Recent graduate Hayley Moy explains how she sees the world she and her peers are inheriting from us.
The UK Government seems to be wavering over its plans to meet its carbon emissions targets despite committing to a 34 percent reduction by 2020, and at least 80 percent by 2050 (against 1990 levels). The targets are encouraging, but meeting them is a challenge that will involve drastic changes in our lives. Decisions on how to achieve these targets need to be made now; otherwise future generations will have to deal with the consequences.
Helped by the recession, the UK is on target to surpass its Kyoto targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 percent of 1990 levels by 2012.
DECC’s 2050 Pathways analysis presents a framework of the choices and trade-offs we will have to make in the years up to 2050, showing that it is possible to meet the targets. The report encompasses all parts of the economy and all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, examining possibilities in each sector based on scientific and engineering realities.
The UK Government has been relatively slow to consider the choices and make the necessary decisions. Young people in 2011 are questioning why. Perhaps it’s because the general population hasn’t prioritised green issues until recently.
However, there are signs of change. The Green Deal, due in 2012, will provide a method for every household to benefit from energy efficiency measures. The Renewable Heat Incentive is also being introduced, Phase 1 later in 2011 and Phase 2 with the Green Deal. Similar to the Feed-in Tariff (FiT), this will provide a rate for every unit of energy produced for sources of energy not covered by the FiT, i.e. solar thermal and biomass.
Recycling is another area where progress is being made. A wider range of recycle bins for homes should mean less waste going to landfill. And moves towards using less packaging and more biodegradable packaging should reduce landfill. Landfill waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, since both methane and carbon dioxide are emitted.
Despite all these positive steps forward, young people wonder why these measures weren’t introduced sooner and, more importantly, whether they are enough.
A major concern is that the UK Government seems to be reversing some of its previous decisions. This has created uncertainty in young people’s minds about how sustainable the Government really wants the UK to be.
It was late implementing a FiT scheme for micro-renewables compared with other countries, such as Germany (1990) and the USA (1978).
In February 2011, only 10 months since its implementation in the UK, the Government began reviewing the tariff rate of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects larger than 50kW in the FiT scheme. The proposed tariffs have now been announced, and the DECC is seeking comment until 6 May 2011. These tariffs pose a threat to community solar projects and industrial units that could’ve benefited from the scheme, but now won’t find it as financially viable. Surely, a possible solution is to link the FiT to site consumption. Such an approach could prevent the growth of solar farms relying on government largesse for their profits. In last October’s Spending Review, the Government also changed its stance on the Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme. It announced it wouldn’t return the capital large energy-gobbling companies put into the scheme to the leading achievers, thus removing some of their incentive to become carbon neutral.
From a young person’s perspective, financial incentives appear the best way to encourage companies and people to change behaviour. Although they can be costly, drastic measures need to be taken if only 40 years from now, in 2050, we want to demonstrate our commitment to sustainable living and our determination to better the lives of future generations.
A catalyst incentive may be required to help bring about changes in environmental behaviour. Once the capital cost reduces sufficiently or the savings become self-sustaining, it can be withdrawn. Another approach could be to increase taxes on inappropriate behaviour or products that harm the environment. However, it would take a brave government to introduce such measures owing to the potential loss of votes. A change in people’s consciousness with respect to sustainability is certainly needed, but it is clearly no easy task.
The young person’s view is that the Government is sending out mixed messages. It claims to be committed to reducing carbon emissions, but its actions raise questions about its real intentions. Resources need to be invested in now, so that 2050’s 80 percent reduction can be achieved. On current form it does appear that time is slipping by and that the UK is too slow in changing its habits to meet the targets enshrined in law.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
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
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.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
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 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.