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Bee-harming Pesticides should Buzz Off



Friends of the Earth have sent a detailed report to the Expert Committee on Pesticides in the hope that they will disregard an application for farmers to use harmful pesticides. The pesticides, called ‘neonicotinoids’, have been proven to be damaging to bees. A similar application was granted by Government last year.

The Government’s official pesticide advisor is being urged by Friends of the Earth to reject an application for farmers to use ‘banned’ bee-harming pesticides in UK fields.

Today the Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) will consider an application by the NFU for farmers to use restricted neonicotinoid seed treatments on oilseed rape crops later this year. A similar application was granted by the Government last year, following a recommendation by the ECP that it be accepted. Neonicotinoid treated oil seed rape was planted in four counties in the East of England.

Three neonicotinoid pesticides were restricted throughout the EU in 2013 after scientists warned they posed a “high acute risk” to honeybees. Last year the Government granted an application and neonicotinoid treated oil seed rape was planted in four counties in the East of England.

The NFU says that the pesticides are needed to prevent oil seed rape crops being harmed by Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle (CSFB).

Friends of the Earth has submitted a detailed report to the ECP highlighting the feasibility of farming methods which use non-chemical and agronomic methods. This would minimise the risk from pests to oilseed rape grown without neonicotinoids.

Sandra Bell, Bee Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Bees are crucial for pollinating our crops – we mustn’t allow pesticides that harm them.

“Since the restriction on neonicotinoid pesticides was introduced, the average oil seed rape yield has actually increased.

“With growing evidence about the health impact on our bees, and serious question marks about the effectiveness of neonicotinoids – Ministers must listen to the science and keep these pesticides out of our fields.”

The environmental campaign group says there is no case for granting another authorisation of neonicotinoids for oil seed rape for a number of reasons.

They show that the average UK yield of oilseed rape rose by nearly 7 per cent in the most recent harvest – the first without the use of neonicotinoids – contradicting NFU predictions of widespread crop losses.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are not a guarantee of protection from CSFB – their effectiveness is increasingly being questioned. The results of a survey of last year’s treated crops has not been released.

There is increasing evidence that neonicotinoids may harm the beneficial insects that help farmers to control pests like slugs – which in 2015 caused as much damage to oil seed rape as CSFB.

Claims that reductions in the total area of oil seed rape grown in the UK are mainly down to the non-availability of neonicotinoids are misleading – the market price for OSR is a more important factor for most farmers than pest pressure.

Damage from CSFB in 2015 was slightly lower than the previous growing season, and not at a level that constitutes an emergency. Although the focus has been on crop losses attributed to CSFB, losses due to other reasons – such as slug grazing – were at a similar level.

Encouraging beneficial pest-busting insects and farming methods such as ‘minimum cultivation’ and early sowing can minimise the risk from pests without the use of neonicotinoids.


Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations



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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How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions



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.


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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