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On this day in 2008: London Low Emission Zone launched

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Five years ago today, the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was introduced in order to address the rising air pollution emitted from London’s commercial traffic. Joseph Iddison takes a look at whether it, along with subsequent policies, has been successful in tackling high air pollution in the capital.

On February 4 2008, Transport for London (TfL) established a scheme to discourage heavy diesel vehicles from driving in and polluting the capital. The LEZ covers most of Greater London, and, in order to drive within it without paying a daily charge, these vehicles must meet certain emissions standards that limit the amount of particulate matter (a type of pollution) coming from their exhausts. The scheme is administrated by the Greater London Authority, with lorries and vans particularly targeted.

LEZ runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and shouldn’t be confused with the Central London congestion charge. Founded in 2003, this scheme operates within different time brackets during the day to that of the LEZ (7am-6pm, Monday to Friday, excluding public and bank holidays).

Last year, on the January 3, the LEZ standards became more stringent. More vehicles were affected, and those that were already influenced needed to meet tighter emissions standards.

This increase in the amount and type of vehicles affected by the LEZ is reflected in the total fines Transport for London (TfL) has received since the scheme began five years ago.

Total LEZ fines as of December 10 2011. Source: BBC

The fact that the total amount of fines was lower in 2011 than 2009 (see chart to the right), despite more vehicles being on the roads, demonstrated a high level of compliance by the majority of drivers.

Nick Fairholme, director of congestion charging and traffic enforcement, told the BBC, “The initial results of TfL’s monitoring indicates that the vast majority of the owners of vehicles affected by the changes to the LEZ that came into effect on January 3 have taken action to ensure their vehicles comply with the new emission standards.

In the first month since the new emission standards came into effect we have seen almost 98% of vans, minibuses and other specialist vehicles, affected by the LEZ for the first time, meeting the new standards. Lorries, buses and coaches that were already affected by LEZ, and were required to meet more challenging emission standards, are showing compliance rates of almost 90%.”

Despite significant improvements in recent years, London’s air pollution is still a concern, though.

Dr Frank Kelly, professor of environmental health at King’s College London, said that 1950s legislation was sufficient in tackling the Great Smog, but that new laws were now needed.

There’s been a dramatic increase in car ownership and traffic, more taxis and buses, so it’s a new type of pollution. Legislation is once again required”, he told the BBC on the 60th anniversary of the Great Smog in December.

Dr Kelly said air quality was known to be a key factor in the UK’s biggest health problems – heart disease, strokes and diabetes: “We’ve known this for the last decade but politicians are only just waking up to it. We need to clean the air up.”

He was also critical of the recent schemes to reduce carbon emissions, including the congestion charge and the LEZ. Each, he said, had only made a “tiny difference” to air quality in London.

Another issue for London is how its air pollution reduction levels adhere to strict EU regulations. Under EU laws, pollution levels must not be excessive on more than 35 days a year. But by April 2012, London had already exceeded this quota 36 times.

A spokesperson for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said, “We want to keep improving air quality and reduce the impact it can have on human health and the environment. Our air quality has improved significantly in recent decades and is now generally very good, and almost all of the UK meets EU air quality limits for all pollutants.

London, like many of our big cities, is one of the limited areas where air pollution remains an issue. However, air quality plans outline all the important work being done at national, regional and local level will ensure we meet EU limits as soon as possible.”

However, Alan Andrews of environmental lawyers ClientEarth said around 4,300 people die each year in London as a direct result of poor air quality (nearly 15% of the UK total, according to Defra). He attributes this to nitrogen dioxide caused mainly by traffic fumes: “The UK is failing to meet European Union air quality standards. London is thought to have the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide of any capital city in the EU, with levels on some of London’s busiest roads, such as Brixton Road and Putney High Street, currently more than triple legal limits.”

ClientEarth says the government’s own plans show 16 regions and cities will not achieve legal limits for air quality until 2020, and London will have “illegal levels of air pollution until 2025”.

Indeed, Simon Birkett of the Campaign for Clean Air in London (CCAL) agrees with Andrews’ stance on London’s air pollution, especially with regards to the concerns over breaking governing legislation: “Pollution might have come down since 2000 but it’s still the highest in Europe and more than twice World Health Organisation limits.”

Although the LEZ has only been in effect for five years, its premise has divided many in terms of supporting or rejecting it. Whist same favour its intention from a governmental and health point of view, the fact remains that it has some way to go in order to comply with EU regulations.

Further reading:

London, Brighton and Nottingham top sustainable transport ranking

London Underground: 150 years, 250 miles and billions of journeys

Oxford revealed as European leader in electric vehicles

Sunderland and Estonia emerge as unlikely role models for London’s EV hopes

Mexican capital recognised for its sustainable transport makeover

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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