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.