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Two months until National Ethical Investment Week 2013

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National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW) – the event that brings together investors, financial advisers, fund managers, charities, faith groups and more, with the aim of raising the profile of ethical, responsible and sustainable investment – is back for another year in just under two months’ time (October 13-19).

In our four and three-month countdowns to this year’s NEIW, we heard from the organisers, the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF), and the sponsors, Ecclesiastical Investment Management and CCLA, respectively.

This time, with two months to go until the event kicks off, we’ve spoken to five financial advisers about what they’re hoping for from the sixth annual edition in October.

All five advisers already give specialist advice on sustainable, responsible, ethical or green investment – but the vast majority of their peers often neglect to even offer their clients such options.

Click here to read The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

Therefore, Blue & Green Tomorrow is looking for a number of diverse financial advisers, paraplanners and networks heads to participate in a one-day sustainable investment deep-dive in September. The bootcamp will involve taking sceptical advisers through the world of sustainable investment and then sharing the results with the industry and investors.

This free, invitation-only event will be tailored for those who have an interest in sustainable investment, but do not feel they have sufficient insight to advise clients on the subject.

If you’d like to know more, see here (spaces are strictly limited so please register your interest early to avoid disappointment).

Julian Parrott, Ethical Futures (Edinburgh)

What he’s hoping for in NEIW 2013: An opportunity to move the discussion on from the ‘do ethical funds under/overperform’ debate to positioning how ethical and socially responsible investments sits in the process of financial planning and holistic advice.

Thoughts on NEIW: It’s an important event but it’s very much a case that what you get out of it very much relates to what you put in.

Ian Green, Green Financial Advice (London)

What he’s hoping for in NEIW 2013: Greater awareness for the public that ethical investing does not mean lower returns.

Thoughts on NEIW: [Last year, it gave me] a warm fuzzy feeling that the message was slowly spreading and the fond hope my participation may have helped that in a small way.

Jeremy Newbegin, The Ethical Partnership (the south, Midlands & Yorkshire)

What he’s hoping for in NEIW 2013: Obviously that more people will be aware of the opportunities available through ethical investing, both in terms of doing something positive with their money and achieving a decent return in the long-term.

Thoughts on NEIW: It’s about creating more awareness and that is not necessarily tangible immediately.

Helen Tandy, Gaeia (north-west)

What she’s hoping for in NEIW 2013: To be able to reach out to the many investors who have an interest in or are concerned about the environment, fair trade, organic and sustainable products and employment welfare issues.

Thoughts on NEIW: We always use the week to reach out to existing clients, potential new clients and other advisers through our work with UKSIF and the EIA, and  to raise awareness of ethical and environmental investment.

Lee Smythe, Smythe & Walter Chartered Financial Planners (London & Kent)

What he’s hoping for in NEIW 2013: For investments, I still think that there is overall poor awareness of the availability of solutions which would be more in tune with peoples’ other life choices. I hope that this year’s NEIW continues to enlighten people as to the alternatives they could consider.

Thoughts on NEIW: Last year’s NEIW was a good opportunity to reach out to clients to speak to them about something which would potentially be new to them and to gauge their appetite for taking more account of their general life views with their investment holdings.

Further reading:

The light triad within ethical, sustainable and responsible investment

The dark triad within unethical, unsustainable and irresponsible investment

There is a disconnect between investment and the real world

Ethical investors are not tree huggers, but air breathers (and responsible global citizens)

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

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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Environment

How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool

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eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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