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Cycling: sustainability on two wheels

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Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race”, the author HG Wells once said. For a man with some pretty bleak predictions for future societies, as anyone who has read The War of the Worlds or The Time Machine will testify, this is some immense pressure upon and great faith in this humble mode of transport.

Whilst the relationship between two wheels and the next few hundred years of mankind is not necessarily a direct equation, there is no doubt that cycling has a huge number of benefits.

Of course, most people are less concerned by the humans over the next few hundred thousand years than they are about those humans living with them at the moment, and here too cycling is a winner. According to numerous stats and surveys, happier, healthier and wealthier societies cycle, or cycling makes societies happier, healthier, and wealthier. A case of correlation rather than causation perhaps, but one that is compelling.

Carbon emissions seem to the measure du jour and according to a study by the European Cycling Federation, on this factor alone, cycling as mode of transport certainly wins, emitting 21g of carbon dioxide per kilometre as opposed to 271g for a car. Not an insignificant ratio, although one that has less benefit than could be the case given the small number of journeys taken by bike.

Only 2% of all journeys in the UK are currently on two wheels. I would bet that those journeys are some of the more enjoyable, with less road rage, cheaper, given the fuel prices and costs of running a bike, as well as faster if over short distances. Commuter cyclists in London are often seen whizzing past their car driving counterparts stuck in traffic, irate drivers getting frustrated as they nip in and out (sometimes in the wrong manner) of cars. Aside from environmental impact, cycling is often a happier pastime.

UNICEF’s index of child wellbeing positioned some of the more bicycle heavy nations towards the top, with the Netherlands one of the best. A bike does not guarantee a happy child and improve their life, but an active healthy upbringing surely helps.

The same is true of adults. Recent sunny weather means that I have seen hundreds of people cycling along; smiles on faces and stress levels no doubt reduced a notch or two. Adults are of course happy when saving or making money, and one study suggests that the fare savings, no need for fuel, and other benefits mean that one mile cycled generates 42 American cents to society.

The Dutch are notorious for their love of cycling. In vast contrast to the UK, 32% of all journeys are undertaken by bike in the Netherlands. More cycle paths and safer routes obviously help, and it would be impossible for the UK to reach these levels without significant time and investment into the infrastructure, although a study by CTC estimates that only £10 per person per year is needed to really improve things.

Where this £10 per person per year would come from is a messy debate in itself, but does show that revolutionary funding is not necessary. That £10 could easily be generated by a reduction in health costs as a result of a fitter nation, or reductions in congestion.

Areas with more cycle paths and sustainable transport infrastructure have higher house prices. In fact, the Cabinet Office Strategy Unit has calculated that the costs of transport harm in urban areas are between £38-49 billion a year. Reducing these by enabling people to cycle creates an economic benefit on both a personal and a society level is one that is more likely to be long-lasting and sustained, as everyone feels like a winner.

Health benefits are key, and don’t need explaining in great detail here. Exercise and a balanced diet enable you to live longer – the ultimate in sustainability. One of the great things about cycling as exercise is how it can be combined with a commute, be it to work or the local shops, boosting health at the same as productivity. Fewer fossil fuels in the atmosphere means healthier lungs, and more miles cycled means toned legs – again, benefits all around.

Discussions have taken place between the government and various lobby groups and organisations regarding the improvement of facilities and access. Whether anything comes of these talks is one thing, but thankfully Norman Baker, the transport under-secretary responsible for cycling, has recognised that cycling isgood for environment, good for the economy and good for people’s health”.

If we keep cycling about smiling, and the people at the top recognise the vast benefits of it, we may just be able make our transport system more sustainable in the long-term.

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

Further reading:

Cycling unsafe in UK, says poll

Get on your bike

Sustainability should be at the heart of transport

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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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.

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Energy

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

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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.

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