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We can no longer sit comfortably with the myths behind poverty

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According to a recent report, the media has created a number of myths about poverty, which has led the most vulnerable being blamed for the UK’s economic woes. Given sustainability is about the environment, economy and society (the ‘S’ in ESG), Emma Websdale decided to dig deeper into its findings.

The report, by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church, was published at the beginning of March and is entitled, The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty.

The paper confronts six myths that the coalition of religious groups says have been made up by the media and politicians to create a detachment from the truth, making others believe that being poor is a result of one’s own actions.

Myth 1: ‘They’ are lazy and don’t want to work

Describing someone as too “lazy” to work is without evidence when the majority of children living in poverty are from working households.

It’s far more likely that those too “lazy” to work are actually those less experienced and educated and have not been given the opportunity to work for such a long period of time, that it has forced them to lack confidence and feel too inadequate to work.

Myth 2: ‘They’ are addicted to drink and drugs

This is another misconception. The general public cited addiction to drugs and alcohol as the second most common cause of child poverty, yet fewer than 4% of benefit claimants reported any form of addiction. 

Myth 3: ’They’ are not really poor – they just don’t manage their money properly

This is a myth that 60% of the UK population agrees with. Statistics show that the poorest spend their money carefully, limiting themselves to the essentials – despite the constant struggle to manage limited resources.

Even the smallest impulse buys often lead to serious consequences for their families, so it’s not worth the risk.

Myth 4: ‘They’ are on the fiddle

Despite over 80% of the UK population believing that the poorest families falsely claim benefits, only around 2% of all benefits claimed are done so fraudulently. That’s £3 billion of the £150 billion handed out each year in benefits.

The government misses out on over £120 billion a year in tax evasion (illegal), tax avoidance (legal) and unpaid tax, and the scale of benefit fraud appears small in comparison.

Myth 5: ‘They’ have an easy life

Over 50% of the British population believe that those living on benefits have an “easy life”. This would involve not stressing about meeting financial pressures on a daily basis, bringing in a regular income for themselves and their families to enjoy and living leisurely and anxiety free.

The lives of claimants are actually one they would not opt for. Many suffer from stress, depression and anxiety, and face unemployment and low self-worth.

Myth 6: ‘They’ caused the deficit

The amount of tax spent on welfare has remained stable over the past 20 years and yet the general public argues that our economy is in crisis because of the poor claiming benefits.

Why is this problem being blamed on the poorest in society when rich families, despite often having the money to support and pay for their children’s university fees, still leave them taking huge loans that may never be fully paid off to the government?

What about the big companies that generate millions of pounds of profit and still finds loopholes to make themselves exempt from paying taxes, or the banks that create money out of nowhere?

It is clear that at some point we have been reading and believing misconstrued statistics about the poor from the media. What we are led to believe is not true to the evidence that this report reveals.

Owen Jones, writer for The Independent, has explored how the media has made the working class become an object of fear and mockery. He uses Little Britain character Vicky Pollard as a key example, highlighting that the media has created an untruthful image of the working class – portraying them as ignorant and underprivileged.

He has also looked at how the working class has become stereotyped, particularly so-called ‘chavs’.

In his book, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, Jones argues that the government allows the use of the term to avoid genuine engagement with social and economic problems.

Based on original research, his book lays out a disturbing portrait of inequality, reflecting on the damaging imprint caused by the media and politicians.

Another book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, also explores poverty. Targeting the huge gap between the rich and the poor, the book argues about the “pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness and encouraging excessive consumption”.

Using statistics, the book, by Richard G Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, compares how 11 different health and social problems, including mental health, obesity, drug abuse, imprisonment, violence and teenage pregnancies, were significantly worse in more unequal developed counties.

Oliver James is another author to have explored the relationship between inequality and mental health, in his book Affluenza. Using Denmark as a case study, James demonstrates how the country’s economy is extremely successful (he references Carlsberg, Lego and Bang & Olufsen as prime examples) despite not having to work the demanding hours of the UK.

I’m a very well paid individual”, says the late Danish journalist Tøger Seidenfaden during an interview with James for the book, “but after I pay tax I am no more than three or four times richer than the lowest 5% of the population. The gap in other countries is five or ten hundred times more than that.

If no-one is going to care how rich you are – in fact, would despise you for flaunting it- why would you work a 60 week for decades on end?”

James goes on to explain how only 6% of people live on half the average income or less, making the gap between the rich and the poor tiny. Statistics from a survey found that 3.3% of Danes suffered from major depression compared to double that in mainland Europe.

Each of these books has received opposition, particularly the validity of The Spirit Level, due to its origin and significance of its analysis.

But what really matters is the overriding moral that has been penetrated into the core of all three. It’s the exposure of the truth that makes these books, alongside the poverty report, so important.

Further reading:

Report ‘ends comfortable myths about poverty’

UN creates sustainable development group to ‘define the world we want’

UN: invest responsibly in agriculture to beat global poverty

Environmental threats to be addressed by UN sustainable development goals

‘We need investment that prioritises long-term wellbeing for people and planet’

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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