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Setting the sustainability wheels in motion



Sick of traffic jams, MOTs, rising petrol prices, insurance bills and motorway breakdowns? Chances are you already know a solution, and it comes on two wheels.

This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013.

So many annoying journeys or vehicle related costs could be avoided by cycling. For many of us, learning to ride a bike is one of our earliest memories. And yet, according to statistics from the Department of Transport, during the year ending October 2012, only 10% of adults in England cycled at least once per week. Only 3% cycled at least five times per week.

Meanwhile, according to the 2011 Census, only 2% of adults in England travel to work by bicycle. This is despite statistics from CTC – the national cycling charity – saying that over 40% of the population have access to a bike.

That means that a massive majority are missing out on a lot of benefits.

Sustrans is a charity that works with communities, policymakers and partner organisations, hoping to encourage people to make healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys in safer environments.

Sustrans ‘bike it’ officer Roxane Hackwood says, “With obesity levels being at an all-time high and petrol prices forever rising, not to mention peak oil and environmental issues, I find it hard to think of reasons why we should not all be making more efforts to travel more actively.”

Arguably, the chance to recoup on princely road costs may be the most convincing argument in this debate. Hackwood explains, “In the UK, the average cost of running a car ranges from approximately £3,089 to £6,600 a year, on a bike you are spending £80-£300 to maintain for everyday commuting purposes.

She adds, “Of course if you take off gym membership costs you would otherwise be spending to stay fit, then the bike would be completely free.”

Wheeling out the bike will do more than saving you pounds (in money) while losing you pounds (in weight), however. The potential environmental benefits are great. More cyclists mean fewer cars, which means less congestion, fossil fuel consumption and pollution.

Using a mid-sized, 20 miles per gallon (mpg) car for a 10-mile round commute, five days a week for a year produces around 1.3 tonnes of climate change contributing carbon dioxide. Recent studies have also found that the fumes coming from your exhaust are carcinogenic.

This is not to mention the environmental damage caused in the manufacturing of your polluting steed – a problem that blights the eco-credentials of electric vehicles and hybrids, too.

Cycling, on the other hand, has a benign environmental impact. It creates no atmospheric or noise pollution, consumes no fuels, and does not contribute to congestion.

But is it realistic that someone in today’s society can manage without a car? Arguably, yes. Hackwood tells how she sold her car around four years ago, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I no longer have to fear the impending MOT bill, insurance renewal and I never have to sit in traffic”, she explains.

“I have lived in Cardiff and London without a car, in Cardiff I cycled everywhere and now living in London I mainly cycle and use the tube or train when the distance is too great.”

Clearly, forgoing car ownership completely might not work for everyone. The British countryside may be the perfect vista for cycling, but when public transport is not as frequent and journeys are longer, those living in rural areas may struggle without four wheels.

However, if used in conjunction with car sharing and improved public transport, active travelling could prove to be an essential component to our cleaner future transportation habits.

Sustrans is currently attempting to convince the British public to make four out of five local journeys by foot, bike, or public transport. It is an ambitious target – representing double the current figure – but based on the merits of the arguments for leaving your car in the garage, it is surely not an unrealistic one.


Which bike to choose?

Roxane Hackwood of Sustrans recommends her top three multi-purpose bicycles:

“If you will be cycling as well as using public transport for your journey I would recommend a folding Brompton bike. In my opinion they are the smartest folding bikes around. They are handy as well if you lack space in your home to store a bike, as then a fold up could be the best option. These can be expensive so I would recommend finding a second hand Brompton on eBay. 

“For an all-purpose bike I would choose a hybrid, meaning you could use it as a commuter and use it on rougher terrain on weekend trips away. I highly rate the company Charge. The Grater Hybrid model will set you back around £400. If cost is an issue, again, look for pre-owned bikes.

“If you will be solely using your bike for getting from A to B and you want a quick effortless journey I would go for a road or racer bike. These will usually sport a lighter frame and thinner wheels. I ride a trek 1.1 road bike and would recommend it to anyone who wants a fast bike and does not want it to cost the Earth. I found mine second hand for around £300; from the shop they are £550.”

Further reading:

Cycling: sustainability on two wheels

Get on your bike

Government announces £94m investment to fund ‘cycling revolution’

2,500 traffic officers to assess busiest London junctions for cyclist safety

The Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



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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