Scotland is recycling more than ever before – and it’s having a positive impact on the environment, according to the latest results revealed today (Wednesday 16th March) of a unique approach to measuring the environmental impact of waste, developed by Zero Waste Scotland.
Scotland’s Carbon Metric is a pioneering way to measure the carbon impact of our waste, not just the amount that is recycled. The latest figures were revealed by Zero Waste Scotland Chief Executive Iain Gulland at the ‘Circular Economy Now’ event, hosted by international network ACR+.
The Carbon Metric takes into account the greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste, from the energy and raw materials that went into producing items, through to the impact of transporting materials in order for them to be recycled. It also shows the carbon impacts of managing our waste in different ways, allowing us to compare the benefits of waste management methods such as recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion and re-use.
The Carbon Metric will also be important in measuring progress towards the Scottish Government’s ambitious new target to reduce food waste by 33% by 2025.
Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Richard Lochhead, said: “The Carbon Metric is a unique and useful tool which shows the climate changing impacts of waste, and clearly demonstrates the benefits of reducing waste and increasing recycling – both key priorities of the Scottish Government. The latest results reveal that recycling in Scottish homes and businesses is delivering real benefits, with a big carbon saving achieved between 2011 and 2013. These are results to be proud of, and should spur us on to continue to redouble our recycling efforts.”
Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said: “We’re recycling more than ever before thanks to the efforts of people at home and in their businesses all over Scotland.
“What these new figures show is that by recycling more we really are making a difference to the environment, not just here in Scotland, but globally too, by reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. It shows that we are right to target recycling of things like metals and food waste as these have a very high carbon impact. The Carbon Metric, by moving for the first time towards a carbon-based measure for waste, has the potential to change the way we think about waste and how we manage it.”
Francoise Bonnet, ACR+ Secretary General, said: “ACR+ strongly supports its member, Zero Waste Scotland, and its work on the development of Carbon Metric which shows that an efficient and smart waste management contributes highly to a low carbon economy. Greenhouse gas emissions are a key indicator to measure the impact of waste management strategies, especially within the perspective of circular economy. Still, waste management is only the tip of the iceberg as a much bigger impact can be achieved through resource efficiency and adopting a life-cycle perspective.”
In 2013, the carbon impact of waste in Scotland was 10.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (10.8 Mt CO2e), down from 13.1 Mt CO2e in 2011, when measurements started. The figures show that by recycling more, we are benefiting the environment and have reduced the carbon impact of waste by almost 2.3 Mt or 17% since 2011.
Scotland’s Carbon Metric was first developed by Zero Waste Scotland in 2011. It uses pioneering lifecycle methodology to measure the environmental impacts of waste, which has since been replicated in other parts of the UK and Europe. It considers the full life-cycle of impacts associated with the things we waste, and uses consumption accounting, not just counting impacts that occur within Scottish territorial boundaries.
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.