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Students, universities and fossil fuels: divestment campaign comes to UK

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As student campaign group People & Planet prepares for its Fossil Free UK tour, others across the country are speaking out against universities investing in the fossil fuels industry.

Student pressure on academic institutions for fossil fuel investment is a well-established movement in the US, involving more than 300 campuses in the country. While some colleges have decided to follow the student calls to divest, other major universities – such as Harvard – remain reluctant.

Despite hiring a vice-president to focus solely on sustainable investment in August, the university’s president Drew Faust told students in a recent letter, “The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.” She said the institution would not be dropping its investments in fossil fuels.

Click here to read The Guide to Climate Change 2013

Harvard students have since responded, condemning the school’s lack of  action on the issue. “Divestment is a moral and political strategy to expose the reckless business model of the fossil fuel industry that puts our world at risk”, they wrote in The Nation.

People & Planet’s Fossil Free UK campaign is preparing to travel across the UK, and then into Europe, to bring the issue of fossil fuel divestment to centre stage. It has joined forces with Bill McKibben’s 350.org and Christian campaign group Operation Noah, and will visit Edinburgh, Birmingham and London to speak out against universities investing in dirty energy.

They will ask institutions to move their money, be clear and transparent over their links with the industry and support clean energy and green initiatives by providing ethical careers advice and opportunities to students.

But this is not the only way students are pushing for a cleaner future. Matt Stanley, member of the National Executive Council of the National Union of Students recently wrote on the Huffington Post, “We are increasingly aware of the dangers climate change poses for our future and that’s why it should come as no surprise that the rising environment movement is young, vibrant and determined to play our part in tackling this huge challenge.

“The UK has the greatest potential for renewable energy in Europe. Investing in renewable energy will provide thousands of jobs as well as clean energy which will only get cheaper. Investing in a greener future will create jobs, boost the economy as well as cutting carbon. It’s now up to students and young people to make the government realise that they can’t run a system based on the here and now.”

Students claim the universities’ ties with the fossil fuels industry are stronger than what it might seem on the outside. According to Natasha Gorodnitski of Fossil Free London, a report by People & Planet discloses that UK university endowment funds include up to £1 billion from the fossil fuels industry, with the London School of Economics, Imperial College and Kings College London at the top of the list of receivers.

Gorodnitski said Imperial College London receives more funding from the industry than any other UK university, with £17.3m from Shell and BP alone.

Imperial College London has a reputation as a ‘fossil fuel university’ – its ties to the fossil fuel industry run deeper than perhaps any other higher education institution in the UK, or at the very least the connections are most public”, she said.

“The chair of Imperial’s Department of Petroleum Engineering stated publicly that companies in ‘the industry’ should visit to talk about their needs.”

When contacted by Blue & Green Tomorrow, LSE said that fossil fuels formed a minimum part of the university’s large endowment and that the school was committed to ensure that investments take into account “relevant environmental, social and governance issues”, as stated in its Socially Responsible Investment Policy.

The global consequences of climate change inaction were outlined in sober fashion by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently. It’s therefore likely that student calls for fossil fuel divestment will only become more prominent, as the next generation of business and political leaders seek to preserve and protect the Earth they will inherit.

Further reading:

Fossil fuel divestment is neither ‘warranted or wise’, says Harvard president

Students criticise Harvard’s ‘false neutrality’ over fossil fuel divestment

Harvard hires vice-president to focus solely on sustainable investing

What fossil fuel divestment can learn from apartheid

The Guide to Climate Change 2013

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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