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Exclusive interview: ArBolivia’s David Vincent and John Fleetwood

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Following the successful launch of the ArBolivia crowdfunder (over £38,000 in one day) we briefly caught up with the two inspirational founders of the high social and environmental impact project, David Vincent and John Fleetwood.

In a sentence, what is the ArBolivia project?

The ArBolivia Project is a partnership between investors in Europe and farmers in Bolivia, to tackle deforestation of the Amazon through sustainable agroforestry.

Tell us a little bit about your backgrounds?

David has a background as a financial adviser with 12 years experience in forestry investment. He began working with ArBolivia in 2008 and has developed a high level of experience of working in Bolivia, tropical forestry and land use management involving smallholders and the voluntary carbon market.  He has also been involved in forestry and agro-forestry projects in Brazil, Peru and the Far East.

John is also a former financial adviser and was a co-founder of the Cochabamba Project (the UK Society that funds ArBolivia) in 2009. Aside from his role within ArBolivia, he provides research on CSR issues to financial institutions engaged in promoting socially responsible investments and is the founder of 3dinvesting.com.

The Amazon rainforest encompasses Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Peru and Venezuela. Why Bolivia?

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America and the potential for making a difference to the lives of smallholder farmers is that much greater than in wealthier countries.  It also has a history of farmers working in co-operatives which is key the successful implementation of the project.

Also migration, traditionally most Bolivians lived on the Altiplano but it is now too arid to farm and the mines have all closed down – so there have been resettlement programmes giving communities land rights in the tropical lowlands.

What’s your proudest moment with the project to date?

Seeing the difference that the project makes to the lives of poverty stricken farmers, and sharing the experience with some of our investors.  Seeing the trees grow is also a highly emotional thing.  There’s a tremendous satisfaction from growing beautiful things that will enable very poor people to break out of the cycle of poverty.

You launched your crowdfunder this weekend. Where was it and what was the highlight of the launch event?

We launched at the Anglo Latin American Foundation Fair & Fiesta held at Kensington Town Hall, London.  The highlight was the the Premiere of our new documentary film called ArBolivia.

What will you be able to achieve if your crowdfunder is successful?

This will enable us to fund the project through to breakeven, when timber revenues will more than meet operational costs.  In turn, this will secure the future of more than 1,000 families for generations to come, as well as enabling us to prove a pioneering new model of plantation forestry that can be replicated elsewhere.

There’s the option to donate or invest – can you explain the main differences and who should be considering what option?

The investment option is only available for amounts of £250 or more.  Its really for people who want the potential for getting the capital back plus some return.

What should people do next?

Go to our crowdfunder page where you can read about the project and our share offer – and invest or donate – and help us spread the word on social media etc.

Any final comments for our readers?

We’ve come a long way over the past six years, but we need this funding to complete the job and make the project a success.  Please join us if you can.

Environment

Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations

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green housing techniques

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.

Big Innovations

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.

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Environment

How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions

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auto industry to clean air pollution

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.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

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.

Used Cars

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.

Public Perception

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.

Progress

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.

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