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Scotland’s decision: a more sustainable United Kingdom democracy

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Scotland’s independence debate has dispelled the myth that people are apathetic about politics. What is critical is the importance of the vote and the way the campaign is conducted. A clash of opposing ideas creates a higher turnout.

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In our Guide to Democracy we looked at how we could create a more sustainable democracy. We asked 6,999 Vote for Policies registrants to vote on the electoral reforms they would most like to see.

These are the 17 suggestions, which 50% or more of our respondents said would improve our democracy.

#17: MPs, rather than government, to determine the business of the House. Currently the government sets the agenda for parliament. In other legislatures they set the agenda and government must encourage a member to bring forward government legislation – Improve 50% / worsen 14%.

#16: A codified or written constitution. The UK constitution is ‘uncodified’. It is a mix of statute, case law, precedent and convention. Many countries and UK devolved legislatures have ‘codified’ constitutions i.e. a single document that describes who has what powers and how the democratic institutions work – Improve 52% / worsen 15%

#15: More direct democracy e.g. referenda, directly elected Mayors. The Athenians did it – Improve 53% / worsen 20%

#14: A fully elected second chamber to replace the current part-appointed/part-hereditary House of Lords – Improve 53% / worsen 23%

#13: A partially elected House of Lords to retain subject matter experts – Improve 54% / worsen 14%

#12: Legally-binding manifestos – with areas of compromise in a hung parliament clearly spelled out – Improve 56% / worsen 21%

#11: Compulsory voting. Ancient Athens did it and today, Australia, Brazil, DR of Congo, Luxembourg, Singapore and others all have compulsory voting for some elections. As the ballot is secret, you can leave it blank or spoil it – but you have to turn up and vote – Improve 57% / worsen 23%

#10: Creation of an English Parliament with the same devolved powers as the Scottish Parliament or other devolved assemblies. This would address some people’s concern about MPs from devolved countries voting on laws that won’t affect their constituents – Improve 57% / worsen 19%

#9: Equalising the electorate size of Westminster constituencies (these currently range from 22,000 electors to 110,000. The average size of constituencies in Wales is 56,628, in Scotland 65,475, and in England is 71,858) – Improve 61% / worsen 9%

#8: Welsh and Northern Ireland assembly to receive same devolved powers as the Scottish Parliament. Scotland currently has more powers than the Welsh and Northern Ireland assembly – Improve 64% / worsen 12%

#7: Abolition of party whips and all votes to be ‘free’ or unwhipped in Parliament. Whips encourage MPs to vote along a party line. It is seen as a way of making our parliament function more efficiently but seen by some as placing party over constituents – Improve 69% / worsen 13%

#6: Greater devolution to countries and regions. The UK is politically and economically centralised in London. Germany and the United States adopt a more devolved federal structure, with more hubs of economic and political activity. Centralisation creates a globally significant megacity. Devolution creates a more dispersed democracy and distribution of economic and political activity – Improve 70% / worsen 12%

#5: Disestablishment of the Church of England. Parliament enjoys certain rights within the Church of England and the Church of England enjoys certain privileges in our democracy, including seats in the House of Lords. It is the ‘established Church’. Other democracies separate Church and State to avoid direct church involvement in legislation and political involvement in matters of worship – Improve 73% / worsen 11%

#4: Proportional representation. The number of seats reflects the proportion of votes cast. If you get 35% of the vote, you get 35% of the seats – Improve 74% / worsen 14%

#3: Greater citizenship/political education in schools. Some argue that the level of political understanding in schools is poor, which is bad for democratic engagement. Others argue that this would be a back door for political instruction by teachers with specific political perspectives – Improve 80% / worsen 7%

#2: None of the above option on ballot papers. A ‘none of the above’ option means you can reject all the candidates, a formal spoiling of the ballot paper. If none of the above ‘wins’, nominations are reopened and a new slate of candidates is put forward – Improve 80% / worsen 9%

#1: MP recall for constituencies. Recall means that an MP who is found guilty of serious wrongdoing could be forced to stand down and face a by-election – Improve 93% / worsen 2%

The Scottish referendum now gives us a chance to engage civic society as never before and create a sustainable democratic settlement.

Thank you Scotland for choosing to stay within the Union and giving the whole of the United Kingdom a unique opportunity to:

“Form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” (Opening preamble to the Constitution of the United States)

Photo: Nick Page via Flickr

Further reading:

Scottish independence: Scots vote to stay in the UK by 55% to 45%

Scottish independence: Blue & Green readers’ view

Scottish independence: renewables and climate change debate heats up

Scottish independence: ‘Yes’ vote could lead to £14bn hole in budget

Scottish independence: what the papers say

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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