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Solo living is not helping the only Earth we have

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As well as psychological impacts (veering from, “I will die alone with cats”, to apparently increased levels of anger, selfishness and depression), the rise in solo living is having a distinct effect on the environment, says Francesca Baker.

More and more people are living alone, driven by a more transient workforce, changing demographics, and practicalities, as well as an altered perspective as to what counts as success and validation, and its implications upon a family and marriage. Author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, Eric Klinenberg states that it is a reflection  of “modern values – individual freedom, personal control and self-realisation […] It allows us to do what we want, when we want, on our own terms.”

This sounds a little selfish, and whether intentionally so or not, it does result in a more selfish relationship with the environment around us. The more people using resources, the more environmentally friendly they are.

A 2006 report in the journal Environment, Development and Sustainability by researchers from UCL, revealed that one-person households were the biggest consumers of energy, land and household goods. They consume 38% more products, 42% more packaging, 55% more electricity and 61% more gas per person than an individual in a four-person household.

Shockingly, in households of four or more, each person produces 1,000 kilograms of waste annually, while those living alone create a massive 1,600 kilograms of waste each year.

In 2005, the US census reported that 87% of people in the US drive to work, and that 77% of those drive alone. More and more people are eating alone (inefficiently cooking) in front of the TV for stimulation (using more electricity than entertainment from a person).

The effects are significant, due to the numbers involved. Given the constant interaction that we have with other people via technology and communications, we are becoming increasingly solitary. According to the market research firm Euromonitor International, the number of people living alone globally is skyrocketing, rising from about 153 million in 1996 to 277 million in 2011 – an increase of around 80% in 15 years. In the UK, 34% of households have just one person living in them, and in the US it’s 27%.

Author of the Environment, Development and Sustainability report, Dr Jo Williams, believes that regardless of numbers, the changing demographic is a key driver in increased consumption: “Previously, the typical one-person householder was the widow, often on a tight budget and thrifty. The rise in younger, wealthier one-person households is having an increasingly serious impact on the environment.”

This group has large amounts of disposable income and consume more partly due to their wealth, but also due to the fact that they do not share. The fastest growing segment of the single household is among those aged 25-44 and in particular, single never-married men aged 35-44. Typically busy and wealthy, the appeal of an environmentally friendly lifestyle, which often blurs into thriftiness, is lost.

So why should we live with others? One study in the journal Built Environment, which looks at Danish eco-villages, argues that cohousing not only offers better opportunities for sustainable technologies, and thus efficient buildings, but by being more socially orientated, members of a household can also encourage one another to behave in more sustainable fashion.

The first cohousing community was built in 1972 for 27 families, close to Copenhagen, by a Danish architect and a psychologist, as a social experiment, but since then has spread rapidly, and around 1% of the population live in cohousing.

Whilst one way of combatting the issue may be to encourage people to live with others, developers are aware of this rise in single occupancy. Therefore, more one-bed new homes should be built to high ecological standards that allow for easier and more efficient living.

Single occupancy taxes and relocation packages are not helpful, but instead frustrating, and do not reflect realities. When the opportunity for environmentally friendly lifestyle choices is easy and accessible, people tend to seize it.

If these homes are well designed, prestigious and environmentally sound, they tick all the boxes. We all know that the potential for synergy between energy consumption and design is significant, and this design has to reflect the behaviours of society – namely that they are living alone.

There are some housing developments within the private sector that do encourage more collaborative lifestyles, where wealthier individuals have private space such as a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, but share some living and storage areas and cleaning and services are included. This allows people to share (or even delegate) household chores and goods and thus consume less energy.

Solo living does have a greater impact on the environment than inhabiting shared spaces, but proselytising or punishing is not the way to change this. Private sector development that provides the opportunity and infrastructure to live the social and status lifestyle, in a way that is energy efficient and sustainable, is the only answer.

To deliver this, more stringent rules are needed from the government. Public and private bodies working together to enable individuals to live sustainably. There’s a moral there.

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

Further reading:

‘What was an ecohouse is now just a really well-designed house’

Sustainable building means more attractive and comfortable homes

Livin’ (Sustainably) in the City

Government risks ‘losing momentum’ on sustainable homes

Government proposals ‘seriously undermine and damage’ green homes plans

Francesca Baker is curious about life and enjoys writing about it. A freelance journalist, event organiser, and minor marketing whizz, she has plenty of ideas, and likes to share them. She writes about music, literature, life, travel, art, London, and other general musings, and organises events that contain at least one of the above. You can find out more at www.andsoshethinks.co.uk.

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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