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ArBolivia: a co-operative investment in the Amazon rainforest

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John Fleetwood of the Cochabamba Project writes about how a sustainable investment opportunity in Bolivia is having tangible positive impacts on the local people.

We just came to clear the forest with our machetes and axes. Without knowing how, we set about planting rice, maize and other things to give us something to eat. We succeeded in that but we were working against nature because we were destroying our community’s forests” – Don Segundino, former miner.

The Amazon rainforest is one of the most valuable habitats on our planet, but the Bolivian fringes of the Amazon have suffered some of the most aggressive rates of deforestation in the world. Driven by desperation, whole communities have been migrating from the high Andean plateau and settling within the perimeter of the rainforest.

Without training and capital to invest in a viable alternative, smallholders are forced to exploit the valuable timber. These ‘slash and burn’ methods maintain their meagre existence, but perpetuate the cycle of deforestation, which in turn reduces their ability to earn a living from the land.

Reforestation is not a new concept, but typical schemes plant monocultures of non-indigenous species like teak or eucalyptus. This results in ‘green deserts’ that are diametrically opposed to the amazing natural biodiversity of the rainforest. They also take all control and profit away from local people, token schools and medical facilities notwithstanding.

Nor is aid the answer. Farmers are scathing of the aid programmes they’d experienced: “Charities come for three years, then they leave and nothing is left. We don’t want handouts, we want a fair business partnership that lasts”, says farmer Isidro Colque Condo.

In 2002, a trial project was established by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a division of the United Nations, with the aim of pioneering a radical new form of sustainable reforestation partnership. The success of the trial led to the commercialisation of the project which came to be known as ArBolivia in 2007.

Through ArBolivia, 870 farmer families have grown well over 1m native trees on previously deforested land, spread across an area the size of England. This year will see the first timber harvests, with around £100,000 expected from thinning.

However, there are many good projects worldwide. What makes this project so innovative is the equal division of timber profits between the investor and the farmer. This is combined with the pioneering use of varied native species and the ability to sell timber at a fair price.

Instead of just paying farmers for their labour and extracting profit from the region, the project shares timber profits equally with farmers. Over the 40-year lifetime of the project, each farmer stands to earn an average of $87,000 (£51,500) from the sale of their trees.

Integral to this is the ability to secure better prices for the timber. Farmer Ezequiel Salvatierra Hurtado explains, “If we try and sell wood ourselves in the local markets we get ripped off, but right now ArBolivia is helping us to get a fair price.”

ArBolivia also allocates a professional technical adviser to each farmer to help them maximise their returns from their entire farm in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Don Segundino explains his own plan: The short-term project is to start planting annual crops such as strawberries, beans and cassava which we can eat and then sell. Then we are thinking of planting fruit trees in the medium-term – lemons , tangerines and oranges. Then for the long-term there are woods such as mahogany, cuchi and others which are very important for all those timber products they need in the city.”

The project has been running commercially for six years, largely funded by a UK-based co-operative society, the Cochabamba Project.  The society has raised over £3m of investment.

The latest rate of interest declared on shares was 5% and despite the risks and the long-term nature of this type of investment, the society has managed to attract almost 500 members.

Retired farmers and members of the society, Jeff and Carey Glyn-Jones, explain what attracted them: “This was something that had been thought through from every angle… The last thing I wanted to do was put it into stock and shares, which had no humanity to them. This is much more real and in tune with our beliefs.”

John Fleetwood is a director of the Cochabamba Project. For more details on how to invest or visit the project, see www.cochabamba.coop or call David Vincent on 0114 236 8168. 

In accordance with the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, Blue & Green Communications Limited does not provide regulated investment services of any kind, and is not authorised to do so. Nothing in this article and all parts herein constitute or should be deemed to constitute advice, recommendation, or invitation or inducement to buy, sell, subscribe for or underwrite any investment of any kind. Any specific investment-related queries or concerns should be directed to a fully qualified financial adviser.

Further reading:

The nature of investing

Climate change and deforestation increasing forest fire risk in Amazon

APP launches forest restoration project in Indonesia

Financial value of carbon in world’s forests may be underestimated by £481bn

Global Forest Watch: Deforestation tool launched ‘to change how businesses manage forests’

John Fleetwood is the founder of Ethical Money and has 26 years’ experience in financial services, 13 of which was as an ethical specialist IFA. He founded the Ethical Investment Association, the industry body for ethical IFAs. John has provided institutional ethical investment research since 2002, and has developed ethical portfolio management services in conjunction with specialist asset managers. He has also helped to raise over £3.5m for the Cochabamba Project, a groundbreaking reforestation investment in Bolivia.

Environment

How Home Automation Can Help You Go Green

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home automation to go green

The holidays are an exciting, nostalgic time: the crispness in the air, the crunch of snow under your boot, the display of ornate holiday lighting up your home like a beacon to outer space, and the sound of Santa’s bell at your local Walmart.

Oh, yeah—and your enormous electric bill.

Extra lights and heating can make for some unexpected budgeting problems, and they also cause your home to emit higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants.

So, it’s not just your wallet that’s hurting—the planet is hurting as well.

You can take the usual steps to save energy and be more eco-conscious as you go about your normal winter routine (e.g., keeping cooler temperatures in the home, keeping lights off in naturally lit rooms, etc.), but these methods can often be exhausting and ultimately ineffective.

So what can you actually do to create a greener home?

Turn to tech.

Technology is making waves in conservation efforts. AI and home automation have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, not only because of their cost saving benefits but also because of their ability to improve a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Use the following guide to identify your home’s inefficiencies and find a solution to your energy woes.

Monitor Your Energy Usage

Many people don’t understand how their homes use energy, so they struggle with conservation. Start by looking at your monthly utility bills. They can show you how much energy your home typically uses and what systems cost you the most.

monitor energy usage

Licensed from Shutterstock – By Piotr Adamowicz

The usual culprits for high costs and energy waste tend to be the water heater and heating and cooling system. Other factors could also impact your home’s efficiency. Your home’s insulation, for example, could be a huge source of wasted heating and cooling—especially if the insulation hasn’t been inspected or replaced in years. You should also check your windows and doors for proper weatherproofing every year.

However, waiting for your monthly bill or checking out your home’s construction issues are time-consuming steps, and they don’t help you immediately understand and tackle the problem. Instead, opt for an easier solution. Some homeowners, for example, use a smart energy monitor such as Sense to track energy use in real time and identify energy hogs.

Use Smart Plugs

Computers, televisions, and lights still consume energy if they’re left on and unused. Computers offer easy cost savings with their built-in timers that allow the devices to use less energy—they typically turn off after a set number of minutes. Televisions sometimes provide the same benefit, although you may have to fiddle with the settings to activate this feature.

A better option—and one that thwarts both the television and the lights—is purchasing smart plugs. The average US home uses more than 900 kilowatts of electricity per month. That can really add up, especially when you realize that people are wasting more than $19 billion every year on household appliances that are always plugged in. Smart plugs like WeMo can help eliminate wasted electricity by letting you control plugged-in items from your smartphone.

Update Your Lighting

Incandescent lightbulbs can consume and waste a lot of energy—35% of CO2 emissions are generated from electric power plants. This can have serious consequences for increased global warming.

To reduce your impact on the environment, you can install more efficient lightbulbs to offset your energy usage. However, many homeowners choose smart lights, like the Philips Hue bulbs, to save money and make their homes more energy efficient.

Smart lights can be controlled from your smartphone, and many smart light options come with monthly energy reporting so you can continue to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take Control of the Thermostat

Homeowners often leave the thermostat on its default settings, but defaults often result in heating and cooling systems that run longer and harder than they need to.

In fact, almost half the average residential energy use comes from energy-demanding heating and cooling systems. As an alternative to fiddling with outdated systems, eco-conscious homeowners use smart thermostats to save at least 10% on heating and roughly 15% on cooling per year.

Change your home’s story by employing a smart thermostat such as the Nest, ecobee3, or Honeywell Lyric. Smart thermostats automatically adjust your in-home temperature by accounting for a variety of factors, including outdoor humidity and precipitation. A lot of smart thermostats will also adjust your home’s temperature depending on the time of day and whether you’re home.

Stop Wasting Water

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day. About one-third of that goes to maintaining their yards. Using a smart irrigation systems to improve your water usage can save your home up to 8,800 gallons of water per year.

Smart irrigation systems use AI to sync with local weather predictions, which can be really helpful if you have a garden or fruit trees that you use your irrigation system for  water. Smart features help keep your garden and landscaping healthy by making sure you never overwater your plants or deprive them of adequate moisture.

If you’re looking to make your home greener, AI-enabled products could make the transition much easier. Has a favorite tool you use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below.

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Working From Home And How It Reduces Emissions

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Many businesses are changing their operating model to allow their employees to work from home. Aside from the personal convenience and business benefits, working from home is also great for the environment. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, if employees with the desire to work from home and compatible jobs that allowed for this were allowed to do so only half the time, the reduction in emissions would be the equivalent of eliminating automobile emissions from the workforce of the entire state of New York. Considering the stakes here, it is vital that we understand how exactly working from home helps us go green and how this can be applied.

Reduction of automobile emissions

Statistics by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the transportation sector is responsible for about 14% of the total Global Emissions of greenhouse gases, which is a very significant percentage. If employees work from home, then the need to travel to and from their workplace every other day as well as other business trips are reduced considerably. While this may not eliminate the emissions from the transport sector altogether, it reduces the percentage. As indicated in the example above, a move to work from home by more businesses and industries cuts down automobile emissions to as much as those from an entire state.

Reduction of energy production and consumption

According to Eurostat, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning accounted for as high as 26% of the Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU in 2014. EPA stats are also close at 25% of the total emissions. This makes energy production the single largest source of emissions. Working from home eliminates the need for large office spaces, which in turn reduces the need for electricity and heating. Similarly, the need for electrical office equipment and supplies, such as printers and computers, is also greatly reduced, which reduces the emissions from energy production in offices. Additionally, most households are now adopting green methods of energy production and implementing better ways of energy usage. The use of smart energy-efficient appliances also goes a long way in reducing the energy production and consumption levels from households. This, in turn, cuts down emissions from energy production from both the home and office fronts.

Reduced need for paper

Paper is also a huge source of emissions, considering that it is a carbon-based product. EPA stats show that carbon (IV) oxide from fossil fuel and industrial processes accounts for 65% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Working from home is usually an internet-based operation, which means less paper and more cloud-based services. When everything is communicated electronically, the need for office paper is reduced considerably. Moreover, the cutting down of trees for the sake of paper production reduces. All these outcomes help reduce the emissions and individual carbon footprints.

Effective recycling

While businesses make an effort to recycle it is not as effective as homeowners. Consider everything from the water you drink to office supplies and equipment. While working from home, you have greater control over your environment. This means that you can easily implement proper recycling procedures. However, at the office, that control over your personal space and environment is taken away and the effectiveness of recycling techniques is reduced. Working from home is, therefore, a great way to go green and increase the adoption of proper recycling.

Takeaway

Even though the statistics are in favor of working from home to reduce emissions, note that this is dependent on the reduction of emissions from home. If the households are not green, then the emissions are not reduced in the least. For instance, if instead of installing a VPN in the router to keep the home office safe, an employee buys a standalone server and air gaps it, the energy consumption is not reduced but increased. Therefore, it is necessary that employees working from home go green if there is to be any hope of using this method of operation to cut down on the emissions.

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