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Local elections preview: the Green party

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Struggling to decide who to vote for in the local elections on Thursday May 2? Don’t worry, as all this week, Blue & Green Tomorrow is outlining the energy, environment and investment credentials of all five major parties.

We’ve already covered the big three: the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats in this mini-series. Next up is the Green party – which has grown in popularity in recent years, and whose leader as of September 2012 is Natalie Bennett.

For a full list of local authorities that are voting, and for more details on the elections more generally, see here.

Green New Deal

For the Green party of England and Wales, the cornerstone of its governing policies is the Green New Deal (not to be confused with the coalition’s flagship energy efficiency scheme, the green deal), which “is all about investing massively to create jobs and move towards a sustainable, zero-carbon economy”.

Upon examination of the party’s 2010 manifesto, it is clear to see that it champions renewable and low-carbon energy.

Affordable and renewable electricity will be generated, stored and distributed as close to users as possible, with maximum local control”, it says.

Instead of shackling our nation with expensive new nuclear power and environmentally reckless shale gas, we will control energy bills and create more jobs by investing in warm and efficient homes, energy storage and smart grids and in renewable energy supply, owned by public, private and community enterprises.

We will ensure energy resilience by expanding our international grid interconnectors.”

On climate change, it adds, “A Green government will take bold, responsible and scientifically credible action to avoid catastrophic climate change.

We will apply a contraction and convergence strategy to reduce emissions to a safe and equal per-capita level. Pursuing the necessary annual reductions of around 10% will create many jobs.

We will provide free monthly carbon emission allowances and people wanting to use more than their fair share could trade allowances. Total emissions will be capped and will reduce each year in line with our 2030 emission reduction target of 90% on 1990 levels.”

Responsible investment

For the Green party, banking reform starts with the very meaning of ‘GDP’ and ‘economy’. The Greens therefore look to “abandon gross domestic product as the key measure of economic success, and seek instead to increase our overall welfare”.

Its manifesto says, “‘Gross Domestic Product’ measures all the economic activity in Britain – even the money spent on picking up the pieces of our unfair and unsustainable society.

Prisons and pollution are as ‘productive’ as schools and sanitation in the world of conventional economics.”

This includes an environmental taxation where “those most able to pay bear their fair share”.

Similar to the big three political parties, the Greens also pledged to found a Green Investment Bank in order to set the standard for financial institutions. However, it was to then supplement the bank by creating local community banks in the financial sector, as well as new ways of investing in the green economy, such as green national savings bonds.

Green MPs will fight to move the management of money from the casino capitalism underlying the current collapse to productive, useful investment. This will relieve unemployment and kick-start the move towards a zero-carbon energy system.

It will stabilise the economy generally, lead to new and attractive ways of investing personal savings and pension funds, create more fairness, and bring back a sense of purpose to an economy characterised by drift, profiteering and consumerism.

To protect our economy we will separate retail and investment banking and limit the size of banks.”

Environment

The Green party does of course prioritise environmental and energy concerns above all else, as demonstrated by the Green New Deal already mentioned.

One of the policies at the forefront of the party is reforming the tax system, putting far greater emphasis on taxes that discourage environmentally or socially damaging behaviour than ever seen before in government.

Such taxes include raising fuel duty by 8% a year, VAT and fuel duty on aviation, as well as increasing the climate change levy and landfill tax. Such rises were estimated to raise £16.5 billion in 2010 alone.

Other taxes include new taxes on use of water by businesses and waste heat from power stations.

Furthermore, the Greens planned to invest £2 billion a year to introduce incentives to encourage homes to become more energy self-sufficient by introducing incentives aiming for solar roofs, as well as generous feed-in tariffs for micro-generation. This would have in turn created 40,000 jobs in installation industries.

Providing energy education for young children and those unaware of the benefits was also something pledged in the 2010 manifesto. The party wanted to introduce children to “renewable technologies at school by ensuring that most schools get the bulk of their energy from on-site renewable sources”.

Another Green party reform was on the concept of recycling. Although important, the party was quick to point out that recycling should be the last form of waste prevention.

Reduce, reuse – and only then recycle” was stated in bold in the 2010 manifesto, with an overall aim of recycling 70% of domestic waste by 2015. This was planned to be achieved through providing free compost bins for anyone that asked, as well as designing products with better and more recyclable packaging.

Energy

At the centre of Green party environment policy are the three Rs – remove, reduce, replace. This involves removing demand wherever possible, followed by reducing demand, and accounting for any demand left for energy with renewables.

The Green party is strongly against nuclear energy, with the intention to completely phase existing plants out and oppose any new-builds. Instead, the Greens believe strongly in wind

Its manifesto says, “Carbon isn’t the only footprint we have. We have water footprints, and other footprints too.

Added together, these different footprints add up to our total ecological impact.”

In order to achieve renewables investment and the application of renewable energy in homes, the Green party intended to “enlarge and develop renewable energy feed-in tariffs paying premium rates for large and small producers of renewable electricity”.

Joseph Iddison is a student in his final year of an English degree at the University of Leicester.

Further reading:

London Green Parties to move money to ethical banks

Four decades of Green Party progress

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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