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Four decades of Green Party progress

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Forty years ago today, a small group of people gathered in Coventry for what would become the first official meeting of the Green Party. Joseph Iddison reflects on its impact during its four-decade existence, and looks to the future to see how far it can go.

The Green Party started life as People at a meeting in Coventry in 1973, led by Michael Benfield, Freda Sanders and Tony and Lesley Whittaker. On February 23 that year, 43 people, from probation officers to factory workers to students, went to the party’s first meeting at the Whittakers’ solicitors’ office, thus beginning 40 years of green politics and environmental activism.

My first article for Blue & Green Tomorrow was on the Green Party of England and Wales and its success in recent years; and how it has passed this success onto other green parties around the world. It seems appropriate, then, that I should write about the party’s inception, history and its future.

People changed its name to the Ecology Party in 1975; with a further name change 10 years later to the Green Party. At the 1989 European parliament elections, the Greens received 15% of UK votes – its largest share in history. Some said this marked the party’s arrival as a major force in British politics; but in 1990, it split into three separate arms, covering England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Support for the Greens at elections has never hit the dizzy heights of 1989 in the years since. In 2009, the party earned 8.6% of votes at the European parliament election from UK votes: an increase of 2.4%. The following year, party leader Caroline Lucas became the first Green candidate to gain a seat in the House of Commons after being elected MP for Brighton Pavilion by a margin of 1,252 votes.

The future

In May of last year, Lucas revealed that she would not be running for re-election as leader (though would continue to contest her parliamentary seat). The following September, Natalie Bennett was elected leader with Will Duckworth as deputy leader.

As of 2013, the new leader disclosed the party’s ‘three yeses’ to Europe – “yes to a referendum, yes to major EU reform and yes to staying in a reformed Europe”.

Bennett, former editor of Guardian Weekly, stated: “‘Yes to the EU’ does not mean we are content with the union continuing to operate as it has in the past. There is a huge democratic deficit in its functioning, a serious bias towards the interests of neoliberalism and ‘the market’, and central institutions have been overbuilt.

But to achieve those reforms we need to work with fellow EU members, not try to dictate high-handedly to them, as David Cameron has done.”

This month, the Green Party set a precedent in the UK – for the first time, a fully Green city plan, based on Green values, has come into effect.

The plan, which outlines detailed descriptions of how the city’s homes, jobs and open spaces will develop for the next generation, and is based on ‘One Planet Living’ principles, was passed last week by Brighton and Hove City Council. It was proposed by the Green administration and supported by the Labour Party; the Conservatives abstained.

The proposals, which set out how the city’s land will be used between now and 2030, are:

New measures to secure more affordable housing in developments.

– An emphasis on sustainable travel arrangements for residents in new developments.

– A guarantee that should the private area of land known as ‘Toad’s Hole Valley’ be developed by its owners, it is done to the highest sustainability standards, providing a balance of homes, work space, business facilities, schooling and publicly accessible open space. Around 1,500 jobs, plus training and apprenticeship opportunities, will be created during the lifetime of the Toad’s Hole Valley regeneration project.

– More stringent sustainability standards and enhanced protection for the South Downs National Park.

Deputy leader of the council, Phélim Mac Cafferty, expressed his satisfaction for the new setup: “After more than a year’s work, the Green administration has brought its vision for the future of Brighton & Hove to council and has seen it accepted as council policy.

It’s a blueprint for the city that will last for a generation, setting out how to sustain our unique environment while providing desperately needed new homes, schools, jobs and other opportunities, at the same time protecting public and open spaces from inappropriate development.

Based on the Green principles of One Planet Living, it’s a robust, practical and visionary plan: a long-term future for our city that could only come about with the Greens in administration.”

It is clear that the Green Party has grown from strength to strength since its inception in the early ‘70s. Recent electoral successes highlight just how important the general public thinks having an environmentally-focused political party is. Here’s to the next 40 years.

Further reading:

International Green Party success

It’s not easy being the Greens

Joseph Iddison is a master’s student at the University of Leicester. Having graduated from the same institution in July 2013 in English, Joseph will start the global environmental change course in September.

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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