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Governments must ‘get’ sustainability to truly capitalise on UK innovation

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The New Energy & Cleantech Awards have come and gone for another year, with Ecology Building Society scooping the sought-after Company of the Year award in 2013. Alex Blackburne reflects on the event, and looks at what it might mean for the future of sustainability.

The great out-of-consensus entrepreneur Steve Jobs once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”.

The late Apple co-founder knew a thing or two about breaking away from the market to create exceptional technologies, having led the development of some of the most successful and innovative products in history.

At the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square on March 21, the New Energy & Cleantech Awards 2013 recognised some of the UK’s finest sustainability-minded businesses, investors and individuals, and perhaps, the next Steve Jobs.

It was a night to celebrate innovation, progress and leadership.

Climate change, energy efficiency and sustainability have become key considerations in running a successful business.

The overwhelming scientific consensus that says humans are the primary cause of climate change means we have a moral imperative to nullify our impact on the planet for future generations. But good businesses don’t see this as a hindrance to their operations; they see it as an opportunity.

It’s basic mathematics. Using less water and energy cuts costs; generating electricity from clean sources that don’t pollute is more sustainable; developing technologies that tackle the biggest sustainability challenges creates long-term opportunities for investors.

Every business on show – and particularly the ones honoured with awards – understand and factor in the triple bottom line of society, the environment and profit (or people, planet and prosperity) into their core structure.

Because of that, these are the businesses that will be leading the future economy.

Fast forward even 20 years’ time, and the FTSE 100 of 2033 is likely to look an awful lot different to the one we see now, with the dominance of fossil fuels and financial services firms being replaced by renewable energy and clean technologies.

But what became abundantly clear at the New Energy & Cleantech Awards (and particularly at the preceding conference) is that it’s imperative governments ‘get’ the industry.

In the western world, the pick-up by the marketplace is predominantly driven by government subsidies”, said Perry Carroll, founder and CEO of The Solar Cloth Company, at the afternoon conference .

If the governments don’t get it, they don’t give subsidies. If they don’t give subsidies, the market doesn’t get created. If it doesn’t get created, the technology doesn’t get created. It’s just a vicious circle.”

The encouraging growth of cleantech and renewables witnessed in UK market has been somewhat blighted by politicking and infighting within government. If it’s not arguments over the feed-in tariff for solar PV, it’s an energy minister criticising onshore wind.

And while the most innovative businesses in the sustainability space ignore the goings-on in Whitehall, investors usually don’t.

The lack of a decarbonisation target in the energy bill, for example, was seen by many as a shattering failure of leadership by the government at a time when leadership was desperately needed.

Investors – and most importantly, jobs and economic growth – will go elsewhere if this squabbling continues, so it’s vital that the government starts singing from the same hymn sheet. Consistency is the key.

But all is not lost. The industry can take solace and positivity from the achievements of the businesses at the New Energy & Cleantech Awards 2013: those that went home with gongs, and those that didn’t.

It is these businesses that truly ‘get’ the scale of the task ahead. And it is these businesses that are acting on the marvellous opportunities that tackling sustainability challenges present.

Further reading:

Ecology scoops top gong at New Energy & Cleantech Awards 2013

We need a credible green innovation growth strategy

Jonathon Porritt: the wonderful world of clean energy technology

Home-grown innovation that might just change the world

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2012

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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