Friday, 31 January 2014

The dilemma of owning a car and being eco-friendly

The RAC believes one third of motorists have left the car in the drive more often because of petrol costs. But while higher fuel prices have gone some way to reducing the number of unnecessary car journeys it is obvious that the UK remains a nation addicted to the car.
It is a fact of life, however, that driving a car is more or less unavoidable and those of us with a family, in practice, have no choice but to buy one. That can be a real headache, but there are ways of limiting the impact.

Do you have to own one?
Of course the best way to lessen the damage of driving is to do it as little as possible. A car is a costly possession if you don’t need it and with very reasonable temporary car insurance quotes allowing you to drive friend’s or family’s cars for 1-28 days, not to mention the plethora of car rental options, owning one might not be necessary.
Green cars
In late 2010, on the eve of a classic-car rally between London and Brighton, 60 ‘eco-friendly’ cars did the route in reverse, promoting the growth of cars that minimised carbon emissions.
In amongst the prototypes were established, mass-produced vehicles like the Toyota Auris and Prius, and the VW BlueMotion Golf.
There is no denying that green cars have made significant strides in recent years, with more motorists attracted by their green credentials, as well as the savings they can achieve through lower fuel consumption and lower road tax. Unquestionably, these cars have a lower environmental impact.
But the solution they currently present is far from perfect. Many of the cars still use petrol in some capacity, while the provenance of the electricity used to charge fully electric models is a serious issue – the damage done by fully charging a car on coal-fired electricity is essentially the same as filling a conventional car with unleaded.
Petrol or diesel
Another issue presented by the electric and hybrid interlopers is their expense and size. It is unlikely a larger family would consider a Toyota Prius the perfect fit.
That leaves many with no option but to opt for an orthodox model. Both diesel and petrol come from refining crude oil so their green credentials are limited, but diesel has a greater oil density, meaning more power is liberated when it is burned. That makes it more efficient and meaning 10-20% less CO2 is generated per mile.

Reducing emissions further
The most cost-efficient way of driving regularly and limiting your emissions is to look at how you drive. Maximum fuel efficiency is usually around 55mph with amount of fuel guzzled increasing by 15% for every 10mph above that. If you have to drive on motorways, sticking to the inside lane is the greenest place to be. Turn off the air conditioning, make sure you aren’t carrying needless weight and drive smoothly. Don’t leave the engine running and make sure your tyres are at their optimum pressure.


 


 

How to switch your energy supplier

Consumer bills are on the rise and households in the UK face rising energy costs. This is in part due to government policies that are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and government drives to improve the energy efficiency of the nations homes.
Government policies look likely to increase the cost of electricity by 27% by 2020 or £280 annually.
In addition the UKs gas reserves are dwindling, exposing the UK consumer to changes in world gas prices. The Department of Energy and Climate Change state that the rising cost of gas is largely in response to increases in the global demand and as the UK currently enjoys the cheapest unit cost in Western Europe prices are likely to continue to rise.
Add to this the toughening economic conditions which sees unemployment on the rise as well as inflationary pressure, and households are facing a bleak future as they try to keep themselves warm through Britain's harsh winters.

Fossil fuels are by their nature a finite resource and without the discovery of substantial new resources prices will continue to rise in indefinitely. Though the UK is taking steps towards renewable energy provision, its unlikely that this will replace fossil fuels within our lifetimes.

The government is seeking to mitigate the effects of such rises by aiding households in improving their energy efficiency. The Green Deal scheme has been developed, providing loans to households to aid them in installing energy-efficient products such as Smart meters and improved home insulation. With such improvements it is estimated that the average household will be able to save £94 annually.

The main six energy companies supply 99% of household energy in the UK and government holds hopes that there is room for increased competition in the marketplace. Up to 85% of UK homes have never considered switching their energy suppliers so there may be substantial savings to be made if people take the time to check out their full range of options.
 
With a lessening of government regulation many new players have joined the energy business bringing new life and increasing competitiveness with in the energy market has made it incredibly simple for households to compare energy prices and switch their energy supplier.
Theres a wealth of energy supply comparison sites on the Internet and by supplying your postcode a quick estimate can be made of the level of savings that could be achieved. With a few simple mouse clicks a deal with a new supplier can be arranged. Ensure to explore the range of grants and loan that are available from both energy suppliers and local and national government as with an improvement of the energy efficiency of your home you could double your savings. Deregulation of the energy market has also allowed new green suppliers to compete for your business, so its now possible to invest in the future of the planet by meeting your energy needs from a supplier that will have a minimal impact on the environment.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Worse than malaria or TB but never discussed

According to the Blacksmith Institute in partnership with Green Cross Switzerland, the health burden of pollution from industrial activities is as bad or worse than that of malaria or TB. Yet the problem goes largely ignored. Why? Because pollution is seen as the necessary price of economic growth. And economic growth is what keeps governments in office.
 
The new report claims that waste from mining, lead smelters, industrial dumps, mercury, radionuclides, pesticides and other toxins affects the health of an estimated 125 million people worldwide.
 
In one tragic example, doctors carrying out vaccinations in a Zamfaran village in Nigeria questioned the general absence of children attending their centre. They found the reason. Hundreds of children from the village had died from lead poisoning whilst thousands more were stricken with the effects of high levels of lead in their systems.
 
Demand for the latest technology and gadgets is soaring and such equipment often requires use of rare earth metals and this in turn requires more mining and resource extraction. Those working in or close to the mines are often exposed to toxic substances and suffer a range of health problems. Sadly, many of those affected are young children.
 
In addition to the problems associated with mining for rare metals, up to 10 million tonnes of obsolete but still dangerous pesticides have been dumped in tens of thousands of locations across the globe according to Green Cross. Such dumps pose a serious threat to ecosystems and human health.
 
This, of course, is the visible end of the spectrum. The true extent of industrial pollution is likely to be far greater than official estimates.
 
Governments of all ilks are keen to pursue economic growth because it raises living standards and increases prosperity. But what about the living standards of the 125 million poorest people whose health has been blighted and who remain largely ignored?

The Global Issue

Climate change is a global issue that is increasingly impacting on our lives. The weather is becoming more unpredictable, crop yields are becoming more sporadic and the price we pay for consumable goods is rising.
 
We can all do our bit to help. For example, we can switch to energy efficient light bulbs saving the UK around five million tonnes of CO2; around 60% of our rubbish in the dustbin can be recycled; and we could all use our legs and walk or cycle a little more.
 
However, action on a personal level needs to be matched by action on a national and global level. So what is being done by big businesses to reduce their carbon footprint?
 
Well take mobile phone network provider Vodafone, for example. It is a massive multi-national communications company so will consume a huge amount of energy every year. Furthermore, it produces products such as mobile phones, which are among the least recycled products here in the UK. However, it has pledged to cut its own emissions by 50%.
 
It plans to do this by using more renewable energy, reducing the need for air conditioning, reducing diesel use on remote base stations and improving network energy efficiency.
 
Add to this its mobile ‘take-back’ scheme for recycling or refurbishing your old handset and you have a good example of what large companies should be doing.
 
Its ‘take back’ scheme will collect your unwanted handset and related accessories then refurbish it for reuse in the UK or the developing world. Alternatively, they will recycle the component parts reducing the amount of energy needed and raw materials required to make new phones.
 
Vodafone has grouped together with other communications companies to develop technology to help other industries and consumers avoid 7.8 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions – 15% of the predicted total global emissions.
 
It is now a widely acknowledged fact that standby mode wastefully uses a large amount of energy, so to combat this, 18 leading mobile operators are working on implementing an energy-efficient charger. This will cut energy use in standby mode by up to 50% and prevent the need to purchase replacement chargers, eliminating up to 51,000 tonnes of waste duplicate chargers.
 
When small- and large-scale action is taken our global impact on the environment might finally be reduced.
 

What is the most eco-friendly type of clothing?

Cotton is one of the most commonly used materials for clothing. However, conventionally grown cotton often involves widespread use of pesticides, which are hazardous to workers and which can pollute waterways. In areas where cotton is grown conventionally there have been many reports of health problems, including rashes, allergies and respiratory problems. Sadly, children are often used to produce cheap clothing in sweatshops and are exposed to a toxic mixture of chemicals that harms their health. In this sense, conventionally grown cotton is probably one of the least eco-friendly materials around.
 
Organically grown cotton is different. It is grown without the use of chemicals and so causes little or no harm to the environment and workers. However, it is more labour intensive and so can involve long working hours and smaller yields, which can add to the end price.
 
Though not often seen on the High Street and not always considered a first choice, hemp is a very eco-friendly material. It can be grown effectively without pesticides and has several environmental benefits. For example, it improves the soil where it is grown, it is drought resistant and can thrive in a variety of different climates. Many people are unaware that hemp has actually been used to manufacture clothing for thousands of years. Only recently has it had a negative association with cannabis, which is a great shame because it is a highly sustainable and eco-friendly material. It is to be hoped that hemp production for clothing and textiles is not curtailed because of its perceived drug connotations.
 
Another amazing but unsung hero is bamboo. It is very fast growing, highly sustainable and does not require re-planting after harvest because it re-grows quickly by virtue of its vast root structure. Like hemp, bamboo aids soil quality and helps rebuild eroded soil.
 
There are now a growing number of clothing manufacturers that offer hemp and bamboo clothing products. Eco conscious shoppers value these materials secure in the knowledge that they haven’t come from pesticide-ridden fields, polluted waterways or child sweatshops.
 
In summary, the least eco-friendly material is conventionally grown cotton. The best choices are hemp and bamboo. Fair trade, organic clothing is more popular than ever and prices are reducing as demand increases.

Why you should be an environmentally conscious consumer

With the world’s population ever increasing, between 45 and 60 billion tonnes of raw materials are being used every year, according to environmental group WRAP. Everyday objects including cars, televisions, clothes and computers require rare earth elements for production and these resources are becoming harder to source.

Therefore, being an environmentally conscious consumer is not only incredibly important when it comes to purchasing products, but also disposing of them when they have reached the end of their lifespan.


Facts and figures
· Every year around 600 million tonnes of products and materials enters the UK economy; however, only 115 million tonnes gets recycled.
· Consumers are guilty of throwing away 7 million tonnes of food and drink annually, most of which can be safely consumed.
· Each year UK consumers throw away an estimated £140 million worth (around 350,000 tonnes) of used clothing.
· Around 25 per cent of waste electrical and electronic equipment, with an estimated value of £200 million, can be used again instead of thrown away.
 
So several items simply thrown away without a second thought are potentially damaging to the environment, when many of them can be recycled and in some cases, still retain some value.

It is therefore important to encourage a circular economy, where products and more importantly resources are retained rather than thrown away. A circular system will reduce waste, encourage resource productivity, improve the economy and help reduce the environmental impact production and consumption of goods has.



What can be recycled, re-used or sold on
· Glass. One of the most recyclable materials in your home. The closed loop process of producing recycled glass is 40 per cent more efficient than manufacturing from scratch.
· Paper. Recycling paper is beneficial for energy conservation, water efficiency and air quality. Every tonne of recycled paper is estimated to save 17 trees.
· Clothes. Instead of sending old items to landfill, you can sell unwanted clothes online and at the same time help the environment.
· Electronic waste. As mentioned previously, these products often contain rare or potentially hazardous materials. Dedicated recycling centres exist for this kind of waste and certain products like ink cartridges can easily be re-used.
· Plastic. Not only important as it is made from a resource than will eventually run out, but the recycling of plastic avoids having to incinerate it, which can release harmful chemicals into the environment.
· Aluminium and steel. Though a popular material for the packaging of food and drink, an aluminium can will take over 500 years to decompose.
 
Therefore the majority of household goods we buy, consume and dispose of have certain environmental consequences. The choices we make have to be careful and considered, but thankfully opportunities to be an environmentally conscious consumer do exist.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Planet Craft

Planet Craft offer home furnishings of character and quality. They offer an alternative to mass-produced, throw-away goods and trade fairly with their suppliers and customers. Planet Craft celebrate the diversity, character and quality that each artisan has given to everything they sell, and they offer an unbeatable and personal service. In 10 years of trading Planet Craft have served thousands of customers; their leather beanbags, footstools, pouffes, distressed wood frames and mirrors, hammocks and throws, cowhides and cushions have brought smiles to homes up and down the country. Planet Craft have a keen interest in animal welfare, the environment and working conditions and try to ensure your custom, through our small business, is a force for good. Visit www.planet-craft.com










Friday, 24 January 2014

Organic Wine Pure



Organicwinepure is a family-owned business created in 1983 and became Germany’s first importer and retailer of organic wines. Their selection consists of estate bottled organic, biodynamic, natural, free of sulfites and some kosher wines from basic to top level quality. The range is complemented by many organic wines in bag boxes with 3, 5 and 10 litres. Their origin is France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria and Germany. Most important of all their prices are low, shipping to the UK including the Channel Islands is swift (2 – 5 days depending on the destination) at moderate shipping rates. Visit www.organicwinepure.co.uk












Friday, 17 January 2014

Lullaby Babies

Lullaby-babies is a luxury online baby gifts boutique, specialising in organic baby hampers and personalised baby gifts for celebrating a newborn’s birth, naming day or Christening. We also have a unique selection of personalised lullabies for baby, a collection of children’s music on CD & MP3, and also a free parenting resource blog, on how to get baby to sleep suggestions and other parental advice. www.lullaby-babies.co.uk






Wikaniko - start your own home business!

How would you like to buy eco friendly products from a one stop shop, earn money and help save the planet at the same time?
 
Now with Wikaniko you can do all 3 at the same time, Wikaniko means we can eco, I can, you can, we all can.
 
Become a Distributor or Customer or simply sign up for free eco newsletter / tips / games. www.eco-income.co.uk
 

Buy eco friendly products! In the Wikaniko shop you will discover one of the most comprehensive ranges that you could ever come across under one roof. Over 800 products - totally degradable bags, fantastic natural cosmetics, natural toiletries, soaps, creams, organic cotton wool etc, energy saving devices, sustainable greetings cards, interesting and creative water saving gadgets, organic gardening products, seeds, etc all at your fingertips!




Thursday, 9 January 2014

Save money on energy bills with this great invention!

The Dryline will pay for itself in reduced energy bills in 6 to 8 months. People are unaware that the washing cycle uses 1/3 of domestic energy. An umbrella without a cover is useless, so why treat your laundry that way? The Dryline will not dry your laundry as quickly as a tumble dryer, BUT there will be no pollution, cost, energy or wear and tear on your clothes! It's pleasant to hang it naturally in the open air -  gives a fresher feel and smell. Visit www.rotaire.com



January sales for eco shoppers

Winter is well and truly upon us, and for some this time of year coupled with a reluctant return to work can create a post-Christmas gloominess. On the other hand, the new year can be a time of revival and optimism for the future. Sales of fair trade products continue to rise, renewable energy is playing a more prominent role in our economy and consumer demand for companies to adopt more ethical policies remains high on the agenda. There is clearly more work to be done but there are positive signs and opportunities for the green economy as the UK market picks up. January is a great time to pick up bargains, save money and help the planet!

Read the Green Providers Directory January 2014 newsletter


Friday, 3 January 2014

What is Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR)?

Due to Government legislation and building requirements, new homes are required to be built with very low leakage rates to make them more energy efficient. However, an air tight property can result in poor indoor air quality because condensation and pollutants from cooking, cleaning and bathing will remain trapped inside the building. This is where Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) systems comes in. MVHR systems provide the entire home with all-year-round ventilation; they remove condensation and pollutants from inside the property, therefore, improving the indoor air quality, whilst recovering the heat that would otherwise be lost outside. These systems are great at reducing dust and allergen levels within the home.


How does MVHR work?

MVHR is fast becoming the most common method of ventilation for the whole house for new build properties because it is a proven low-energy, highly efficient ventilation method. The MVHR system works by combining the air supply with the air extract in one unit. Stale air with high moisture content is extracted from ‘wet’ areas such as kitchens and bathrooms and passed through the MVHR system to produce filtered air, which is then delivered into the living areas of the property. As the old extracted air passes through the system the heat from the stale air is recovered via a heat exchanger which is then used to temper the fresh, filtered air.

 

Benefits of MVHR 

-          MVHR systems can be designed to suit every size and type of property from small apartments to homes with up to seven wet rooms which enable you to save money and space.

-          The systems have very low noise levels which is an essential feature because the MVHR systems are continuously running to provide ventilation for your home.

-          MVHR systems can save you money in the long term because they require very low running costs therefore giving you significant energy savings.

-          They are lightweight, compact and very easy to install.

-          MVHR systems dramatically reduce the allergen and dust levels within your low leakage, energy efficient home providing your property with fresh, filtered air.

-          The heat recovery from the air enables a steady heat delivery and reduces the amount of heat lost.

-          The heat delivered through this ventilation system removes the need for radiators as the filtered air is tempered from the heat recovered from the original stale air.

-          Installing an MVHR system will help you to achieve a high score in SAP Q, and to comply with Building Regulations Part F & L.

 
MVHR considerations
 

-          Can’t use in properties that use open fires, the room must have a sealed stove.

-          The initial cost of the installation compare to some alternatives is relatively expensive, however, it is cost neutral after 4 years.

-          The efficiency of the system relies heavily on the air tightness of the building. This is why new low-leakage, high energy efficiency builds are the best properties for MVHR system installation.

-          Filter replacements are required every 9 -12 months.

 
Article written by Optiheat Renewables – Devon based experts in the design, installation and maintenance of MVHR and other renewable heating systems to homes in Devon and Cornwall