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Economy

Green Business Practices To Reduce Your Footprint

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As public opinion shifts towards supporting sustainable development and the need to be greener to reduce the potential impacts of climate change, more customers are looking to choose businesses that have a positive environmental impact as their preference when buying products. It is therefore of growing importance for businesses to recognise this and use practices that have a lower environmental footprint to secure future business. There are ways to reduce the amount of carbon used and energy wasted that can be implemented at a cost low enough to make it worthwhile.

One of the biggest culprits when considering wastage is paper. About 35% of the average waste stream comes from excessive paper usage, even though it is easy enough to reuse and recycle. Coming up with strategies to reduce paper use in the first place is the best place to start; sending emails rather than postal correspondence, having all bills to pay for your office or working space set up online, opting not to print receipts and so on. Instead of storing boxes and boxes of paper files to keep track of the business, move everything online and into cloud storage as well as backing everything up on external hard drives. This will take up a lot less space in the work area as well as reducing the levels of paper required. Also, consider replacing all paper stocks with that from either sustainable sources or use only recycled paper.

All important documents can be signed and verified online these days, as it is possible to digitally sign PDF files, so this means there is no need to print something out just to sign it and scan it back into a digital format. If the business wants to create an invoice and send it out, it can all be done online. Invoicehome.com offers a service that allows invoices and payment related affairs to be sent digitally and have them paid without having to print anything.

In this digital age, customers are becoming used to dealing with documents online, and often filling out a form online can be far quicker than completing it over the phone or having to post something off. Online resources also mean that customers are able to respond quicker, meaning that a business operates in a more streamlined fashion. The servers that a company’s internet resources are hosted on can also be upgraded to a server company that aims to be sustainable, mitigating the running costs and unfavourable impact by planting trees and buying carbon offsets.

Looking at other aspects of curbing energy waste, one of the most obvious but generally unheeded tips is of course to turn everything off at night. According to the Energy Saving Trust, between 9 -16% of home energy consumption comes from leaving electronics on standby, and having things like phone chargers plugged in even if they are not charging anything. Consider upgrading high-energy usage items such as high-wattage light bulbs with more energy efficient replacements, as well as higher-rated energy saving appliances such as kettles.

How the rest of the business waste is recycled and taken care of is also a key aspect of lowering environmental footprints. Almost all everyday materials can now be recycled in all locations across the UK, apart from a few types of plastics which are currently too energy-intensive to make it worthwhile recycling them. All food waste can be composted and there are many sustainably focused recycling companies that offer bespoke services to cater for business waste recycling. For electronics, there are many schemes in place to safely recycle otherwise difficult components such as mobile phones and old computers.

If the business is successful enough to be able to remodel the office or workspace, there are lots of sustainable designs and models that can hugely improve the energy usage of the building. Old windows and badly insulated floors and ceilings can contribute a lot of excessive energy wastage. By investing in eco-friendly building design, it is possible to ensure the business has a low environmental footprint by occupying an efficient building. If the business is located in the right area, it is also possible to have it run on clean, renewable energy rather than over-consuming fossil fuels and not even see a noticeable difference in cost.

If the business is large and it seems daunting and insurmountable to figure out exactly what energy is being used and where, consider having an energy audit. This will highlight every input and output and allow the situation to be easily assessed to see what instant steps can be taken to immediately lower the environmental impacts of the business.

Setting goals for sustainable development and targets for a lower environmental footprint is incredibly important to be able to measure just how effective any changes are, and make alterations to the plans as necessary. By plotting all of the changes and keeping track of all improvements it is easier to see what is making the biggest difference and what seems to be having less of an effect.

Promoting these goals around the office or work environment will encourage everyone involved in these schemes to keep track of what is going on and make everyone enthusiastic about trying to implement positive changes to the business. Educating employees about these new practices is key to making sure that the whole workforce is committed to reducing the environmental footprint across all sectors of the business.

So, it is definitely becoming easier for businesses to make a massive difference in their environmental output and to affect positive changes across whole industries. As consumers become more involved and educated about trying to reduce environmental impact with their own purchases, businesses will see the benefits of a positive energy policy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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