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20 questions with…Stuart Singleton-White

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Stuart Singleton-White answers 20 questions on life, sustainability and everything.

Stuart Singleton-White, senior manager of external communications for Europe and Australia at the Rainforest Alliance will take part to the Sustainable September’s retail debate, one of the many events organised for Blue & Green Tomorrow’s month-long sustainability event.

He will debate, along with Tim Aldred from the Fairtrade Foundation, against the motion “Free trade trumps fair trade in helping developing economies”. Tickets for the event are available here.

We want the world to be as blue and green tomorrow as it was yesterday. What’s your mission?

The Rainforest Alliance mission is to change land use practice, business practice and consumer behavior and we seek to do this by working with markets to enhance their value and the opportunity to contribute to a better future.  Personally it is to leave the world a better place than when I arrived in it.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

From a very young age I wanted to join the Royal Navy.  Guess what my first job on leaving school was?

How would your friends describe you?

Passionate and caring but also determined and someone who knows his own mind.

What was your ‘road to Damascus moment’ in terms of sustainability?

I didn’t really have one.  When I was child I spent all my spare time (actually some of my school time too) out in the fields and woods and down by the river near to my home.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have had this freedom, and from it grew a deep love of the natural world.  My time in the Royal Navy also afforded me great opportunities to travel and a deep sense of social and environmental justice grew inside me.  Putting these together the Bruntland Report of the late 80’s just made so much sense and so there I was.

Who or what inspires you?

People who succeed against the odds.  People of passion and determination to do what is right, even when those around them and peer pressure is against them.  But most of all people who display these traits with calmness and a real sense of peace.

What really grinds your gears?

Short-termism and selfishness in business, in politics, in life.  Despite what many say; individualism and “every man for himself” is not the natural human condition.

Describe your perfect day.

A day in the British countryside with my family and friends, followed by a good read and a time of good conversation and a beer or three in a great pub.  Oh and the kids don’t fight; not even once!

What do you see when you look out your window at home?

I work from home and currently out of my window I see the roof of the houses opposite.  Fortunately, we live surrounded by lots of fine Victoria architecture, a lovely university campus and some great urban trees.  So it quite an inspiring and rich urban landscape.

What do you like spending your money on?

I have two young children; what money?  When I do then on good food, good local beers, nice wine and the company of good friends.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

I travel a lot, but to be honest it’s home here in the UK.  This year we’re returning to Pembrokeshire for the third time, so I’d have to say there.

What’s your favourite book?

Too many to name plus the one I’m yet to write.

What’s your favourite film?

So far this year it has to be The Grand Budapest Hotel, I love Wes Anderson’s work.

You’re made prime minister. What’s the first thing you do?

Move into 10 Downing Street.

If you were stuck on a desert island, which famous person would you like to be stuck with and why?

Jesus – I’d really want to find out if he is all he’s cracked up to be.

What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given? And the worst?

If you believe in it keep trying.  Worst – You’ve not been good at school, you’ll never make it!

What would you like to be doing five years from now?

Doing what I am doing now but only better.

What’s your biggest regret?

That I didn’t work harder at school and didn’t have teachers that inspired me.  But thanks to the Royal Navy – where I excelled – I soon learnt the joy of learning and have developed a lifelong thirst for education.

What one thing would you encourage readers to do to make their life more sustainable?

Remember it’s not stuff, but people, places and the beauty of the natural world and all that share it with us that matters.  So think, act and make small changes; gradually.  From there big changes will come and you, your family and the world will benefit.

What’s the one idea that you think could change the world for the better?

The creation of a circular sharing economy.

What’s your favourite quote?

The current one by my desk, which I use to inspire me, is from Robert Browning, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp.  Or what’s a heaven for?”

Further reading:

20 questions with… Sam Bowman

Tickets on sale for Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Sustainable September events

Ethical consumerism delivering ‘profitable growth’, says market research

Sustainable September: Retail Debate to be held at Royal Geographical Society

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How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool

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eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018

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green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By Photographee.eu

Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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