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If we voted for policies at elections, and not parties, the results might surprise us all

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We recently spotted a link to a site called Vote for Policies that tested policy preference during the 2010 general election. With 92 weeks to go until the next general election, Simon Leadbetter digs deeper.

In the local elections, we urged readers to vote Green. This was not because we agreed with every policy of the Green party, but to maintain pressure on the major parties to pursue sustainable policies. This was due to the consistent evidence that mainstream parties were significantly out of touch with the public mood on sustainability issues.

In a recent letter to the Guardian, concerning the recent Labour/Unite Falkirk imbroglio, Laurie Marks of Harrow in Middlesex stated, “Opinion polls on just about every major issue, be it renationalising the railways, abolishing tuition fees, taxing the rich or nuclear disarmament (with the sole exception of immigration), show that public opinion is firmly to the left of every major party; it has been shifting that way for over a decade while Westminster has shifted ever further right.”

“The responses of 300,000 people on the Vote for Policies website […] show that the most popular policies are those of the most left wing party in the test: the Greens.”

That 300,000 figure tweaked our interest.

Vote for policies, not personalities

Vote for Policies is a social enterprise founded by Matt Chocqueel-Mangan. It is designed to make it easy to compare what the political parties are promising to do. Its stated aim is to help voters make informed, unbiased decision about who to vote for.

Speaking to Blue & Green Tomorrow, Chocqueel-Mangan said, “My job as a digital consultant means that if something doesn’t work, it’s because there is a usability problem – not a user problem. I decided to take the same approach with solving the issue of voter engagement.

Rather than assuming people don’t want to take part or are unable to express an opinion, I found a way to make it easier.”

By comparing the policies from six UK political parties (Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Green party, UKIP and BNP) on a range of key issues, site visitors were able to show which parties someone should vote for. Some 337,920 surveys were completed; far larger than any poll. The Financial Times described it as a “test well worth taking.”

Chocqueel-Mangan said, “I was surprised by how quickly it spread. There was no marketing plan. It’s amazing what a simple idea and social media can achieve together!”

Based on policies alone, the popular vote would have been:

We asked Chocqueel-Mangan if it changed his vote (“Yes it did. And it felt quite liberating!”), and whether he thought it changed the vote of others. He said, “The comments we received suggested lots of people were surprised by their results, and felt confident enough to change their vote, or they decided to vote for the first time ever. We’ll be tracking more behavioural outcomes next time around so we’ll get real data on that.”

Plugging these into UK Polling Report’s basic swing calculator, we see the major parties would still retain control of the House of Commons:

Despite securing just 53% of the vote between them, the three main parties would still hold 94% of the seats – leaving only 6% of the seats to those parties which had secured 47% of the vote.

Labour would be the largest single party, but short of an overall majority by nine seats.

Politicians who cry crocodile tears about voter apathy and falling turnout, but defend the current first past the post system, don’t really believe in representative democracy. If an election doesn’t ‘work’ (i.e. people turn out and vote), it’s because there is a usability problem – not a voter problem.

The discrepancy between seats, voter and elector share is striking:

Difference between seats and votes is the ratio to votes cast nationally to seats in parliament (e.g. Conservatives have 30% greater share seats that their 36.1% share of votes). Difference between seats and electors is the ratio of share of the entire electorate to seats in parliament (e.g. Labour has 110% more seats than their 18.9% share of electors).

On crime, education, the environment and health/NHS, the Greens secured public support. On democracy and the economy, the Lib Dems won and the Greens came second. Europe was won by the Conservatives with the Greens coming fourth. Labour secured support on immigration and Welfare with the Greens came third and second respectively.

“From what the people who used the site told me, there is still real fear of wasting a vote if you don’t support the main parties”, said Chocqueel-Mangan, when asked what he thought explained the success of minor parties on policies but their failure to gain votes.   

I tried to help counter this by showing how other people in your constituency think – and next time with even more people using the site, we could give more people the confidence to vote according to their policy preferences.” 

Tomorrow we’ll look at the votes of the party leaders. Whatever the media would have us believe, we operate a parliamentary system as opposed to presidential one. A party leader still needs to win their constituency to be able to prime minister. If he or she is the leader of the party that commands the largest number of seats overall, then they get the keys to number 10.

Further reading:

We need Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and nationalist parties that get sustainability

Vote Green (where they can win) if you care about the future

Big is the enemy of the good in all industries

Are we the zealots of a new religion; an environmental Taliban that is silencing dissent? Not really

UKIP’s success in the local election is a rallying cry for smaller parties

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

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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