Connect with us


Green Idylls under Grey Skies



Lena Semaan wonders which winter holidays in the UK could tempt you away from those long-haul beaches and exotic destinations.

You hung on resolutely during the credit crunch, refusing to let it affect your holiday plans. But now the Government’s decided to take a machete to public spending, it somehow doesn’t feel right to be travelling. Well, not overseas anyway. Moreover, your better half has decided that this will be the year your household reduces its carbon footprint.

“Does that still include Europe?” you ask hopefully. It appears that it does. Haunted by childhood memories of miserable motorway interludes en route to inhospitable B & Bs that seemed more like military camps, you despair. Yet, a sizeable chunk of the population has discovered that in the past 10 years the UK’s tourist industry has raised its game so much that holidaying here isn’t just an alternative, it’s often a first choice.

Granted, winter in the UK has little to do with hot beaches, but a beach isn’t everything. Instead of fighting it, why not go with the seasons? This is a great time to book yourself into a grand hotel in one of the UK’s iconic cities like York, Bath or Liverpool, grab a guidebook and discover just what makes foreign tourists come here in droves. We’re lucky enough to live in a place where castles exist in real life, not just history books. Many of Britain’s former aristocratic houses offer hotel-style accommodation. You could even book out a whole one and gather your extended family together for an unusual Christmas house party. The Stay UK castles are a good place to start.

Proving that we are indeed a nation of inventors, clever hoteliers haven’t just been building places to stay; they’ve been creating places that offer memorable experiences where green credentials add to the experience, be that luxurious, wild or basic.

For instance, in certain corners of Britain old farm buildings combine with modern clean technology to create an experience that is both eco-friendly and relaxing. One such is Buckshead Eco-Cottage on the Welsh–English border, which sits within a working organic farm. It’s completely off-grid: a wind turbine supplies electricity, and water from the local spring is heated by solar panels, backed up by a wood-burning stove. You don’t need to drive there either, as they’ll collect you from the local railway station. The organic vegetables in the kitchen garden are yours to pick (thoughtfully) and you’ll have wonderful views over the Clun Valley. It sleeps four and costs from £300 a week.

Those clever Finns know a fair bit about sustainable living and, with their long dark nights, they’re also pretty nifty at maximising heat and light. On the coast at Ravenscar near Whitby, eight lodges that were constructed and flat-packed in Finland bring modern eco-thinking to Yorkshire. The lodges have views over Robin Hood Bay, feature sun-trapping roof terraces and use a clever heat exchange system to save energy and clean the air. Each lodge sleeps between two and four people, and has a kitchen area, free Wi-Fi and a DVD player. Lodges cost from around £615 a week.

Under the banner of Feather Down, several small-scale farms provide a tented camping experience that leans decidedly towards comfort rather than austerity. Each spacious tent has a canopy bedroom as well as other sleeping areas, with proper mattresses and luxurious bed linen. Heating and cooking are done by means of a wood-burning stove in the middle of the living room, encouraging family gatherings and perhaps even the kind of conversations you remember having when life’s pace was slower.

All Feather Down farmers are committed to helping the countryside towards a sustainable future, with each farm close to a nature reserve or other rural conservation area. You won’t need to bring anything from home because it’s all been well and truly thought out. The farm shop sources goods locally, if not from the farm itself. Kids can visit the henhouse to collect eggs for breakfast; there’s a wood-fired oven for baking bread; and bicycles are available to rent. And at night you can sit outside your tent with a glass of wine and watch the stars.

Three women with a positive and clear collective vision set up the Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall, aiming for sustainable style and a warm welcome. As they explain on their website, “Our hotel would remind us why we cherish our husbands and friends and love their company. It will be somewhere to laugh and enjoy simple pleasures.” Rising to the challenge of creating affordable luxury, the owners offer an eco-haven for adults wanting to treat both themselves and the planet well. The hotel makes optimum use of natural heat and light, employs a combination of energy sources, and reduces, reuses and recycles wherever possible. Its 37 stunning rooms allow each guest to benefit from sea views and a balcony. Prices start at £155 a night for lone travellers and £190 a night for couples.

The pleasures may be simple; however, the breathtaking views and location make this an escape to rival anything you would hop on a plane for. The interior is filled with bright colours, beautiful art and the kind of big-scale, large-cushioned furniture that invites serial lounging. The Ayurvedic spa offers further opportunity to restore inner calm and outward appearances. Imagine taking a seaweed bath in a warm tub overlooking the sea – bliss!

We hope these ideas might encourage you to consider an ecofriendly break here in the UK. After all, it can only help your relaxation to know that you are saving the planet too! Do let us know what you think if you visit any of the places we’ve suggested, and tell us if you’ve found other similar destinations that our readers might like.


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



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.

Continue Reading


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




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.

Continue Reading