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Earth Saver: part one

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What better way to start a Sunday than with the first instalment of a brand new fictional series on Blue & Green Tomorrow by an exciting, up-and-coming author, Katherine Sankey. Earth Saver follows the story of 11-year-old Clare, who’s inspired by a school project to go green, but is having a tough time convincing her family to share her views…

CRASH!

Clare!

Oops. Sounds like Mum’s tripped over my school bag. Again. I quickly hop off the chair that I’ve put on top of the new table, at great risk to my pocket money, and begin to drag it off when Mum appears in the kitchen doorway. She is holding a disarranged bundle of papers, and looks flustered. I freeze.

What are you doing with that chair?

I almost use the modern art excuse, as according to our art teacher even messy beds are art, but I tell the truth automatically instead.

Checking the light bulb”, I say slowly. Mum’s eyes widen at exactly the same time as her eyebrows go up.

What?!” She cries, dumping the papers on the table. “You could’ve hurt yourself! You could’ve fallen off and broken your leg!” She picks up the chair and plonks it on the floor, scowling. “And why do you want to check the light bulb anyway?

It’s a school thing”, I reply. “We’ve started doing climate change and sustaina-bal-ity.”

Sustainability”, Mum interjects.

Yeah, that, at school. Our homework is to see how eco-friendly our home is against this checklist and then write an essay about our findings. One of the checks is counting all the low energy bulbs in the house.”

Alright, but ask next time before you start risking your neck”, Mum says, and then frowns at the table surface, rubbing it with her finger, “And the furniture.”

Okay…” I sigh.

Good. So, don’t do it again, please”, Mum says. “As for your homework, I can tell you if there’s a low energy bulb in a light or not.”

Is there one in that one?” I ask, pointing to kitchen light. I hope there is, so far the only one I’ve found was in the coat cupboard.

No, afraid not”, Mum says simply, starting up the coffee machine.

Really?! But that means we only have one low energy light bulb in the whole house!

Do we?” Mum replies distractedly, “I suppose we do. Being eco-friendly never really occurred to me and your father when we chose the light fittings.”

I look at what I’ve put down on the check list, with the exception of the lone bulb, all I can tick off is that we recycle. Oh, and that we have a bowl made from a recycled record, and even then I found someone had dumped six dead batteries in there. I sigh.

Listen I have to finish some paperwork. Dinner at seven as usual”, Mum says, taking her coffee and papers.

Okay”, I reply, as she disappears off to her office.

I decide to continue with the checklist. The next thing is how many appliances are left on, and how many are left on stand-by normally. I’d never noticed before, but we seem to keep every light in the house on, and we seem to have loads of lamps, as if Mum’s been subconsciously collecting them.

The checklist also requires that I check our appliances for the EU Energy label. The teacher explained that these labels show a grading from A to G; A being the greenest and best rating, G being the lowest. Most of our appliances only have E, if they have a label at all. I go through the kitchen cupboards and find all those things we never use, the waffle machine, the toastie maker, a candy-floss machine? I drop the electronic juice maker on the floor searching for the label. When I pick it up again it rattles. I decide not to mention this to Mum and Dad. After all, they’ll never know, Mum gave up that smoothie diet months ago.

Finally I review the checklist. It’s not good. Our home has a very low score, putting it in the very, very bad section. The only way we’d be worse is if we started creating our own nuclear waste. Something I wouldn’t put that past my brother Ben, frankly. He’s studying chemistry, and he claims he wants to be an evil scientist.

There’s no time for me to start my essay though, before Mum calls for dinner, but there is enough time for me to decide that I have to do something.

At dinner, I make my grand move.

Everyone, I’d like to call a family meeting to discuss an extremely serious crisis”, I announce sternly. Mum and Dad exchange slightly puzzled and worried looks, Ben and Daisy exchange disbelieving ones.

The polar ice caps are melting!

I am immediately interrupted by the snorting and giggling of Ben and Daisy.

Uh?” I exclaim. I can’t believe they’re laughing.

Stop it you two!” Dad scolds.

This is serious!” I cry, “We’re experiencing global warming, and oil shortages.”

So?” Daisy shrugs. “You can’t stop it.

Yes we can. I saw a movie at school about it called the Inconvenient Truth”, I say quickly.

That film contains inaccuracies” Ben says.

The teacher mentioned that too. But global warming is still happening”, I turn to Daisy, “I checked the internet, and other websites agreed. Including NASA.”

Phooey”, says Ben, flicking his fringe out of his eyes.

I didn’t say it wasn’t happening”, Daisy says exasperated, “I said it was too late to stop it. Doesn’t matter how many solar panels you stick on a house.”

Yes it does!” I cry.

No it doesn’t”, Ben says, through a mouthful of pasta.

Alright” Mum calls, “Enough!

We all shut up.

Thank you”, Dad says, “For that lively debate, but lets finish our dinner shall we? Peacefully?

But I haven’t finished”, I squeak, “Everyone interrupted me.

Mum sighs,“Go on then, what were you going to say?

And skip the speech”, Daisy says, rudely. I glare at her.

Well, I was going to say that I don’t think we’re very eco-friendly.”

Of course we’re eco-friendly”, Dad says, smiling, “We recycle.”

Dad, everyone recycles”, I groan.

We have the allotment”, Mum says, “And grow organic.”

I decide not to point out that the allotment is just a field of nettles at the moment, and that the only thing we’ve had from there were a few small potatoes, two mouldy carrots and a bunch of salad tomatoes; and Dad used greenfly killer on them, I saw him. He bought my silence with an ice cream afterwards.

But we could do more! We’re wasting so much energy. All the light bulbs need changing to low-energy ones for starters, then there’s water… I mean, do Daisy and Ben both have to have a shower every night?

Ben does”, Mum says grimly. Ben rolls his eyes. I interrupt before we get into another smelly feet argument.

We use too many appliances, don’t have anything solar powered, we own three cars… in fact…” Suddenly I realise what we should to do. “… Why don’t we go completely carbon natural?!

A snigger from Ben. Mum sighs.

I think you mean carbon neutral”, Dad explains, “And, it’s a nice idea, love, but we can’t go completely carbon neutral just for a school project. Remember how much hassle we had just redecorating the dining room?

Dad, this isn’t just for school. I’m being serious”, I tell him.

That’s what you said when you decided you were vegetarian”, Mum points out, “Remember how much tofu we had to throw away?

But Mum, Dad…” I cry, but they’ve started asking Ben and Daisy about college. Great! I’ve been argued with and ignored. So this is how Al Gore felt.  I’m not giving up though. No way…

Next Sunday:

Clare attempts to be eco-friendly by herself, but finds that everything she tries ends up getting her into trouble.

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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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