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Does saving water make sense?

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Andy Redfern, co-founder of EthicalSuperstore.com, lays out some of the easy steps you can take to reduce your water consumption.

Another wet Bank Holiday weekend comes to an end – as someone cheekily suggested on Twitter, “A great Jubilee celebration – a nation united by what we love the most – discussing the wet weather”.

For the crowds lining the Thames on Sunday there seemed to be almost as much water falling from the sky as there was in the river – ironic then that we still have 16 hosepipe bans in place across the country. Do we really need to save water? When, as it seems inevitable now, the hose pipe bans do get lifted, is there any point in saving water in a country so prone to a good soaking?

My dad, a resident of Manchester and regular walker on the sodden paths of the dark peaks of Kinder Scout, Bleaklow and Black Hill, has always argued that saving water when you live in the north west is a waste of time. Water is seemingly everywhere – why are we trying to save it?

Well the answer is more complex than you might think. To one degree my dad is right – we often have more water than we know what to do with. However, the environmental impact of water goes way beyond its use as a raw material.

Consider the cost of actually pumping water around. While some places in the UK have gravity-fed systems – large parts of the South East, South West, Midlands and East Anglia use pumps to move water around. More water used, more power required to drive the pumps that move the water.

Consider the cost of handling and treating the sewage. According to the Environment Agency, 10 billion litres of sewage are produced in the UK every day. The water treatment plants use energy and require the delivery of chemicals, sand and gravel to make the purification process work. The resulting sludge often gets taken away by the lorry load for landfill, land reclamation or farm use. (Of course it could be used as the input to a bio-gas system – but not much sign of that happening in the UK yet!)

Consider meeting our UK obligations under the EU Habitats Directive where the UK committed to reducing the water usage around the Natura 2000 protected sites by an equivalent amount of water as used by 1.5million people. There are 414 sites in the UK where flora and fauna will be endangered if we do not reduce the ground water abstraction.

So it may have been chucking it down for all of June so far but there is still a whole host of good green reasons to save water. And there are plenty of things that you can do in the home and garden too:

  • What about a water butt? Collect rain off your roof on rainy days and reuse it in your garden on dry days. Has the double advantage of saving good water from entering the sewerage system as well as not using pure tap water on your garden. Everyone with a garden should have one. The is a great range of water butts stocked by Even Greener – there should be one to suit every size of garden.
  • How about a shower timer to train your kids not to spend too long in the Shower? Of course it has the double saving of cutting down how much energy you use to produce hot water too.
  • Or how about using less water when you flush the loo? An eco cistern has a lower overall volume of water it uses – usually around 5 litres rather than the 10-12 litres that old style cisterns use. Of course, if you just want to make old cistern use less water then try the Hippo Water Saver which reduces the flush volume by up to 3 litres a flush.

So even if you live in the wettest place in Great Britain (in case you wondered, it’s Dalness in Glen Etive, which endures 3.3 metres of rain a year) you will still be reducing your environmental impact if you reduce your water consumption.  Go on, splash out today.

Andy Redfern is a co-founder of EthicalSuperstore.com and a former director of Traidcraft and Cafedirect. He lives in Gateshead with his wife, five children, two cats and water butt. You can follow his random musings on Twitter: @andyredfern.

Further reading:

The Green Doctors: making the world more sustainable

Investment in water is a “first necessity”

Future water demand will outstrip supply

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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