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Technology: Let’s make this country the best

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Chancellor George Osborne’s weekend Observer article calling for Britain to be the best at ‘technology’ rings slightly hollow, when you realise he’s talking about digital technology. Digital technology is hugely valuable to our economy. But clean technology, in the form of renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage, is far more important to our national interest than another social network, game or app.

In his article he writes, “The digital economy is booming, producing the kind of jobs we need to win in the global race.”

The economic revolution that Osborne wishes to see comes from getting children coding again.

In a misty-eyed remembrance of the days when kids coded on BBC Microcomputers he’s frustrated that children are just being trained to use PowerPoint and Word, as consumers rather than producers. This initial argument has some merit, but all the coding in the world will be for nothing once the lights go out.

In 2010, the Energy Saving Trust and DEFRA identified that the average UK household had 41 appliances. Gone are the days, when an average household would have an oven, fridge, washing machine, single television, heating and lights. Multiple kitchen, consumer, computing and communication appliances fill every home.

The government’s endless dithering over nuclear power and deep division over renewables means we’ll have precious little energy to power our increasingly digital, consumer-electronics economy in the next two years.

In the article, it transpires that Mr Osborne is going to debate the role of government alongside entrepreneurs in creating a digital economy, with Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales at the Campus Party at London’s O2. The irony that the internet was created with massive government subsidy seems to be forever lost on Mr Osborne.

That many coding jobs have been outsourced to China and India, also escapes Mr Osborne’s starry-eyed analysis that, “Ooh, I’m meeting Jimmy Wales”.

The jobs we really need are those that reduce are energy usage and make our economy cleaner.

He goes on, “But my job as chancellor is to make sure we create the right environment for those entrepreneurs to succeed.”

And the right environment for any entrepreneur means clean, domestic and limitless energy from renewables, with falling prices. Subsidising oil and gas and encouraging fracking does the exact opposite of creating the right environment for entrepreneurs, even ‘those [digital] entrepreneurs’. Messing around with energy tariffs damaged brilliant entrepreneurs in the renewable sector and our nation’s future energy security.

The right environment for entrepreneurs needs a reasonably priced, secure supply of energy. It also requires a creative, educated, highly-motivated workforce (ideally on proper contracts with proper wages), robust physical and communication infrastructure and constructive political relationships with our closest markets will help too. Free, fair, well-regulated markets, reported by a responsible media, which take into account the costs to environment of any economic activity, can’t be too much to ask for the ‘right environment’.

Or you could constantly tinker with the sixth best education system in the world (having never actually studied at, or sent your own children, to one of the schools that 93% of the nation’s children attend).

You could weaken employee rights, creating greater fear and uncertainty. You could let our road and broadband infrastructure creak, while failing to invest enough in mass transit systems and high speed communications. Maybe constantly insulting our closest neighbours and largest trading partners seems sensible. You could allow monopolies to consolidate their positions, avoid their tax obligations and rapaciously profiteer from businesses and consumers.

You could allow a rabid press to spread disinformation and corporate propaganda. You could ignore the massive current costs of pollution and the future risks of commodity scarcity.

Yeap, that’ll certainly create the right environment for entrepreneurship. Or is it simply stupid and reckless?

Apparently Osborne is, “proud of the measures this government is taking to ensure Britain is in the vanguard of the digital economy.”

We’re deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the measures the government is taking to ensure our economy remains hooked on 19th century energy generation, the burning of fossil fuels. It’s a huge pity that we will become the laggards rather than at the vanguard of the clean economy.  But at least we’ll have lots of digital screens. That we can’t turn on, because we’ve exceeded our capacity to generate electricity.

He concludes, “Thanks to our commitment to the digital economy, I have no doubt that a new generation of talented British software engineers will follow in Jimmy’s footsteps and help create a better future for us all.”

Thanks to this environmentally-illiterate Chancellor’s lack of commitment to the clean economy, we have no doubt that we will squander the valuable economic opportunity in renewables and other clean technology, creating a dramatically worse future for all.

British software engineers will certainly leave the UK in droves, as they have done before, if they can’t turn computers on and all the lights have gone out.

Our heavily indebted, fossil fuel-addicted, energy-importing and energy-inefficient nation needs more producers, engineers and scientists. We need a real economy that actually makes things, rather than one dependent on the vagaries of online fads and financial speculation. This government’s actions, and the current infatuation with a shiny new digital economy, fall far short of those commensurate with the risks we face.

Would the last person to leave the country please turn the lights out… oh, sorry, you won’t need to.

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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