Connect with us


Avoid Plane Strain



Forget airport and flight hassles, go continental on a train out of St Pancras suggests Simon Leadbetter.

You just have to love plane travel. There’s the adrenaline-fuelled thrill as the engines roar on take-off and your stomach drops through your boots, and the spectacular mile-high views of our blue green planet. But best is the discomfort of arriving two to three hours before your flight, getting up two hours before any civilised person rises, pointless belt and shoe removing and trudging in long lines through machines that irradiate everything you own, packing no more than 100ml of any liquid in clear plastic bags and ensuring you have neither tweezers nor nail clippers in any cavity. Then there’s the brightly lit shopping mall atmosphere and service station cross-section of society as you wait for your plane, impending thrombosis and, regardless of the class you travel, the mind-numbing, bum-numbing, soul-crushing boredom of the long-haul flight. Let’s face it, plane travel, as a rule, is rubbish.

British Rail commissioned Tony Kaye, then of Saatchi & Saatchi, to create an evocative advertisement called “Relax” featuring a chess-playing passenger, redneck blues and a sepia monochrome. The only reactions it appeared to provoke were bemusement and ridicule. British Rail was certainly not getting there in 1988, with out-of-date rolling stock, a fictional timetable and plastic-tasting food at temperatures that would have put Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 to shame. Train travel, it seems, is also rubbish.

But what’s this at George Gilbert Scott’s Victorian Gothic temple to the gods of rail travel, St Pancras? I ascend escalators from the undercroft into a true crystal palace under a clear blue sky – William Henry Barlow’s triumph in creating the largest single-span structure of its time. Historically St Pancras was an awful station, dingy and depressing, serving the East Midland cities of Leicester, Nottingham and Derby. What a change the three short years from 2004 to 2007 and a small investment of £800m can make (only £480m over budget)?

For those interested in this sort of thing, Saint Pancras was an early Roman convert to Christianity beheaded for his faith at the age of 14 in AD 304. He lent his name to one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in England, St Pancras Old Church on Pancras Road in Camden, which in turn lent its name to the surrounding area and international railway station. If you want to venerate Saint Pancras you do it on 12 May and you can invoke him against cramp and headaches. Worth considering when you’re stuck on a cramped Ryanair plane at 36,000 feet in a metal tube and outside temperatures of -36°.

St Pancras, the station not the man, was completed in 1868 and the now-famous hotel, used as a backdrop to Ian McKellen’s Richard III and as King’s Cross in the first Harry Potter, was opened in 1873 but both suffered much reduced usage from the grouping of private companies before WWII, significant and unrepaired bombing during it, nationalisation reducing demand further and subsequent privatisation. Largely redundant by the 1960s Sir John Betjeman led a successful campaign to prevent its demolition, which would have been a national disgrace. Just look at Euston. It was as the Channel Tunnel developed that the idea of using St Pancras as the London terminus was first mooted by Michael Heseltine, before being rejected by John MacGregor in favour of Waterloo. It re-emerged only in the late 1990s in the final days of Major’s Government. You can say thank you to Sir John on the upper concourse near the escalators.

It was in this cavernous setting that my family and I sipped champagne at the eponymous bar before ambling to the Eurostar check-in, were whisked through a straightforward and rapid security process and then relaxed, sipping coffee and nibbling croissants as we waited for our train – all in the space of 30 minutes. After we boarded the comfort of Business Premier we were whisked passed the Olympic Village in Stratford, gradually accelerating to speeds of 140mph through a sun-dappled Kent countryside. A perfectly acceptable La Baume Chardonnay accompanied a superb lamb tagine for me while Mrs L. enjoyed a trout soufflé with crayfish sauce and tail.

As the English countryside retreated and the French countryside arrived we relaxed, racing towards and beyond Lille, Paris, Le Creusot, Valence and arriving in Avignon some six hours later. Six hours might sound a long time but we did the maths – the difference wasn’t much more than flying and we had none of the hassle or discomfort. Rather than being an unloved bookend to the holiday, our train journey became a hugely enjoyed part of it, with freedom to walk around, excellent food and great views.

A train journey creates just over a quarter of the carbon emissions of an equivalent plane journey. Train travel isn’t just getting there. It seems to have arrived.


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

Continue Reading


5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

Continue Reading