subsidising fossil fuels and claims that in 2009 governments (mainly in the developing world), spent $312bn subsidising coal oil, gas and coal even though they agree these fuels cause climate change.

The IEA has argued that removing the subsidies would be the most expedient way to control the soaring demand for energy whilst cutting carbon emissions by nearly 6%.

According to the IEA, vested interests and political inertia are the main stumbling blocks to making progress on the issue.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Inbred bumblebees 'face extinction threat'

Albert Einstein once said: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.”

Some of the UK's rarest bumblebees are at risk of becoming extinct as a result of inbreeding, research suggests. It seems that the lack of genetic diversity is making the bees more vulnerable to a number of threats, including parasitic infection. Scientists warn that some populations of bees are becoming increasingly isolated as a result of habitat loss.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Brazilian government gives the go-ahead for huge Amazon dam

The proposal to build a hydro-electric dam on the Xingu river, a tributary of the Amazon in the northern state of Para, has long been a source of controversy. The project was originally abandoned in the 1990s following widespread protests both in Brazil and around the world.

Environmental groups say the 6km-long (3.75-mile) long dam will threaten the survival of indigenous groups, and the lives of up to 50,000 people could be affected as 500 sq km (190 sq miles) of land would be flooded.

If it goes ahead it will become the world's third biggest hydroelectric dam.

Monday, 18 October 2010

New predictions for rising sea levels

New research suggests that up to 150 million people could be displaced as sea levels rise by 30cm to 70cm by the end of this century. This could result in flooding of low-lying coastal areas, including some of the world's largest cities.

The team published the study in the journal PNAS.

'Ten years' to solve nature crisis

The UN biodiversity convention meeting has opened with warnings that the ongoing loss of nature is hurting human societies as well as the natural world. Much hope is being pinned on economic analyses showing the loss of species and ecosystems is costing the global economy trillions of dollars each year.

Buddhist scholar Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki said 'the problem of nature is the problem of human life'. Today, unfortunately, human life is a problem for nature," he told delegates in his opening speech.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A sign of things to come?

The abnormally warm and dry weather in Moscow, shrouded in a blistering haze of smoke from wildfires is another symptom of global warming according to experts from the environmental group WWF Russia.

The head of the climate and energy programme at WWF Russia, Alexei Kokorin, said the abnormal temperatures soaring to up to 40C increased the likelihood of wildfires around the capital.

"We have to get ready to fight such fires in the future because there is a great possibility that such a summer will be repeated. This tendency won't stop in the coming 40 years or so, until the greenhouse gas emissions are reduced," he said. "We can now say that the wave of abnormal phenomena that the rest of the world has been experiencing has finally reached central Russia," Dr Kokorin added.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Water map shows billions at risk of water insecurity

About 80% of the world's population lives in areas where the fresh water supply is not secure, according to a new global analysis appearing in the journal Nature.

The most severe threat category encompasses 3.4 billion people.

The analysis is a global snapshot, and the research team suggests more people are likely to encounter more severe stress on their water supply in the coming decades, as the climate changes and the human population continues to grow.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Going green will be rewarded with gold

We always hear about China and US being the great polluters but is it the full truth? By international standards the UK’s spend in developing a green economy is very low; the US for example spends three times as much as we do relative to GDP on low-carbon innovation, whilst China is very active in renewable energy, energy-efficient buildings, electric cars and clean coal.

The MP Tim Yeo in his pamphlet Green Gold: The Case For Raising Our Game On Climate Change, has said "We must beware of China who, behind a smokescreen of recalcitrance in international talks, is moving faster than most Western countries to decarbonise its economy," he writes. "If we lead the way in switching to a low carbon economy, we will reap the rewards as going green will be rewarded with gold."

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Property prices soar in the desert

The Thar desert spreads 200,000 square kilometres across North West India, abd land there has gone from virtually worthless to being very valuable almost overnight.

The reason? The Indian government recently launched its National Solar Mission - a $19bn plan to generate 20,000 megawatt of solar electricity by 2022. And the Thar desert is a vast place basked in sun with abundance, meaning that it is ideal for generating solar energy. The beauty of this project is that it uses land that would otherwise be barren.

The region's solar revolution is expected to get underway shortly when one of India's biggest energy companies - Reliance Industries - switches on its 5 megawatt solar plant in the nearby town of Khimsar.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Blow to promise on stopping illegal timber imports

The coalition is being accused of back-tracking on its commitment to stopping imports of illegal timber and is a further dent in the credibility of David Cameron's promise to lead the "greenest government ever".

According to the Guardian, the government will not now honour a pledge to make it a criminal offence to possess, or bring into the country, illegal timber. Campaigners say such legal measures are necessary to help curb the 350m-650m square metres of forest that is illegally logged every year – possibly as much as 40% of the total market.

Green campaigners are highly disappointed at the apparent dropping of more stringent measures on illegal timber because the coalition document explicitly committed the two parties to introducing "measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence."

Protecting the rainforests is vital in the fight against climate change and preserving endangered species.

Concern over Serengeti road plans

A group of scientists writing in the journal Nature has appealed against a road planned in the Serengeti National Park, saying it would cause an environmental disaster and curtail wildebeest migration. The migration of the wildebeest was the "largest remaining migratory system on Earth", they said.

Instead, the scientists have proposed an alternative road running to the south of the park. However, there has been pressure to start building the 50km stretch of road through the north of the Serengeti due to increasing economic interest in central African mineral wealth. The planned road would form part of a link between Tanzania's coast and Lake Victoria, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The proposed road could lead to the collapse of the largest remaining migratory system on Earth - a system that drives Tanzania's tourism trade and supports thousands of people," the appeal said.

Buying pieces of rainforest through organisations such as the World Land Trust is one way of helping to protect rainforests and wildlife habitats threatened by so-called ‘economic development’.

Chernobyl plant life overcomes radiation

It seems that scientists have uncovered the mechanisms that allow plants to thrive in highly radioactive environments like Chernobyl. The study in the Environmental Science and Technology journal reveals that plants have an innate ability to cope with radioactivity.

The research goes on to speculate that this defence mechanism could date back millions of years, when early life forms were exposed to higher levels of natural radiation.

The explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in 1986 was the worst nuclear disaster in human history killing dozens of people whilst striking down many hundreds with radiation sickness. Although the plants are adapting some believe that there area will be uninhabitable for generations to come.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

A Natural Alliance-Garden Buildings from Decorated Shed

Here is a guest post from Decorated Shed about the benefits of working from home

Decorated Shed offer a range of garden building designs that unifies architecture and nature in a striking mix. The existing beauty of the garden is used as an impressive stage on which to showcase each building’s stylish form. From the pen nib of scrawled design to the muscles of materialisation; the garden studio is moulded from ecologically sound practices and materials, standing as an enduring mark of environmental respect that permeates up from its foundations.

Decorated Shed provide garden studios that reduce environmental impact without compromising upon visual impact and functionality. The convenient position of a garden building means that it is a perfect alternative to a lengthy commute, providing an office space that eradicates the need to pump harmful car fumes into the atmosphere. The garden studio and office encapsulate a green lifestyle, as leafy surroundings promote an appreciation of nature’s precious qualities. Humans are biologically classed as animals; we therefore thrive in an outdoor setting, which explains why we feel invigorated when we spend time amongst nature, just as a lion thrives in the African plains. We are ultimately one of the many strands that make up nature; it therefore makes sense that we should strive to conserve the habitat that boosts our contentment.

All dimensions of a Decorated Shed garden studio and office are energy efficient; the walls, roofs, windows, doors and foundations are all engineered to save energy. The floor is a multi-layered structure that offers a high-insular performance, set on an augured pile foundation system, which serves as a permanent means of saving energy. The timber frame of each garden studio offers substantial insulation, with a heat reflective membrane that traps internal heat, together with windows, that offer some of the lowest U values; top-to –toe. The window positions flood the internal space with illuminating light ensuring that the need for electric light is reduced. Wall panelling also seals the heat within the structure, armouring the building against the cold, so that energy requirements are limited. The garden building becomes a cosy cocoon of warmth and light. Decorated Shed also work with FSC and PEFC accredited suppliers to ensure that materials are sustainably and ethically managed, which means a garden building is cut loose from the overbearing shadows that are created as a result of environmental scarring.

The roof can be made from recycled rubber or zinc, with the option of a sloping sedum roof that integrates the attractive greenery of the garden with the structure, literally living up to the name; green building. A planted ‘living’ green roof system can support a flower bed, which will adorn a studio top like a hat pinned with decorative flowers. The exterior cladding is made up of premium Western Red Cedar wood cladding, which also acts as an effective thermal insulator, while displaying a rich colour which ages beautifully, due to natural internal oils, which prevent the need for the wood to be treated with environmentally harmful chemicals. The exterior acts as an inviting display, nestled into nature’s hands, while the interior acts as a hollowed out retreat of modernity, style and immaculate design.

Although one green building may seem like a drop in the ocean compared to larger scale influences, such as deforestation and city pollution. However, the road to recovery starts with a single footstep. By rejecting to join a relentless force of environmental destruction, the impact is lessened and a new trend is set. Decorated Shed garden buildings provide shining examples of why green built spaces are so attractive. Just as an extension, garden buildings add extra space and value to a home but unlike an extension, they provide a private retreat that is energy efficient and cost effective, as a dazzling gemstone of investment, set in the emerald cushion of the garden, while standing as a stroke of engineering brilliance, in its own right.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Trophy hunting

Trophy or 'sport' hunting has been used as a conservation measure, with the money hunters pay then used to help protect a wider population of animals. For example, in Tanzania quotas of lions and leopards are shot each year by trophy hunters.

However, conservation experts have started to question the viability of trophy hunting with some arguing that lion and leopard numbers will crash in countries such as Tanzania unless fewer big cats are killed.

Tanzania holds most of the remaining large populations of African lions and also has wide areas of leopard habitat. Vast areas of the country have been set aside as 'hunting blocks', in which private companies fund trophy hunting by tourists.

Tanzania currently allows about 500 lions and 400 leopards per year to be killed for ‘sport’.

How deeply depressing to think that there are people out there who get pleasure from shooting and killing such magnificent animals.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Freshwater turtles in catastrophic decline

It is estimated that over a third of the estimated 280 freshwater turtle species around the world are threatened with extinction.

The unsustainable collection of turtles for food and to supply a lucrative pet trade are believed to be the key drivers behind the worrying fall in numbers.

Habitat loss as a result of river-damming for hydro-electricity is another major concern.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Exactly what is ethical fashion?

The Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF) defines ethical fashion as an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximises benefits to people and communities while minimising impact on the environment.

For the EFF, the meaning of ethical goes beyond doing no harm, representing an approach which strives to take an active role in poverty reduction, sustainable livelihood creation, minimising and counteracting environmental concerns.

Ethical Fashion Forum has drawn up a set of 10 criteria for ethical fashion, to inform the fashion industry’s official ethical fashion awards:

1.Countering fast, cheap fashion and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
2.Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
3.Supporting sustainable livelihoods
4.Addressing toxic pesticide and chemical use
5.Using and / or developing eco- friendly fabrics and components
6.Minimising water use
7.Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
8.Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
9.Resources, training and/ or awareness raising initiatives
10.Animal rights

For more information visit The Fair Trade Clothing Shop where you can find more useful information on ethical and fair trade clothing, along with a list of suppliers.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Huge growth at largest wind farm

It has just been announced that a massive expansion is to take place at Europe's largest onshore wind farm in East Renfrewshire.

ScottishPower Renewables is to add another 75 turbines to the wind farm on Eaglesham Moor by 2012, taking the total number of turbines there to 215. As a result, its electricity generating capacity will be increased by around two thirds.

The wind farm on Eaglesham Moor already generates enough electricity to power 180,000 homes, and with the planned expansion this will increase to 300,000 homes.

Ice on Mount Everest disappearing

Photos of Mount Everest comparing it in 1921 with 2010 shows that the ice mass is disappearing at an alarming pace.

"The photographs reveal a startling truth: the ice of the Himalaya is disappearing," an Asia Society statement said. "They reveal an alarming loss in ice mass over an 89-year period."

The Asia Society says that the findings are "vitally important" because the Himalaya is home to the world's largest sub-polar ice reserves. "The melt waters of these high altitude glaciers supply crucial seasonal flows to the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Salween, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow rivers, which hundreds of millions of people downstream depend on for their livelihoods," the statement said.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Chatting chimpanzees are 'socially aware'

Primatologists have discovered that chimpanzees are aware of the social impact of their communications, and use a variety of calls and gestures.

Even more surprisingly, researchers found that chimps will actually change what they "say" depending on who is listening at the time. This represents an important finding because it reveals a previously unrecognised social awareness that may even have implications for the origin of human language.

Details of the discovery have been published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Up until now, the high level of awareness of the potential social consequences of calling has not been shown in any non-human primate.

It also appears that chimpanzees are biologically programmed to appreciate pleasant music!

The more we learn about our closest evolutionary relations the more we realise just how close we are and why it’s so important to protect species and the environment on which they depend. In particular, its imperative that we do everything possible to protect the rainforests.

Don’t throw away your old mobile phone!

When upgrading to a new mobile phone many people simply throw their old phone in a drawer and leave it to gather dust. Worse, some even throw them in the dustbin where they end up in landfill sites leaking out hazardous chemicals, causing contamination and health problems.

Remember that mobile phones can be sold or donated to give them a new lease of life, helping poorer people in the developing world. Those that can't be re-used or re-furbished in this way are recycled according to EU Standards. By recycling, you give new life to old technology and keep those toxic e-waste materials from causing harm to our environment. Many mobile phone recycling companies also use some of the proceeds to support charities and sustainable causes. For more money saving tips and ideas on how to live more sustainably visit Piggy Bank

Friday, 3 September 2010

Humpback whales form lasting bonds

Scientists have found that female humpback whales reunite each summer to feed, swim and socialise in the Gulf of St Lawrence, off Canada.

Though humpbacks spend the rest of the year apart migrating and breeding, it seems that individual humpbacks manage to find each other again in the open ocean each summer, spending the season feeding together.

It also seems that such friendships benefited the female humpbacks, since those with the most stable and long-lasting associations tended to give birth to the most calves. How the whales find each other each summer remains a mystery.

Loss of bees could be 'a blow to UK economy'

Honeybees, hoverflies, wasps, bumblebees, moths and butterflies play a vital role in feeding people through the pollination of crops. If bees and other pollinating insects were to disappear completely, the cost to the UK economy would be around £440m per year according to scientists. In a bid to save the declining insects, up to £10m has been invested in nine projects that will explore underlying reasons for the decline whilst looking at ways to re-populate.

Whilst there is no single factor that could explain the decline, loss of flowers and other habitats, disease, environmental change and pesticide use are being blamed.

BP oil disaster

More oil is spilled from the Niger delta network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, the site of the major ecological catastrophe caused by oil that has poured from a leak triggered by the explosion that wrecked BP's Deepwater Horizon rig.

Polar bears face 'tipping point' due to climate change

The journal Biological Conservation has published research which suggests that polar bears face a ‘tipping point’ due to climate change. The research claims that there will be a dramatic and sudden decline in the number of polar bears, due in the main to falling pregnancy rates and fewer bears surviving during longer, ice-free seasons.

As these ice-free seasons lengthen, fewer bears will have enough fat and protein stores to survive the fast. "Some populations are expected to go extinct with climate warming, while others are expected to persist, albeit at a reduced population size," says Dr Peter Molnar of the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

The US Endangered Species Act lists the polar bear as "Threatened".

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Five Thousand Gulf Oil Spills

That's the rate at which humans are releasing carbon into the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion and deforestation every single day. That’s the same as five thousand spills into the Gulf of Mexico, all going at once, each releasing 40,000 barrels a day, every day for decades and centuries on end. Mankind is burning a lot of carbon!

Turning the concrete jungle green

Trees play an essential role in improving the quality of life in UK towns and cities, according to the Woodland Trust. Planting more trees has been shown to improve air quality, reduce ambient temperatures and benefit people's health it said in a recent report. The trust is launching a campaign to plant 20m native trees each year. "Towns and cities tend to put into sharp relief some of the key problems we are facing as a society," said lead author Mike Townsend. "So they are a good place to start when try to illustrate just where green spaces can deliver significant improvements for relatively little cost."

During a speech in May, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "If any organism has demonstrated an ability to multi-task, it's trees. They capture carbon and hold soils together, prevent flooding and help control our climate. They also add immeasurably to the quality of life of our towns and cities." She added that in some parts of inner London, it was calculated that each tree was deemed to be worth as much as £78,000 in terms of its benefits.

Monday, 30 August 2010

'Great Green Wall of Africa' to halt Sahara

There are plans to plant a tree belt all the way across Africa, running from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, in an effort to halt the advance of the Sahara Desert.

If it goes ahead, the tree belt would be 15km wide and nearly 8,000km long. The project is still tentative because there are concerns about lack of funding and longer term doubts regarding its maintenance.

The trees that would be planted are more drought resistant, helping to reduce soil erosion, slowing wind speeds and helping rain water to filter into the ground thereby holding back the desert.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Urban trees 'help migrating birds'

US researchers have found that migrating birds use urban trees to rest and refuel en route between winter and breeding sites. The scientists made the discovery by fitting tiny tags to thrushes, which tracked the birds' movements. The findings are important because the world is becoming increasingly urbanised.

"With the expansion of urban areas worldwide, migrating songbirds increasingly encounter fragmented landscapes where habitat patches are embedded in an urban matrix," wrote co-authors Stephen Matthews and Paul Rodewald, landscape ecologists at Ohio State University in the US. "These findings suggest that remnant forests within urban areas have conservation value for Swainson's thrushes and, potentially, other migrant land birds."

Disappearing lizards

It seems that lizards are more vulnerable to climate change than we previously thought. According to one study, climate change could wipe out around a fifth of the Earth’s lizard species by 2080. Nor is this scaremongering since rising temperatures have already driven around 12% of Mexico's lizard population to extinction.

The research team from the University of California in Santa Cruz states that "lizards have already crossed a threshold for extinctions".

The research team have shown that lizards are more susceptible to climate change because rising temperatures leave them unable to spend enough time foraging for food, since they have to rest and regulate their body temperature.

Steep rise in India’s carbon emissions

India's greenhouse gas emissions increased by around 60% between 1994 and 2007, a government study says. The government says that emissions grew from 1.2bn tonnes in 1994 to 1.9bn tonnes in 2007, providing India with the unenviable title of one of the world's biggest emitters.

The rapid increase in emissions has been blamed on the growth of industries such as cement production, electricity and transport as India’s economy surges.

Importantly, India did not sign up to binding targets at the climate change talks in Copenhagen last year.

However, India’s per capita emissions are far lower than that of most industrialised nations and its Environment Minister has argued that its emissions are not comparable with those of the US and China. "The emissions of the United States and China are almost four times that of India in 2007," he told the AFP news agency.

Remember the ozone hole? Have we learned anything?

The scientist responsible for leading the team which discovered the ozone hole over Antarctica in 1985 has spoken out about the lack of co-ordinated effort to tackle global warming.

When Dr Farman's team at the British Antarctic Survey reported the ozone hole in 1985, it highlighted the earth's fragility and catalysed the environmental movement into action.

In an interview with the BBC on the 25th anniversary of the reporting of the ozone hole, Dr Joe Farman said the environment was still being damaged in many ways.

Dr Farman was particularly critical of politicians who he claimed had failed to show leadership on combating climate change, saying it was "damned stupid" to keep increasing carbon emissions when we know it is a warming gas.

But, in a nod to climate sceptics, he also blamed the scientific establishment for failing to take specific criticisms of detailed climate science seriously enough.

As with the relationship between carbon emissions and warming, it was found that the ozone layer was being stripped away by chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were mostly used in aerosols and refrigerators. Although resisted at the time by some manufacturers, the making of ozone-depleting chemicals was controlled within two years under the Montreal Protocol.

Dr Farman says that governments have failed to learn the lesson that they need to move swiftly and act decisively on global threats to the environment. "You ought to be able to convince people it's a damned stupid thing to increase CO2 - clearly that must trap more energy," he says.

Is carbon offsetting a con?

Every time we turn on the central heating, cook a meal, take a trip by car or aeroplane then carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere.

Carbon offsetting involves paying someone else to reduce these emissions by the same amount; thereby counterbalancing the two.

This process has become the subject of much debate. Some have argued that it is dangerous because it suggests that we can somehow buy our way out of climate change. It has also been argued that it doesn’t encourage people to change their behaviour. Others claim that carbon offset schemes are dubious and unaccountable.

Clearly, it is an area that has caused controversy and cynicism. Our view is that true carbon reduction efforts should always come first, but that when emissions are unavoidable then they should be offset through clear, unambiguous programmes that genuinely help the environment.

One good example of a genuine scheme we came across is from Climatesure, who offer carbon offsetting with their insurance policies. One of their projects is restoring rainforests in Uganda, funding part of a forest restoration programme in the Kibale National Park in Uganda. The project aims to re-create a rainforest canopy by planting and managing 30 species of local trees. The area is an important wildlife habitat – with one of the highest number of primate species in the world - and the project provides employment for local communities. Each hectare of rainforest that is restored there is expected to absorb 400 tonnes of CO2.

Always be cautious when evaluating the claims of some companies to be carbon neutral and ensure that they are firstly reducing their own emissions and secondly investing in genuine programmes to help the environment.

Carbon footprint? What about water footprint?

We have long argued that population growth is a much overlooked contributor to environmental damage and climate change. You can have all the carbon reduction measures in the world but they simply won’t be effective so long as the global population goes on increasing.

Rising populations are also making the world a thirsty planet. Conversations about carbon footprints are now turning towards water footprints. The reason? Growing populations require more food, and this can only be created from more water. The inevitable consequence is greater water scarcity.

Today, one-third of the world's population has to contend with water scarcity, and there are worrying signs that this proportion is set to increase rapidly. Some projections suggests that up to twice as much water will be required to provide enough food to eliminate hunger and feed the additional 2.5 billion people that are expected to join the current population.

Worse still, wealthier, urbanised populations tend to consumer a diet higher in meat, which is very water intensive. Given the escalating water demands, it seems unlikely that we will be able to provide water for producers to grow enough food and sustain a healthy environment.

The only solution is to learn how to live with less water by making much better use of what we have.

Disputed island 'vanishes'

A tiny island claimed for years by India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal has disappeared beneath the rising seas, scientists in India say. The uninhabited territory south of the Hariabhanga river was known as New Moore Island to the Indians and South Talpatti Island to the Bangladeshis. The irony is that the island was the subject of territorial dispute, involving the deployment of naval vessels at times.

"What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," said Professor Sugata Hazra of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Calcutta.

NASA study concludes that no cooling evident in past decade

A comprehensive analysis of global air and sea temperatures by NASA climatologists shows that the planet has not experienced a cooling trend in the past decade and is continuing to warm at a rate of about .3 degrees F per decade. The NASA scientists, affiliated with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the warming trend has continued despite the sun's irradiative power being at one of its lowest points in a century. Read more on climate change

Tar sands are among the world’s dirtiest fuels

Their extraction produces on average three times the greenhouse gases of conventional oil. The associated pollution, deforestation and disturbance of wildlife also threaten the traditional livelihoods and well-being of indigenous communities.

If you are a pension holder it is highly likely that your pension provider has substantial shareholdings held on your behalf, either in Shell or other companies involved in tar sands developments. Friends of the Earth Europe and FairPensions have created an online action that will target Shell and BP shareholders directly. You can express your concerns to your pension provider or if you don't have a pension you can email one of Shell and BP's largest shareholders.

China is the world’s worst polluter, right?

Er, not quite. China overtook the US during 2009 to become the biggest investor in renewable energy technologies, according to a new analysis. Researchers with the Pew Charitable Trusts calculate that China invested $34.6bn (£23.2bn) in clean energy over the year, almost double the US figure. The UK emerges in third place among G20 nations, followed by Spain and Brazil. The most spectacular growth has come in South Korea, which saw installed capacity rise by 250% in five years.

"Even in the midst of a global recession, the clean energy market has experienced impressive growth," said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's campaign on climate change. "They know that investing in clean energy can renew manufacturing bases, and create export opportunities, jobs and businesses."

Plastic accounted for 63% of litter found on UK beaches

UK beaches are being ruined by an ever-accumulating tide of plastic litter, the Marine Conservation Society says. It said the amount of rubbish was 77% higher than in 1994 - its first annual survey - and the proportion of plastic volunteers found had never been higher. A spokeswoman said the figures showed plastic makes up an increasing proportion of beach litter - now nearly two-thirds of the total.

"Plastic does not biodegrade but breaks down into small pieces that will last for hundreds if not thousands of years. In parts of our oceans there are now six times more plastic particles in the water than plankton," she added.

Optimum Population Trust

Optimum Population Trust. Take the stop at two pledge here http://www.optimumpopulation.org/stopattwo.html

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Commercial fishing could be destroyed within 50 years

According to the United Nations, commercial fishing could be over within 50 years. Their top environmental official has been keen to point out that this is not another scare story, and that within 30 to 40 years we could effectively have run out of fish. "It is not a science fiction scenario. It is within the lifetime of a child born today," said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The UNEP report claims that as many as 22 million jobs associated with the fishing industry may have to be axed globally, if fish stocks are to be saved. The report goes on to suggest that investment should be channelled into sustainable fishing initiatives, such as Marine Protected Areas, where the most endangered fish species are given an opportunity to recover.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Working from home

Working from home, either permanently or just one or two days per week is an inherently green decision. The emissions reduction from travelling is the most immediate benefit, and is one of many that become apparent over time.

Decorated Shed garden offices are built to be energy efficient and deliver phenomenal insulation performance, meaning that you need minimal heating and cooling all year round.

However, being a green homeworker doesn't end at simply working from home. There are several simple practices that can be incorporated into your working day that help to minimise your impact on the planet even further. The good news is that they’re all simple and easy to implement into your routine, and will bring tangible benefits to both your work and your pocket.

Here are some green office tips for homeworkers;

• Buy eco-friendly office products. Recycled paper is the commonly-known product here, but almost every other office item has a recycled version available. Pens, pencils, mousepads, calendars, almost every item of stationery imaginable… all available in eco-friendly variants.

• Recycle! Be a part of the process by recycling your recycled office products when you’re finished with them, and give them yet another chance to be used in a new life! It's a sad fact that while 80% of the office products used in the UK are recyclable, a pitiful 8% ends up being recycled*.

• Buy FSC-certified or second-hand desks. If you're buying new office desks try to make sure they’re from FSC-certified sources, which means they’ve come from responsible and sustainably managed forests. Alternatively, see what's available locally second-hand. As many companies regularly re-fit their office spaces there are often some impeccable quality office furniture items available second-hand, and this removes the need to buy a newly produced item.

• Buy an energy-efficient computer and other electronics. Laptops usually use less energy than computer and monitor combinations, and the eco-friendly options for these are improving on an almost daily basis. The situation is similar for printers and fax machines, with many energy efficient options widely available.

• Go easy on the print outs. "Don't print this out unless necessary" is a well-worn office mantra, but for good reason. Printing things out to read them is really unnecessary, especially considering they're on the screen right in front of you, and the process wastes paper, ink, energy, time and ultimately money - quite a lot of valuable resources.

• Switch off. If you're not in the office, it doesn't need to be on. With the possible exception of the fax machine, every single energy-using item in your office should be switched off and shut down at the end of the day. Computer, printer, scanner, copier, lights - all off.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Logicor launches a new way to cut energy bills with its Green Plug

Logicor have just launched their Green Plug, which is an energy saving plug that automatically shuts off the power to appliances that they are wired into. The plug enables families to reduce energy bills and save on carbon emissions if used with appliances that are accidentally left on, or on stand-by, for long periods of time. The plug also reduces fire hazards around the home by turning off devices that have the potential to start fires if left on unattended.

The Green Plug contains an air driven timer to switch off the power supply after a pre-determined amount of time. The device itself does not use any electricity and can be attached to any household appliance with a standard three-pin plug.

UK homes spend an average of £365 per year on unnecessary and wasted energy caused by accidentally leaving appliance plugged in or on stand-by when they are not in use, according to a recent report compiled by Professor Martin Crowder of Imperial College London using the data from a recent ComRes poll. It is this aspect of energy bills that the Green Plug is able to reduce when attached to devices that are frequently left on, indeed it has been proven that the Green Plug can reduce energy bills by as much as 33%.

Using the Green Plug also has environmental benefits. According to the UK Government 27 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions are generated by the housing sector so by reducing energy wastage in the home the Green Plug also makes a positive contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions.

The plugs are available in a variety of different time ranges suitable for a variety of different devices. Plugs with a shorter time range, between five and ten minutes, are suitable for appliances with a high fire risk such as hair straighteners or irons, whilst those with a longer time range, between 30 and 50 minutes, are suitable for bedroom lights.

Logicor also has a complimentary Wall Socket, which can be retro-fitted or used in new builds. This device also contains an air driven timer and automatically switches off power supply in the same way that the Green Plugs do. The socket differs from the plug because the timer on the sockets can be set and changed by the user.
The plugs cost £5.99 and the wall socket £9.99. The plugs are available now the wall socket will be available from November 2010. Both are available through CEFCO in the UK.

http://www.green-plug.co.uk/product.html

Thursday, 15 July 2010

50,000 people a year are dying prematurely due to poor air quality

Did you know that as many as 50,000 people a year are dying prematurely due to poor air quality? That’s more than 20 times the number that die in road accidents in the UK each year! Whilst other factors are to blame, road transport is the worst offender at putting ‘nasties’ (NOx, Hydrocarbons and Particulates) into the air.

Pollutants like these can cause asthma, skin and eye irritation, poor lung development, heart disease, cancer and lung disease. All of these could be cutting people's lives short by as much as nine years.

Volvo Cars UK wants to do something about it, and this is how:

They are developing an iPhone app, which will let you search a vehicle’s make and model, and delivers easy-to-understand information that clearly illustrates the Nasties coming from the exhaust pipe of the car you drive, or are thinking of buying.
They want to launch an environmental label (just like the one you see on cars and fridges now) that will be used alongside the CO2 label displayed in new and used car showrooms. The label, like the app, will tell you just how many Nasties are emitted by a particular car's exhaust.

They are also setting up the Emissions Equality Think Tank, which will help keep people talking about air quality so governments and decision-makers take notice and do something about cleaning up our air.

To support the campaign they have developed a great animation which helps explain the issues in an easily to understand way. You can watch the video here

http://www.volvocars.com/uk/Pages/default.aspx
http://www.facebook.com/#!/insidevolvouk?ref=ts.

A Sensitive Subject

Sarah Heenan, natural beauty therapist and founder of online organic beauty boutique, www.lucyrose.biz, takes a look at the issues around skin sensitivities.

The last decade has seen a dramatic rise in sensitised skin and allergic reactions. This is mainly due to pollution, environmental factors and altered immunity. Most skin responses to cosmetics are a result of skin sensitisation. This happens when the ingredients penetrate the skin too quickly and the skin’s natural barrier function is impaired. Once the product is removed from the skin the reaction will subside.
In most instances of skin allergy, the skin can become itchy, inflamed, red and sore. Many main stream products made with harsh chemical ingredients and synthetic compounds will exaggerate these symptoms, so it is good to search for products with organic and natural ingredients which will help the skin function correctly and not just provide a short term fix.

Quite often you can be happily using a high street product and then, out of the blue, will start to have skin sensitivity. This could be down to a change in ingredients in the product or it could be a result of the body reacting to a combination of products being used.

Three Reasons to go Natural
· We find one of the biggest reasons people turn to organic and natural products is because they have sensitive skin and are finding high street products over-fragranced and too harsh. With organic and natural products there are no harsh chemicals, no artificial fragrances, quite simply the ingredients are all chosen to be effective, gentle and help the skin work naturally.
· Organic and natural brands are very transparent in their communications and include a comprehensive list of ingredients on the product, so that you can see clearly what it is made of. If you do have allergies to a certain ingredient, it is very easy to check this.
· It is also the case that an individual can be allergic to a completely organic ingredient (for example, people can be sensitive to some of the Essential Oils) so it is important to be able to see at a glance what is in the product you are using.

The Ingredients Minefield
Where there is sensitivity to Essential Oils it is important, when checking ingredients, to check out the source, especially with fragrances. For example, Limonene is the term used for the synthetic fragrance, Lemon, but is also the name for Lemon Essential Oil. In order to differentiate, there is usually an asterisk or a comment next to the ingredient, stating ‘from natural essential oils’.
Cosmetic ingredients really can be quite confusing and sometimes totally innocent natural ingredients can sound like a harsh chemical, for example Methylglucose Sesquisterate is simply a plant emulsifier, or some ingredients which sound almost identical can be completely different.

The deciding factor can normally be found in the source, the preferred one being from an organic source. Again with organic and natural companies you will normally be able to check these ingredients quite easily and quickly.
However, there are now many ranges which are free from fragrances and herbal flower extracts. These include the Lavera Neutral and Green People’s Organic Base No Scent collection.

Everybody is Different
It is also important to remember that each of us are individual and hence our skin requirements are also very specific. Just because the product is natural and organic and has worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you, so it is important to try and test the product first and find the best product for you. At Lucy Rose you can receive one-to-one advice either over the ‘phone or via email, and just to be on the safe side, there is a free sample service so that you can try first.
Be Prepared for a Skin Detox
A few people find that when switching to more natural ingredients they experience a detox period of maybe a week, where the body adjusts and the skin may feel uncomfortable or may ‘break out’. This usually lasts no longer than a week and once the skin has adjusted it will feel better than ever.

It Really Works
We recently exhibited at the Allergy Show in Olympia and the response was overwhelming. We met a lot of people who for years had not been able to wear make up, use sun cream, or have spent hundreds of pounds trying to find a product that does not cause sensitivity. After trying some of our products and testing them over the 2 days, we had fabulous feedback and many happy customers who have been able to find something that actually works and does not cause the symptoms they had previously experienced.
At Lucy Rose we are very aware of our customers as individuals and are always here to help. We offer services such as the free ‘try before you buy’ and also personal consultations. As an independent retailer of organic and natural beauty products we only stock the very best brands and can give independent advice so you can find the right product for you.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

BP Oil Spill Bring New Meaning to World Ocean Day This June

The month of June marks World Environment Day and World Ocean Day, two environmentally conscious days whose main purpose is to spread awareness of environmental issues taking place in today's world. However, a black cloud hangs over this year's events as 42,000 gallons of oil a day gushes into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deep Horizon oilrig exploded and sank on April 20, 2010. This oil spill is one of, if not the biggest natural disaster that America has had to deal with and it shows that the time is now to invest, innovate, and utilize specific renewable energy technologies that can reduce our dependency on oil consumption and preserve our environment.

In 1999, assessments showed that Americans consumed 25 percent of the world's oil production, but held less than 3 percent. In 2009, statistics showed that Americans consumed approximately 23% of the world oil production. It is hard to believe that with all of the new changes in energy efficiency and renewable energy technology that has been created and recognized over the last decade that more significant changes in oil dependency has not been achieved. Without more policy that demands the utilization of innovative renewable energy technology and the implementation of energy conservation measures, the country will not be able to steer itself away from oil dependency. This means continued relationships with unreliable foreign sources of oil (threatening our national security), more drilling along our coasts, (threatening our natural habitats and wildlife), and more chances for disasters to occur like the one currently in the Gulf, (ultimately threatening our economy and our way of life).

Ironically, the reduction of oil dependency and enhanced protection of the world's oceans is vital not only to the sustainability of the planet, but also for the preservation of one of our greatest resources of renewable energy that could help solve the energy problem. In essence, we must utilize the very thing we are destroying in order to save ourselves. More specifically, in order to avoid disasters like the Gulf oil spill and save our oceans we must harness the renewable power of…our oceans. (This reminds me of the 1997 quote by our worry free friend Austin Powers, “Allow myself to introduce… myself”. If only we had listened then, perhaps we’d be singing a different tune now.)

On a positive note, today there are some organizations and initiatives that target oceanic and marine wildlife preservation. One organization that is trying to connect different groups under the banner of oceanic renewable energy is the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition. The OREC is a national trade association that is "dedicated to promoting marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies from clean, renewable ocean resources." They incorporate over 40 members, all of which work towards these same goals by coming up with ideas and innovations that help build these technologies and put them to realistic use. In fact, some of these organizations are literally "turning the tide" when it comes to renewable energy by using the known green technique of harnessing ocean waves and currents to produce energy:

· Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) is a group that was founded in order to find solutions that could harness the energy that comes from the world's oceans. One way that OPT is doing this is via their PowerBuoy 40 that acts as a "wave energy converter" while submerged. As it bobs in the ocean it works a hydraulic pump that drives a generator that produces up to 40 kilowatts of electricity, which then can be sent to shore via an underwater cable. The electricity that comes from just one clean and safe PowerBuoy 40 has the capability to produce enough power for 20 to 25 homes.


· The Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) works on breakthrough technologies and environmentally safe projects that use the ocean to produce renewable and clean energy. One of these projects is installing power systems all along the Gulf Stream's ocean currents (which has 21,000 times the energy of Niagara Falls). With the constant flow of the Gulf Stream, if ORPC harnesses just 1/1000 of the Gulf's renewable energy that would still be enough to power up to 7 million homes.

Wave power technology, while underused, has been a known technology, for years. However, a future green application that can boost renewable energy is not the ocean itself, but rather something that can be found within the ocean. Algae sources are considerably new renewable energy options within the ocean that have many believing them to be "the ultimate in renewable energy" .


Half of algae's weight is based off of oil, which can be made into bio-fuel that could be used on anything from cars to airplanes. Considering that there over 65,000 known algae species this could potentially be a big time future energy source.


Yet, renewable energy from the ocean is only one step towards sustainability. Energy must be used more efficiently. Individual behavior needs to change and become more environmentally conscious. Overconsumption is becoming a big problem in the United States and the unwillingness to give up that way of life is feeding our current dependency on crude oil. Specifically, opting for bigger and better in the auto industry means big engines, lots of horse power and less fuel economy. Recently, we’ve seen a larger effort by auto manufacturers to deliver hybrid and fully electric vehicles. It is up to the consumer to make the decision to purchase these vehicles and drive demand, pushing manufacturers to produce, compete, and continuously innovate.

In 2007, the U.S. depended on crude oil to meet 39% of the total energy demand with the majority of it (45%) feeding the transportation sector in the form of finished motor gasoline . It is frustrating to see that with new technology coming out all the time, that as of 2010, approximately 46% (nearly the same amount) of U.S. petroleum consumption is used for finished motor gasoline. If we eliminate the use of petroleum based vehicles and get them running on renewable energy, we could curb nearly half of our petroleum demand. In order to do so, we would need to generate 20% of our total energy demand from other sources (more, actually, because all renewable energy sources are not strictly dedicated to supplying the transportation sector).

In 2007, hydroelectric power supplied only 2.5% of our energy demand . Renewable sources combined provided only 6.7%. As of July 2009, approximately half the states in the U.S. still had no electric vehicle charging stations . The other half had less than 10 throughout the entire state with the exception of California, which has become a pioneer in electric vehicle support, supplying over 400 charging stations. Oregon is the runner up with less than 50 (big gap). Therefore, an infrastructure made up of fully electric vehicles recharged by electricity that comes from renewable sources will require a complete overhaul of consumer behavior/demand, manufacturer supply, and energy policy.


Building structures that would also use the oceans (amongst others) renewable energy must be built properly in order to not be wasteful. If buildings are not consciously created to maintain energy and preserve resources then utilizing renewable sources from the ocean becomes a redundant endeavor (as old buildings become less efficient, we waste more energy, etc). This is why it's important that buildings and neighborhoods are developed around the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System .

According to US Green Building Council, 39% of energy use comes from buildings in the United States alone, but with LEED certified buildings these numbers can allow renewable energy from the ocean to actually have a chance of succeeding and being applicable in the real world. This is why so many companies like Globetrotters Engineering Corporation (a Chicago based architecture company founded by Niranjan Shah known for building many LEED certified buildings), Wells Fargo (which built an office tower that is not only LEED approved but saves up to 5 million kWh a year), and Kubala-Washatko Architects & Boldt Construction (which actually built the first ever LEED-platinum certified, carbon neutral building ) all incorporate LEED standards into their designs.



Since the inception of LEED certification, it took several years for the first building to reach platinum certification. Now, it is something that architects strive for. For many projects government incentives are available for businesses that reach LEED certification. Niranjan Shah , realized that the LEED benchmark is the future of architecture and that creating structures that benefit from renewable energy just makes common sense. Hopefully, in upcoming years we’ll see LEED platinum certification become the standard.

After the oil spill in the Gulf it's clear to see that now, more than ever, protecting our oceans stands for something much greater. By saving our oceans, we are making a commitment to the preservation of our natural resources, our wildlife, and our humanity. Through the promise and development of a sustainable, renewable energy future, we can follow a new path which will redefine the meaning of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Written by Marcus Reyes

Marcus Reyes studied public policy with a focus on energy research and environmental sustainability. He is an advocate of clean energy technology and contributes written work to the blogosphere related to energy conservation and environmental preservation.


42,000 gallons a day – Estimated on April 26, 2010.
Natural Resources Defense Council – Quoting the Energy Information Administration 1999 Annual Report
PowerBuoy 40 – CNN Editorial Feb 26, 2010
Algae: “The ultimate in renewable energy” – CNN Tech Editorial
Finished Motor Gasoline – EIA Stats from 2010
Hydroelectric Resource – EIA statistics from 2007 report
Map of Charging Stations - Alternative & Advanced Fuels
Fully Electric Vehicle – Nissan Leaf
LEED Certification – NRDC Smartgrowth Editorial
Globetrotters Engineering Corporation
Niranjan Shah – GEC CEO Niranjan Shah Twitter Feed
First LEED Platinum Certified Carbon Neutral Building
Niranjan Shah – Live Journal

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Green Benefits of the Garden Annex

Decorated Shed garden annexes and holiday homes – including the Barn – are built to exacting standards that meet and exceed current building regulations on energy efficiency and insulation. This dedication to quality results in a garden annex building that not only looks amazing, but performs to incredibly high standards when it comes to heating, powering and general running.

With such class-leading efficiency - combined with a strict adherence to a sustainable material supply chain – their garden annexes represent truly green investments, providing low-impact living solutions.

The prefabricated build process – with highly-insulating composite panels developed off-site - enables the Decorated Shed team to complete a full project in around four days, massively faster and more efficient than a traditional build of similar proportions.

As with all Decorated Shed garden buildings, their garden annexes and holiday homes are built to specification. This means that the building is designed precisely around your own personal needs, and will begin performing a life-enhancing role from the moment it is completed.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

10 Ways Working From Home Saves You Money ...

It can be disrupting working in your kitchen or living room and not give you the chance to concentrate on your work. Research has proven that working in a separate garden office rather than your home will prevent distractions. Decorated Sheds bespoke garden offices are designed to meet your specific requirements, with their natural warmth of Western Cedar designs you can relax and complete your duties without the hustle and bustle of a work place or even your home!
So once you have your garden office – how do you save the pennies?

1. The commute & your garden office
It is obviously cheaper and more environmentally friendly to walk down the garden to your Decorated Shed garden office than it is to drive to work. Although you will have to pay for electrics and heating our garden offices are installed with high performance energy efficient insulation and heating

2. Coffee
Especially if you have a tall cappuccino addiction – the cost of Starbucks can seriously add up. One Starbucks can buy you a weeks supply of the very best organic coffee which will last a lot longer

3. Lunch and snacks
It is easy to spend up to £10 a day on lunch and snacks which does add up. When working at home you can make your own lunches and use up left overs

4. Clothing
When you just need the power suit for the occasional meeting and can wear anything the rest of the time you can save a lot of money on clothing and cleaning. Just make sure you get dressed in the morning, wear a nice shirt or top and brush your hair—more and more working from home involves video calls and conferences.

5. Communications
Business lines can be more expensive than residential lines. Some people are dumping the landline altogether and only using mobile phones as these days great deals on unlimited calls are available. Not to forget they are useful when on the road.

6. Electronics
Your garden office laptop is more likely to be quicker and more efficient than those in a large organisation. Why? Because they have a lot of people to manage and have to put restrictions on services. Not to mention that fact that laptops use a fraction of the amount of energy compared to the desktop computer. (more information on this in our last blog ‘Is telecommuting green’)

7. Furniture
Corporate firms tend to buy matching furniture quite often which is not cheap. In your Decorated Shed garden office you will be able to re use furniture from your home, or once bought i am sure you will not be replacing it in a hurry!

8. Childcare
Childcare is still an issue, but you may have more flexibility in your choices and options. For example – taking turns with your neighbour to pick the children up from school

9. Taxes
Get yourself a qualified accountant and keep all your receipts for travel and all expenses for your business. These will be deducted from your final tax bill. Your final tax bill should be considerably less than if you worked for a company

10. Your garden office
The Decorated Shed team will work closely with you to build your premium garden office. As mentioned in point one their high energy efficient insulation will cut the cost of bills drastically, and we will work to your budget and requirements. They also design the interior, and build electrical points in the foundations which is included in the overall price.

Percentage rises for home workers

The past year has been a difficult time for many of us and the amount of people working from home has risen dramatically, not always in peoples' favour. In some cases people would prefer to work from home and benefit from a healthier and cheaper way of living but employers have not been crazy about it, even though it will reduce overheads and the company's carbon footprint.

For example, telecommuting is growing and eco bosses and workers are giving the carbon footprint solution a go. If the unfortunate situation arises and you don’t have a boss anymore there are plenty of options and well paid jobs out there for home workers.

Decorated Shed have become strong supporters of the working from home theory due to the recession and carbon foot print solutions. They build and design bespoke garden offices and garden studios which have become a popular product recently. They act on environmental issues through their high performance energy efficient insulation and their triple sealed doors and windows buildings. Decorated Shed also use recycled material wherever possible. Their Garden Offices are built to your specific requirements and our objective is to build a eco friendly, beautifully engineered garden office with natural and relaxing interiors to enhance your new work place.

Friday, 30 April 2010

UK has tremendous wind power potential

According to the British Wind Energy Association, the UK has probably the largest offshore wind resource in the world, with relatively shallow waters and a strong wind resource extending far into the North Sea.

We're always hearing stories about wind farms not even providing enough energy to keep our electrical devices on standby. Its simply not true! In fact, the UK is estimated to have more than 33% of the total European potential offshore wind resource, which is enough to power the country nearly three times over.

The argument that we need imported foreign oil is nothing more than short-sightedness, lack of ambition and a desire to maintain the status quo.

To put that in perspective, an average coal or gas powered station produces between 1,000 and 1,500 megawatts. Yet an offshore windfarm can produce as much as 9,000 megawatts.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Is the tide finally turning?

Its not often that we hear good news on the corporate front, with seemingly endless stories of corrupt oil companies deliberately sewing the seeds of climate scepticism and confusion. That's why its great to hear that about T Boone Pickens, oil explorer, corporate raider and a Texan Republican who is using part of his £1.8 billion fortune on filling the huge and windy Texas Panhandle with turbines as part of his Pickens Plan to wean America off its dependence on foreign energy.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Plastic accounted for 63% of litter found on UK beaches

UK beaches are being ruined by an ever-accumulating tide of plastic litter, the Marine Conservation Society says. It said the amount of rubbish was 77% higher than in 1994 - its first annual survey - and the proportion of plastic volunteers found had never been higher. A spokeswoman said the figures showed plastic makes up an increasing proportion of beach litter - now nearly two-thirds of the total.

"Plastic does not biodegrade but breaks down into small pieces that will last for hundreds if not thousands of years. In parts of our oceans there are now six times more plastic particles in the water than plankton," she added.

China is the world’s worst polluter, right?

Er, not quite. China overtook the US during 2009 to become the biggest investor in renewable energy technologies, according to a new analysis. Researchers with the Pew Charitable Trusts calculate that China invested $34.6bn (£23.2bn) in clean energy over the year, almost double the US figure. The UK emerges in third place among G20 nations, followed by Spain and Brazil. The most spectacular growth has come in South Korea, which saw installed capacity rise by 250% in five years.

"Even in the midst of a global recession, the clean energy market has experienced impressive growth," said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's campaign on climate change. "They know that investing in clean energy can renew manufacturing bases, and create export opportunities, jobs and businesses."

Tar sands are among the world’s dirtiest fuels

Their extraction produces on average three times the greenhouse gases of conventional oil. The associated pollution, deforestation and disturbance of wildlife also threaten the traditional livelihoods and well-being of indigenous communities.

If you are a pension holder it is highly likely that your pension provider has substantial shareholdings held on your behalf, either in Shell or other companies involved in tar sands developments. Friends of the Earth Europe and FairPensions have created an online action that will target Shell and BP shareholders directly. You can express your concerns to your pension provider or if you don't have a pension you can email one of Shell and BP's largest shareholders. Find out more and take action - www.foei.org/en/get-involved/take-action/take-action-on-tar-sands

Heathrow third runway opponents win court challenge

Meaning that the government will have to re-run the consultation on a third runway. This has given campaigners hope that Labour will now drop the policy. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have opposed a third runway but campaigners remain worried that if they form the new government they could change their minds under lobbying from interest groups.

Labour MP John McDonnell, who has led the campaign against the expansion of Heathrow for the last 30 years, said: "In essence this judgment means that the game is up for a third runway at Heathrow and I am calling upon the government to accept the inevitable and lift this threat to my community. What we need now is a sensible approach to developing a sustainable transport policy based upon high-speed rail."

NASA study concludes that no cooling evident in past decade

A comprehensive analysis of global air and sea temperatures by NASA climatologists shows that the planet has not experienced a cooling trend in the past decade and is continuing to warm at a rate of about .3 degrees F per decade. The NASA scientists, affiliated with the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the warming trend has continued despite the sun's irradiative power being at one of its lowest points in a century.

Is it any wonder that people don’t trust politicians?

It seems many politicians these days believe that they can act with total impunity. Its all the more galling when directories such as ours are trying to encourage more people to buy from sustainable and fair trade sources, yet at the same time being undermined by a combination of immorality and arrogance.

We recently wrote about some supermarkets refusing to label products they sell that contain palm oil, which is fuelling deforestation, methane release and wiping out large populations of orang-utans. Then we hear about Stephen Byers, the ex-Labour minister, telling an undercover reporter that for a large fee he can influence government policy on behalf of supermarkets, such as delaying and amending proposed food labelling regulation.

Disputed island 'vanishes'

A tiny island claimed for years by India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal has disappeared beneath the rising seas, scientists in India say. The uninhabited territory south of the Hariabhanga river was known as New Moore Island to the Indians and South Talpatti Island to the Bangladeshis. The irony is that the island was the subject of territorial dispute, involving the deployment of naval vessels at times.

"What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," said Professor Sugata Hazra of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Calcutta.

Air pollution and driving

Radical shift in transport policy needed to cut air pollution

Dr. Gary Robertshaw
March 2010

Air pollution is taking up to nine years off the lives of people who live in pollution hotspots or who have a respiratory illness, according to a report by the UK House of Commons' Environmental Audit Committee. Tiny particles of sulphate, carbon and dust are the most damaging to health, but nitrogen oxides and ozone also have an effect. In fact, the UK is in breach of European regulations for all of these, and could face fines of up to £300 million. Road transport is the main culprit. Power plants also churn out damaging particles but mostly away from cities.

Only a radical shift in transport policy will allow the UK to meet its targets, the report concludes. "But such a shift is unlikely to occur in the next 10 years, unless the government starts taking sustainable transport seriously," says Paul Firmin of the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, UK.

Our view is that the incentive for drivers of large, inefficient vehicles such as 4x4s to switch to smaller, fuel-efficient cars is far too weak. A very significant increase in the road tax for the largest vehicles, most polluting vehicles is needed.

Finally, this isn’t just another debate surrounding global warming. It’s about ordinary people like us (I am asthmatic), who don’t want to be literally choked to death by air pollution.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Sustainable living

Going green is easier than most people think! A few small changes can make a huge difference. Plus, sustainable living will save you money as well as help protect the environment and reduce climate change.

“Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress.” - John Clapham, A Concise Economic History of Britain, 1957

Driving

A small, energy efficient car is less polluting than a gas-guzzling 4x4 – and is cheaper to run as well.
Buy carbon-neutral, green insurance - save money and help the planet!

Switch off the engine if you think you’ll be stationary for more than half a minute. Idling this long burns more energy than it takes to restart the engine.

Avoid short car journeys whenever possible. Instead, walk or cycle and burn up some calories! Share the school-run with a roster of parents to cut congestion, reduce emissions and save on your fuel bill.

If you have a diesel engine, consider biodiesel that has been obtained from sustainable sources. Not only is it carbon-neutral, it also biodegrades 98% within three weeks and is kinder on the environment.

Holidays

Holiday in the UK. Amazing fact: one long-haul return flight can produce more carbon dioxide per passenger than the average UK motorist does in an entire year!!

Hire bikes instead of a car if you’re exploring locally. Not only will this cut emissions, you’ll save money - and benefit from some exercise.
Food and drink
Cook with natural, seasonal, locally grown produce.

Avoid buying endless bottles of water – it’s a plastic nightmare. Fill up an old one with tap water and take it with you everywhere.

Use a toaster not the grill. It uses less energy.

At home

If it’s winter and the kids are wearing T-shirts turn the thermostat down by just one degree. This can save up to £30 a year on your energy bill and help the environment. Anyone cold can pull on a jumper.

An oldie but a goldie: insulate your loft. You can cut up to 20 per cent from your energy bill by installing good quality loft insulation.

Avoid wasted heat energy by timing your heating to go off 30 minutes before the school run starts, and come on again 30 minutes before you are all due home.

Only use a washing machine on full-load. Ninety per cent of the energy washing machines use is for heating the water. Switch to a cooler wash temperature: 40°C is usually adequate. Grubby whites can be pre-soaked to loosen dirt or use an eco-friendly stain remover.

Dinner time

Saucepans with lids on heat much quicker, thus using less energy (obvious really).

Get oven-wise. Don’t keep opening it to check food. This allows heat to escape, wastes energy and slows down cooking. Switch off a few minutes before your meal is ready. The oven will stay hot enough to finish cooking the food.

Recycle drinks cans. The energy saved by recycling one aluminium can is enough to run a TV for three hours.

Power

Count how many light bulbs are in your home. Now think what you’d save if they were all energy-efficient. One bulb uses less than 1/4 of the electricity of a standard model and can last up to 12 times longer. This will save you £10 a year on your electricity bill and more than £50 over the bulb’s lifetime.

Resist stand-by. If all UK households turned off their TVs at night instead of leaving them on standby, we would avoid emitting enough CO2 to fill the Millennium Dome 38 times each year. This energy saving tip will save you money and help reduce climate change.

Wash laundry loads on the low-temperature programme to save energy.

Organic and fair trade wines

Organic wines are produced from grapes that are grown according to organic farming methods. Whereas conventional vineyards are dependent on synthetic fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides, organic viticulture prohibits the use of any such chemical products.

By 'organic' it generally means that the wine is made from organically grown grapes - from vineyards that have not been treated with man-made chemical fertilisers and pesticides which can enter the vine's sap and the grape pulp. Instead, organic growers use compost, cover crops and make use of natural predators to kill pests. Importantly, that means that there are no 'nasties' in the wine that you eventually drink.

Domestic pollution

Domestic pollution can cause more environmental damage than industrial pollution, and non-environmentally friendly products are associated with a range of health problems and disruption of eco-systems. Eco friendly cleaning products are bio-degradable and don't contain phosphates, enzymes, bleach and other harmful chemicals found in conventional cleaning products. Safer for you and your family and kinder to the environment.

"We are rightly appalled by the genetic effects of radiation; how then, can we be indifferent to the same effect in chemicals we disseminate widely in our environment?" - Rachel Carson, author, Silent Spring

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Phone directories

Thousands of trees and tonnes of paper are used to produce telephone directories. You can now opt out of receiving Yellow Pages by calling 0800 671 444. Also, you can opt out of receiving unwanted mail by registering with the Mailing Preference Service.

Population growth

World population is projected to rise from today's 6.8 billion to over 9 billion in 2050

“Those who fail to see that population growth and climate change are two sides of the same coin are either ignorant or hiding from the truth. These two huge environmental problems are inseparable and to discuss one while ignoring the other is irrational.” Dr. Lovelock, Gaia scientist.

Tropical rainforests

Tropical rainforests took up to 100 million years to evolve and are believed to be the oldest and most complex land-based ecosystem on earth, containing over 30 million species of plants and animals. That's half of the Earth's wildlife and at least two-thirds of its plant species!

Some interesting facts: A typical four square mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies. Rainforests provide many important medicinal products, including those used in the treatment of cancer.

"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Water: The source of all life

About 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water and 97% of this is salt water. Although the salt can be removed (desalination), it is a difficult and expensive process. 2% of the water on earth is glacier ice at the North and South Poles while less than 1% of all the water on earth is fresh water that we can actually use.

What is fair trade?

20% of the world’s population live on less than a dollar a day. Fair trade is a social movement aimed at reducing poverty and exploitation by guaranteeing producers a price for their goods which never falls below the cost of production.

Plastic bags - shocking statistics!

Five trillion plastic bags are maunfactured globally each year. It takes around 1,000 years for a plastic bag to break down. In the process, toxic substances leak into the soil and enter the food chain. Approximately 1 billion seabirds and mammals die each year by ingesting plastic bags (source: Say No To Plastic Bags).

How big is the world?

“This world, that I thought as a child was the biggest, most adventurous place you could imagine, is not that big. And there’s an awful lot of us on it. And we’re not managing the resources that we have as you would on a boat, because we don’t have the impression that these resources are limited.” (Round-the-world yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur)

Meat and climate change

Links between meat eating and climate change have been widely known for many years, partly due to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest to make room for cattel grazing. Clearing these forests is estimated to produce a staggering 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transport sector!

Fair trade, ethical jewellery

Many of the world’s precious metals and gemstones are mined under harsh working conditions by people who are very poorly paid. Often, the workers are children.

The mining itself can cause significant environmental damage including the use of mercury or cyanide to extract gold. If that were not bad enough, thousands have been killed in wars funded by the sale of diamonds, often referred to as ‘blood diamonds’.

Fair trade jewellery is produced without child labour or worker exploitation, where the environmental impact is minimised and without causing or indirectly funding conflict. When someone next shows you their new diamond ring or gold necklace ask them if they know how it was produced. Always look to buy fair trade, ethical jewellery and wear it with a clear conscience.

Organic food and drink

Organic produce comes from crops that are grown without the use of pesticides, artificial fertilisers, ionising radiation, food additives or genetic modification (GM). Meat products are not contaminated with antibiotics or growth hormones. Whereas organic food was once produced only in small quantities by local farms, its now becoming much more widely available as more people recognise the health benefits compared to conventional production methods.

Carbon offsetting

Carbon dioxide is responsible for 60% of the greenhouse effect and burning fossil fuels releases the carbon dioxide stored millions of years ago. Deforestation releases not only the carbon store in trees but means that less carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, creating a vicious circle.

Trees help combat the changes by `breathing in' carbon dioxide in a process called photosynthesis, and `breathing out' oxygen. The more trees we have, the more carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, and the more we help to combat the change by compensating for the carbon dioxide we produce. This is called `carbon offsetting'.

Carbon offsetting schemes do have a role to play but remember there is no magic way to buy ourselves out of climate change. Ultimately there is no solution to climate change other than to emit less pollution, which means adopting greener lifestyles. See our green tips section.

"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people." — Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The Green Office

It’s worth remembering that businesses produce more carbon emissions than households. So next time you're searching for business services, why not choose an eco-friendly provider? Eco-businesses are more sustainable, cause less harm to the planet and importantly in today's environment they are also more efficient and cost less to run!

It’s easy to make your office green and save money. Consider making it paperless. Change to energy efficient light bulbs, switch electrical equipment off when not in use, insulate the building, recycle paper, bottles, cans and plastic. Reduce water consumption (especially toilet flushing by installing water saving devices cheaply and quickly). And turn down the thermostat.

Fair trade bags

Fair trade bag producers work with marginalised workers to help them overcome vulnerability and become economically self-sufficient. They aim to empower workers to become stakeholders in their own organisations and play a more active role in global markets, thereby achieving greater fairness and equality in international trade.

There are eco friendly, fair trade bags to cover every need - fashion bags, cotton bags, shopping bags, Jute bags, Fair Trade bags and recycled bags - all ethical, environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Did you know? Five trillion plastic bags are maunfactured globally each year! It takes around 1,000 years for a plastic bag to break down. In the process, toxic substances leak into the soil and enter the food chain. Approximately 1 billion seabirds and mammals die each year by ingesting plastic bags (source: Say No To Plastic Bags).

"Pollution should never be the price of prosperity." — Al Gore, in a 2000 presidential-campaign speech

Organic cotton clothes - the benefits

Did you know that conventionally grown cotton is the second most pesticide-laden crop in the world? It takes approximately 150g of chemicals to grow enough cotton to make just one t-shirt. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is grown in certified pesticide-free and herbicide-free soil, using organic farming methods, which produce healthier fabrics, preserve the quality of our water and prevent toxins from entering the human food chain in the form of cottonseed and other byproducts.

“When some high-sounding institute states that a compound is harmless or a process free of risk, it is wise to know whence the institute or the scientists who work there obtain their financial support.” - Lancet, editorial on the "medical-industrial complex," 1973

100% Nature

100% Nature is an Organic and Holistic Health Care Shop online selling 100’s of premium quality brands and including natural and organic Skin Care, Toiletries, Make-Up, Health Supplements, Herbs, Pregnancy products and a natural Pharmacy range for all ages. Their A-Z of Natural and Holistic Health Advice for pregnancy, babies, children and adults offers comprehensive information and effective natural solutions for many common ailments. 100% Nature specialise in skin complaints and immune support for all ages, and a range of Colloidal Silver-based skin care products. For more organic health and beauty products visit The Green Providers Directory.

The Natural Skincare Company

Offers high quality salon standard, vegan registered, cold-blended organic skincare by Paul Penders, Nvey ECO Makeup and Caribbean Blue Suncare. Paul Penders cold-blended LevensESSENTIE Gold is one of very few skincare ranges available on the market that uses low temperatures when making skincare, thus ensuring that vitamins, anti-oxidants and nutrients are retained at their full strength. Find them in The Green Providers Directory.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Kilgallioch Forest 132-turbine wind farm plan submitted

An application for a 132-wind turbine project in southern Scotland has been submitted to the Scottish government.

Scottish Power Renewables wants to build the scheme at Kilgallioch Forest near New Luce in Dumfries and Galloway.

If constructed it would be one of the largest wind farms in Scotland with a capacity of up to 396 megawatts.

Representations on the plans can be put forward until 28 April and a number of public information days will take place prior to that date.

The proposed site sits on the border between Dumfries and Galloway and South Ayrshire.

Information days will be held at New Luce, Kirkcowan and Barrhill next month to outline the plans.

Scottish Power Renewables is one of the UK's largest wind farm developers with 30 projects currently operational, under construction or in planning.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Dirty oil and climate change

As the film 'Dirty Oil' premieres this week we cam across these interesting facts. We were particularly surprised to learn that most oil used in the US now comes from 'dirty oil' in Canada, rather than traditional suppliers such as Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Gary Robertshaw
The Green Providers Directory

•Tar sands consist of oil trapped in a complex mixture of sand, water and clay.
•The extraction and production of tar sands emits on average three times as much carbon dioxide as the extraction and production of conventional oil.
•Canada has proven tar sand reserves of 174 billion barrels of oil, second only to Saudi Arabia's conventional reserves.
•Canada has probable reserves of 315 billion barrels of oil, accessible using technology currently under development.
•Canada's ultimate reserves of tar sands are thought to be 1.7 trillion barrels of oil.
•Shell, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Total and BP all have projects and expansion plans or planned developments in Canada's tar sands.
•Current production is in the region of 1.3 million barrels of oil per day.
•$125 billion has been earmarked for tar sand developments within the next few years. The industry is calling for this to be trebled to $379 billion by 2025.
•Oil companies have plans to extract 5.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2020. Production is forecast to increase to between 3.5 million and 6.2 million barrels per day by 2020. Licenses have been granted to increase production to 7 million barrels per day.

Shale Oil•Shale oil consists of oil trapped in sedimentary rock, which is released when the rock is super-heated.
•Shale oil extraction emits up to eight times more carbon dioxide than conventional oil extraction.
•Shale oil exploitation is still at the research and development stage, but millions of dollars are being invested to make it viable.
•The US has estimated shale oil reserves of 1.5 trillion barrels of oil, probable accessible reserves are thought to be 800 billion barrels of oil.
•Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil are all developing methods to exploit shale oil or have expressed an interest in doing so.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Palm oil and rainforests

When doing your weekly shop look out for products that contain an ingredient that is leading to the destruction of rainforests, putting the orang-utan at risk of extinction and causing widespread environmental devastation.

The ingredient in question is palm oil. It’s surprisingly common in many of the everyday products bought in supermarkets, including biscuits, sweets, confectionaries, margarines, breads, crisps and bars of soap.

Palm oil is a cheap source of vegetable oil. The problem is that it is being grown primarily on land that was once home to the vast rainforests of Borneo, the natural habitat of the orang-utan. According to a recent BBC report, it’s estimated that only 3% of the world’s palm oil comes from certified sustainable sources. Further, the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that the orang-utan population has declined by 50% in recent decades while the Indonesian government has acknowledged that 50,000 orang-utans have died as a result of de-forestation.

It gets worse. Greenpeace has identified the draining of ancient peat lands to make way for palm oil as a global threat, leading to huge amounts of trapped methane being released into the atmosphere. Consequently, Indonesia is now the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind only America and China.

Every time a shopper buys a product from a supermarket that contains palm oil he or she is effectively fuelling the destruction of the Borneo rainforests and hastening the demise of the orang-utan.

So what can be done?

It’s important not to underestimate consumer power. If the supermarkets can’t sell products containing palm oil then demand will dry up. However, supermarkets are in business to make a profit; they will largely ignore their impact on the environment if they can get away with it. That’s not just scepticism on our part. If supermarkets don’t label which of their products contain palm oil then it’s impossible for shoppers to actively exclude them from their shopping trolleys.

Surprise, surprise then that current labelling laws allow supermarkets to list palm oil as 'vegetable' oil, without singling out the palm oil content, thereby preventing shoppers from identifying it in products.

At this point we would like to congratulate Sainsbury’s supermarkets, who have taken a decision not only to single out palm oil on the ingredients list of their own-brand products, but to state directly that it is from a sustainable source.

Other supermarkets have made feeble excuses such as arguing that their recipes can change and the amounts and types of oils they use can vary, making more detailed labels impractical. If that were really true, then how has Sainsbury’s overcome the problem?

If you shop at Tesco, Asda, Safeway or Morrisons then why not e-mail them asking that they label products containing palm oil like Sainsbury’s now does? If they are unwilling to do this then tell them you will shop at Sainsbury’s instead.

Supermarkets may not be concerned about the disappearance of rainforests but they will be concerned about losing customers to a competitor.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Is nuclear the low carbon future?

With the Copenhagen climate conference under way, the UK government under pressure to cut carbon emissions and Wylfa on Anglesey shortlisted for a new nuclear power station, BBC Wales' environment correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd asks if nuclear is the low carbon answer to energy security in the future.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/wales/2009/green_wales/8400967.stm

US to build two new nuclear power stations

President Barack Obama has announced more than $8bn (£5bn) of federal loan guarantees to begin building the first US nuclear power stations for 30 years.

Two new plants are to be constructed in the state of Georgia by US electricity firm Southern Company.

Mr Obama said the plants would be "safe and clean" and were needed to meet the country's future energy needs.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8518670.stm

What is the Future of Green Insurance?

Kwik-Fit, the car repair firm, is preparing to sell its insurance business for more than £200m, according to The Sunday Times (February, 2010).

What many people don’t realise is that Kwik-Fit Financial Services owns the Green Insurance Company, one of the flagship eco-friendly insurance companies offering to offset 100% of a driver’s annual emissions.

It is unclear at this stage what will happen to the Green Insurance Company, and its promise of offering to offset a driver’s carbon emissions. Last year we reported that I Buy Eco had abandoned its commitment to offset drivers' carbon emissions and were instead offering a £5 charity donation.

We are keeping a close eye on developments, and which insurance companies we include in our directory. Our strongly held belief is that all car insurance policies should include a 100% emissions offset (in proven schemes) at no extra cost to drivers.

The UK insurance industry is the largest in Europe and the third largest in the world, with total net premiums amounting to over £30 billion. It is profitably sustained by the huge number of cars on the road and has a moral obligation to help in combating climate change caused by these cars.

Call us cynical for suggesting that some insurance companies might put profit ahead of the environment. But next time your renewal quote comes through the door begging you to renew, why not tell them you will if they can tell you what they are doing to combat climate change. Expect a long silence on the phone…

Dr. Gary Robertshaw

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Some interesting facts about rainforests

Tropical rainforests took between 60 and 100 million years to evolve and are believed to be the oldest and most complex land-based ecosystem on earth, containing over 30 million species of plants and animals. That's half of the Earth's wildlife and at least two-thirds of its plant species! Rainforests have a central role to play in the slowing of climate change.

Some interesting facts about rainforests (source: The Nature Conservancy)

Facts about the Global Coverage of Rainforests:

Fact: Covering less than 2 percent of the Earth's total surface area, the world's rainforests are home to 50 percent of the Earth's plants and animals.
Fact: Rainforests are found on every continent across the Earth, except Antarctica.
Fact: There are two major types of rainforest: temperate rainforests and tropical rainforests.
Fact: Temperate rainforests used to exist on almost every continent in the world, but today only 50 percent – 75 million acres – of these forests remain worldwide.
Facts about the Rainforest as Part of our Global Environment and Well-being:
Fact: Rainforests act as the world's thermostat by regulating temperatures and weather patterns.
Fact: One-fifth of the world’s fresh water is found in the Amazon Basin.
Fact: Rainforests are critical in maintaining the Earth's limited supply of drinking and fresh water.
Facts about the Abundant Life and Important Resources that Rainforests Share with Us:
Fact: A typical four square mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies.
Fact: Rainforests provide many important products for people: timber, coffee, cocoa and many medicinal products, including those used in the treatment of cancer.
Fact: Seventy percent of the plants identified by the U.S. National Cancer Institute as useful in the treatment of cancer are found only in rainforests.
Fact: More than 2,000 tropical forest plants have been identified by scientists as having anti-cancer properties.
Fact: Less than one percent of the tropical rainforest species have been analyzed for their medicinal value.
Facts about the Threats to Rainforests, Indigenous People and Species:
Fact: Rainforests are threatened by unsustainable agricultural, ranching, mining and logging practices.
Fact: Before 1500 A.D., there were approximately 6 million indigenous people living in the Brazilian Amazon. But as the forests disappeared, so too did the people. In the early 1900s, there were less than 250,000 indigenous people living in the Amazon.
Fact: Originally, 6 million square miles of tropical rainforest existed worldwide. But as a result of deforestation, only 2.6 million square miles remain.
Fact: At the current rate of tropical forest loss, 5-10 percent of tropical rainforest species will be lost per decade.
Fact: Nearly 90 percent of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods.
Fact: Fifty-seven percent of the world’s forests, including most tropical forests, are located in developing countries.
Fact: Every second, a slice of rainforest the size of a football field is mowed down. That's 86,400 football fields of rainforest per day, or over 31 million football fields of rainforest each year.
Fact: More than 56,000 square miles of natural forest are lost each year.

"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt