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Want to help combat the rising price of food? Grow your own vegetables

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Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report that said all aspects of food security were at risk of being affected by global warming.

Other studies have concluded that people can help matters simply by eating more vegetables and less cheese and meat. Growing your own vegetables might therefore help the environment, but can it save you money?

We know that 250g of tomatoes can cost around £1.50 in the supermarket, while a small packet of seeds can be purchased for as little as £1.30. What’s important, however, is that a single tomato plant, grown under the right conditions, can produce up to 3kg of fruit per season – and there are a few other plants out there that can help make a saving.

So in collaboration with Hartley Botanic, supplier of bespoke greenhouses, here are some simple tips on how to grow your own food and save money.

Cucumbers

A plant that is best sowed in early spring within a heated greenhouse, cucumber seeds can be placed in a small pot with seed compost. By placing two seeds on their side into a small hole, you can expect roughly 30-40 fruits per plant, with an estimated cost of 5p per cucumber produced.

The seeds should germinate within one week and when they are roughly 2cm in length. At this point, feel free to remove the weakest plants from the pot, though remember to keep the plants moist and use a stake of garden cane to provide support for the growing plant.

Baby carrots

Baby carrots are one of the best loved vegetables on the dinner table and are relatively easy to grow.  It is important to know, however, that you will need large containers, as their roots can grow in lengths of up to a foot beneath the surface. If you grow the carrot variety known as Early Nantes, their roots are far shorter and may be more convenient.

Again, pop in two seeds per hole and ensure well drained soil. It should take the seeds around two weeks to germinate. After around two months, you should have a large pot of healthy, green foliage, which can be harvested after a further two weeks. Just one £1.50 packet of seeds can save you roughly £3 a kg.

Lettuces

Growing lettuces in full sun is key to successful and healthy growing. Spring and early summer growing is important to beat the frost and cold weather. There are three differing types of hearting lettuces, which are:

– Butterhead lettuces
– Cos types
– Crisphead types

If you want continuity, and a nice supply of lettuce, sow yourself a short row every fortnight and ensure to do so in evening, with water. When harvesting, remember to cut when a heart is formed.

Courgettes

Seeds can be grown in pots from March through to the end of May and require sunny, fertile and moist soil. Unlike cucumbers, ensure that you sow seeds vertically and deeply. Once that the roots begin to show through the bottom of the pot, plant them into growing bags in late spring.

Give your courgettes plenty of water, more so when the plants are in flower, and harvest them when they are roughly 10cm in length. Use a sharp knife to sever the fruit and eat them fresh; saving around 38p per courgette.

Sweet peppers

Quite possibly the most popular growing vegetable of recent years, the plants can be grown indoors right up until April. Keep the temperature at around 18-21C to ensure healthy plants.

Once true leaves have formed, transfer the plants into 9cm pots and then into 30cm pots once that the roots fill the smaller ones. You may need to stake and tie the plants if they begin producing heavy fruit. Once done, you can pick the plants once the peppers are green, swollen and glossy.

Anna Watsham is writing on behalf of Hartley Botanic, one of the UK’s premier greenhouse manufacturers and retailers.

Photo: Stephanie Berghaeuser via freeimages

Further reading:

Growing Underground: London’s secret garden

How fruit and veg auctions are putting ‘real food’ on tables every day

Up to 40% of food wasted because of ‘ugliness’

Consumers have ‘immense power’ to make food sustainable

The Guide to Sustainable Spending 2013

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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