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Why sustainability is unlikely to be a winner at the Brazil World Cup

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With the 2014 World Cup kicking off next week, all eyes are on the delicate socio-political situation in Brazil, where the enormous expenditure set aside for the event has sparked outrage among citizens, many of whom lack access to basic health and education services.

In the lead-up to the tournament, Football’s governing body Fifa outlined a sustainability strategy to explain how it will try to minimise its impact on the environment. The strategy is based on eight principles: accountability, ethics and anti-corruption, transparency, respect for stakeholders’ interests, respect for the rule of the law, collaboration, long-term approach and leverage.

The World Cup’s sustainability programme, Football for the Planet, would be the chance to promote green measures such as green buildings, waste management and sustainable community development, Fifa said, which would benefit Brazil even after the event. Meanwhile two stadiums – Arena Pernambuco in São Lourenço da Mata and the Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro – will be powered by solar energy.

Fifa’s head of corporate social responsibility Federico Addiechi said last month, “Sustainability is one of the key tenants in our vision for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. After bringing solar power to 20 Football for Hope Centres in Africa, we are delighted that our collaboration with [Chinese solar firm] Yingli is continuing and is now bringing solar PV systems to football stadiums in Brazil. We hope this landmark project will be the catalyst to increase the production and use of renewable energy in the country”.

Despite all the good intentions, both Fifa and the Brazilian government have faced criticism in relation to the World Cup – particularly because of the tournament’s implications on the country’s poorest citizens. Brazil is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, but is still facing many challenges related to inequality and corruption.

Perhaps the most controversial measure of the World Cup’s planning was the decision to evict more than 1 million people from disadvantaged favelas, in order to allow for the building of infrastructure. Some of those affected recently took part in the second annual La Copa Popular, or the People’s Cup – an alternative to the main event that kicks off next week.

Also controversial are the large sums the government has loaned from state banks, which experts say will affect citizens, considering that Rio de Janeiro is also hosting the Olympic Games in two years’ time. The government has already spent more than £9 billion on the World Cup and some locations, such as the stadium in Manaus, in the Amazon region, are unlikely to be of any use in the future – despite the great costs involved.

Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff defended the work of the government, insisting that those who took to the streets in protest, clashing with police, were a small minority. However, a recent survey by the Pew Research Centre found that general dissatisfaction in Brazil for the event is felt by 72% of residents – more of a large majority.

Meanwhile, graffiti has appeared in major cities across the country, attacking Fifa and showing starved children eating footballs and looking at the World Cup.

Echoing the build-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the Brazil World Cup has generated much debate on a series of social and environmental issues. Its decision to use solar power at certain stadiums is positive, but doesn’t go far enough to undo the social upheaval caused by their development.

And with Fifa already facing criticism over forced labour and bribery in relation to the 2022 tournament in Qatar, the wait continues for a major sporting event to take place without some sort of controversy.

Further reading:

Fifa urged to help protect endangered armadillo that inspired World Cup mascot

Amazon tribe challenges England World Cup squad to football game

Gazprom and Fifa lead the way for Public Eye award on wrongdoings

National Grid warms up for World Cup energy demand surge

Toxic chemicals found in World Cup merchandise

Environment

How Home Automation Can Help You Go Green

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home automation to go green

The holidays are an exciting, nostalgic time: the crispness in the air, the crunch of snow under your boot, the display of ornate holiday lighting up your home like a beacon to outer space, and the sound of Santa’s bell at your local Walmart.

Oh, yeah—and your enormous electric bill.

Extra lights and heating can make for some unexpected budgeting problems, and they also cause your home to emit higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants.

So, it’s not just your wallet that’s hurting—the planet is hurting as well.

You can take the usual steps to save energy and be more eco-conscious as you go about your normal winter routine (e.g., keeping cooler temperatures in the home, keeping lights off in naturally lit rooms, etc.), but these methods can often be exhausting and ultimately ineffective.

So what can you actually do to create a greener home?

Turn to tech.

Technology is making waves in conservation efforts. AI and home automation have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, not only because of their cost saving benefits but also because of their ability to improve a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Use the following guide to identify your home’s inefficiencies and find a solution to your energy woes.

Monitor Your Energy Usage

Many people don’t understand how their homes use energy, so they struggle with conservation. Start by looking at your monthly utility bills. They can show you how much energy your home typically uses and what systems cost you the most.

monitor energy usage

Licensed from Shutterstock – By Piotr Adamowicz

The usual culprits for high costs and energy waste tend to be the water heater and heating and cooling system. Other factors could also impact your home’s efficiency. Your home’s insulation, for example, could be a huge source of wasted heating and cooling—especially if the insulation hasn’t been inspected or replaced in years. You should also check your windows and doors for proper weatherproofing every year.

However, waiting for your monthly bill or checking out your home’s construction issues are time-consuming steps, and they don’t help you immediately understand and tackle the problem. Instead, opt for an easier solution. Some homeowners, for example, use a smart energy monitor such as Sense to track energy use in real time and identify energy hogs.

Use Smart Plugs

Computers, televisions, and lights still consume energy if they’re left on and unused. Computers offer easy cost savings with their built-in timers that allow the devices to use less energy—they typically turn off after a set number of minutes. Televisions sometimes provide the same benefit, although you may have to fiddle with the settings to activate this feature.

A better option—and one that thwarts both the television and the lights—is purchasing smart plugs. The average US home uses more than 900 kilowatts of electricity per month. That can really add up, especially when you realize that people are wasting more than $19 billion every year on household appliances that are always plugged in. Smart plugs like WeMo can help eliminate wasted electricity by letting you control plugged-in items from your smartphone.

Update Your Lighting

Incandescent lightbulbs can consume and waste a lot of energy—35% of CO2 emissions are generated from electric power plants. This can have serious consequences for increased global warming.

To reduce your impact on the environment, you can install more efficient lightbulbs to offset your energy usage. However, many homeowners choose smart lights, like the Philips Hue bulbs, to save money and make their homes more energy efficient.

Smart lights can be controlled from your smartphone, and many smart light options come with monthly energy reporting so you can continue to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take Control of the Thermostat

Homeowners often leave the thermostat on its default settings, but defaults often result in heating and cooling systems that run longer and harder than they need to.

In fact, almost half the average residential energy use comes from energy-demanding heating and cooling systems. As an alternative to fiddling with outdated systems, eco-conscious homeowners use smart thermostats to save at least 10% on heating and roughly 15% on cooling per year.

Change your home’s story by employing a smart thermostat such as the Nest, ecobee3, or Honeywell Lyric. Smart thermostats automatically adjust your in-home temperature by accounting for a variety of factors, including outdoor humidity and precipitation. A lot of smart thermostats will also adjust your home’s temperature depending on the time of day and whether you’re home.

Stop Wasting Water

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day. About one-third of that goes to maintaining their yards. Using a smart irrigation systems to improve your water usage can save your home up to 8,800 gallons of water per year.

Smart irrigation systems use AI to sync with local weather predictions, which can be really helpful if you have a garden or fruit trees that you use your irrigation system for  water. Smart features help keep your garden and landscaping healthy by making sure you never overwater your plants or deprive them of adequate moisture.

If you’re looking to make your home greener, AI-enabled products could make the transition much easier. Has a favorite tool you use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below.

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Environment

Working From Home And How It Reduces Emissions

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Many businesses are changing their operating model to allow their employees to work from home. Aside from the personal convenience and business benefits, working from home is also great for the environment. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, if employees with the desire to work from home and compatible jobs that allowed for this were allowed to do so only half the time, the reduction in emissions would be the equivalent of eliminating automobile emissions from the workforce of the entire state of New York. Considering the stakes here, it is vital that we understand how exactly working from home helps us go green and how this can be applied.

Reduction of automobile emissions

Statistics by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the transportation sector is responsible for about 14% of the total Global Emissions of greenhouse gases, which is a very significant percentage. If employees work from home, then the need to travel to and from their workplace every other day as well as other business trips are reduced considerably. While this may not eliminate the emissions from the transport sector altogether, it reduces the percentage. As indicated in the example above, a move to work from home by more businesses and industries cuts down automobile emissions to as much as those from an entire state.

Reduction of energy production and consumption

According to Eurostat, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning accounted for as high as 26% of the Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU in 2014. EPA stats are also close at 25% of the total emissions. This makes energy production the single largest source of emissions. Working from home eliminates the need for large office spaces, which in turn reduces the need for electricity and heating. Similarly, the need for electrical office equipment and supplies, such as printers and computers, is also greatly reduced, which reduces the emissions from energy production in offices. Additionally, most households are now adopting green methods of energy production and implementing better ways of energy usage. The use of smart energy-efficient appliances also goes a long way in reducing the energy production and consumption levels from households. This, in turn, cuts down emissions from energy production from both the home and office fronts.

Reduced need for paper

Paper is also a huge source of emissions, considering that it is a carbon-based product. EPA stats show that carbon (IV) oxide from fossil fuel and industrial processes accounts for 65% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Working from home is usually an internet-based operation, which means less paper and more cloud-based services. When everything is communicated electronically, the need for office paper is reduced considerably. Moreover, the cutting down of trees for the sake of paper production reduces. All these outcomes help reduce the emissions and individual carbon footprints.

Effective recycling

While businesses make an effort to recycle it is not as effective as homeowners. Consider everything from the water you drink to office supplies and equipment. While working from home, you have greater control over your environment. This means that you can easily implement proper recycling procedures. However, at the office, that control over your personal space and environment is taken away and the effectiveness of recycling techniques is reduced. Working from home is, therefore, a great way to go green and increase the adoption of proper recycling.

Takeaway

Even though the statistics are in favor of working from home to reduce emissions, note that this is dependent on the reduction of emissions from home. If the households are not green, then the emissions are not reduced in the least. For instance, if instead of installing a VPN in the router to keep the home office safe, an employee buys a standalone server and air gaps it, the energy consumption is not reduced but increased. Therefore, it is necessary that employees working from home go green if there is to be any hope of using this method of operation to cut down on the emissions.

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