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Economy or environment: why choose?

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Of the many issues and news stories in the media and our minds, the economy and the environment are two that often warrant the most column inches. This commonality is however what many deem to be the only feature that the two share.

Admitting to a focus on the economy has you cut out as a bonus busting capitalist, whereas a fondness for the environment has you eternally pegged as an unwashed eco warrior. Is one really more important than the other and are they destined to be forever in conflict?

Back in 2009, in the annual Gallup poll that questions people as to whether they would prefer the economy or the environment to be given precedence by the government, the economy was voted as the most pressing concern for the first time in over 25 years. Not a surprise?

Whilst carbon footprint, organic produce and global warming remain buzzwords that we know should be tripping off of our tongues, and whilst most of us are genuinely concerned by the environment, when it comes down to the realities of day-to-day living, the environment is afforded less importance.

There are a limited number of things that fit into our framework and that we can process. Starting with ourselves, rippling out through our families, social circles, we think of the environment as the widest circle in which we operate – the other and the world in which everything else exists.

Whilst using money as an encouragement to make changes that will benefit the environment seems to work in the short-term, it is not a sustainable solution

The partially substantiated belief that says increased attention upon nature and our surroundings will lead to a decrease in jobs and affluence stops us from considering the two in the same breath. Instead, we see them as contradictory to one another, and so are willing to accept economic destruction in exchange for cheaper prices.

However, to see them in a dichotomous pull from each other is the result of a narrow view of what the environment actually is. In fact in the Oxford English Dictionary, the concept of the natural world as the environment is the second option – the first being the “surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.”

If you consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, our food, shelter and warmth – the very things that nature and the environment readily afford – should be at the nub of our consciousness. But of course, those things all cost money.

Will we only recognise the value of the environment when it is quantified in economic terms? Can we ever reconcile the apparent conflict that exists between the economy and the environment, in the framework within which we define it. Put simply, is it only money that is able to talk?

It would seem so. Monetary incentives to encourage people to consider the environmental impact of their decisions seem to have worked.

Councils that have used monetary incentives to encourage recycling have seen a large increase in the take up in their areas. The Recyclebank scheme in Windsor and Maidenhead, whereby private firms sponsor shopping incentives, was found to improve recycling rates ahead of the national average.

The road tax is now calculated in direct correlation to the emissions and efficiency of the vehicle, although it is hard to tell whether this has been effective, as cars such as the efficient Vauxhall Corsa have always been popular.

And of course, how many people have their weekly wash on a 40C heat rather than 50C, simply because they know it will reduce their bills and not because it uses less water?

People, businesses and governments struggle with the concept of cutting carbon emissions and the like, due to the belief that it will reduce jobs and outputs.

The relationship, or at least uncanny correlation, between emissions and GDP growth is very clear, and is undoubtedly one of the reasons that environmental targets often become sidelined if economic ones are not being reached.

The 2013 UK budget saw oil drilling, high-carbon infrastructure and fossil fuels put very much at the centre of things, suspending environmental regulation. But this is not always the case.

In the US, a scheme modestly titled Smart Growth America found that stimulus dollars spent on public transport yielded 70 more job hours than those spent on highways.

It is estimated that 131m work days are lost each year in the UK due to sickness, costing businesses around £3.1 billion. Fewer germs, less pollution, and healthier eating could reduce all of these – an improved environment in which employees operate can reduce the economic cost.

Prices of food and energy increase partly due to corporate greed, but also due to the simple economic principles of demand and scarcity. Flooding, global warming and environmental destruction have all made staples such as wheat and wood much more difficult to get hold of, and thus much more pricey.

Economic activity draws from the environment in which it stands, both using resources and emitting wastes

Whilst using money as an encouragement to make changes that will benefit the environment seems to work in the short-term, it is not a sustainable solution. Quantifying the value of the environment in those terms usually reserved for the economy means that one becomes subsumed in importance in the other.

What is around us and the world in which we live becomes secondary to the metal in our pockets.

The relationship between the two must not become one of hierarchy, but where the inter relationship of the two is acknowledge.

The productivity of an economic system depends on supply and quality of natural environment and the resources within which it operates. Economic activity draws from the environment in which it stands, both using resources and emitting wastes.

If these two forces are balanced, then prosperity (in all its definitions) won’t be threatened. The reality is that the economy and ecology are interlinked and must be addressed as two of the many parts that allow a society to not only function but flourish.

Both are fundamental to the continued prosperity of humans, which is ultimately the goal of us all.

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:

Saving the world or getting healthy returns is a false choice in finance

Climate change is ‘not a high priority for most politicians’

Are capitalism and conservation incompatible?

Britons want government to tackle climate change and grow economy

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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