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Why sustainable investment? Because there is no plan(et) B

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In the book Pale Blue Dot*, Carl Sagan, the astronomer and author, described Earth as “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam“. Earth is vulnerable and tiny, in a vast emptiness. Maybe we should look after it better; after all, it’s the only planet we’ve got.

‘Profit is the whole of the law’, is the prevailing view of many economists and politicians. Couched in cuddlier terms such as ‘wealth creation’, the ruthless, and often reckless, pursuit of profit in unfettered markets is the only engine of economic growth. Let’s throw in another R – rapacious – for good measure.

Such economic theories stem from the Age of Enlightenment (when man conquered God), which followed the Age of Discovery (when man conquered Earth), when the Earth seemed like a really big place with infinite capacity and human ingenuity was limitless. Even in the 1950s as the Chicago School (scholars included Hayek and Friedman) brand of neoliberal theory took it’s grip on modern economics, environmentalism and our scientific understanding of man’s impact on the planet were in their infancy.

Since then, we have learnt that Earth does not have infinite capacity and tolerances. It’s only really in the last five decades that we’ve realised just how small our planet really is.

Resources are running out more rapidly than many think, or would have thought possible a few years ago.

As the infographic in this article shows, many of the materials we take for granted and rely on will be gone in the next few decades. Oil, the fuel of our economy, has a finite life and is becoming more expensive and dangerous to source. And that’s according to liberal, sandal-wearing treehuggers, such as the CIA, Oil & Gas Journal, OPEC and the US Department of Defence.

The air we breathe and land and seas that feed us have become poisoned.

Oil-based plastics and other toxic chemicals have entered the food chain.

One such massive example of this is the great pacific waste patch. This is a floating mass of small plastic particles stretching over 15m square kilometres. For reference, the UK is 244,000 square kilometres and the US 9.8m square kilometres. The particles of plastic are eaten by fish and birds, which we then consume.

Outdoor air pollution from industry, transport and homes is estimated to kill 1.3 million people per year, according to the World Health Organisation. And that’s just the deaths; never mind those whose quality of life suffers. It is estimated that globally 9% of lung cancer deaths, 5’% of cardiopulmonary deaths and 1% of respiratory infection deaths are linked to the fine particulate matter that is air pollution.

Water, energy and food demand is estimated to rise by up to 50% by 2050. Our current economic model, and means of production and distribution, are unstable and unsustainable. Living in the rich world will not insulate us from these future shocks. Powerful nations in the east are becoming richer and some, unshackled by western niceties such as liberal democracy or the rule of law, can throw their weight (and money) around to get what they want. Just as we did in previous centuries.

But it’s not just us.

We have destroyed half of the world’s woodlands and damaged 70% of the remaining area through logging. We have stripped the seas beyond the point where fish stocks can replenish themselves. Do we need to mention declining polar ice caps? All of this destroys habitats for wildlife, creating ever narrower habitable zones.

Regardless of whether you accept the overwhelming, peer-reviewed consensus on climate change. Regardless of whether you accept the overwhelming, peer-reviewed consensus that man made carbon emissions are a primary cause. Regardless of whether you feel renewable energy is a communist urban plot to oppress rural communities with windmills. Regardless of these views, it is impossible to deny that mankind has had a massive impact on our planet, its wildlife and our own health.

Now, you could argue it is our right to use the Earth as we want. Its resources, flora and fauna are simply there for our pleasure or profitable use. Reckless, rapacious, exploitative, irresponsible and unethical profiteering is the name of the game.

Funny isn’t it, that those who stand to gain the most financially from the status quo in business, politics and media are the most vociferous in ignoring and undermining scientists and charities that can see the evidence first hand. Funny that. Funny how ‘science’ that cures people, puts man on the moon and underpins almost all human activity is classified as a hoax when it relates to the climate.

Future generations will condemn this kind of investor, business, media mogul and politician, just as we condemn slave traders today.

Sustainable investment takes the other, more enlightened view.

Sustainable investors understand that we only borrow the planet from future generations. It’s not just a proverb, but a universal truth. They accept that we have a responsibility to all of Earth’s inhabitants, be they animal or vegetable, to leave it in a better state in which we found it. Driving species to extinction is unconscionable. Preferably, we need to leave some minerals still locked away under ground, so future generations can find use for them in less harmful ways.

Sustainable investors understand that there are significant limits to growth and that we can enjoy incredible prosperity without growth.

When reflecting on the pale blue dot photograph Sagan reflected, “To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

We couldn’t, we wouldn’t even try, to put it better ourselves.

The penultimate words are Sagan’s, “Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”

As we put it, there is no plan(et) B.

* The pale blue dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles) from Earth, as part of the solar system family portrait series of images. In the photograph, Earth is shown as a tiny dot (0.12 pixel in size) against the vastness of space.The Voyager 1 spacecraft, which had completed its primary mission and was leaving the solar system, was commanded by NASA to turn its camera around and to take a photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space, at the request of Carl Sagan.

Further reading:

Why sustainable investment? Because it is the right thing to do

Why sustainable investment? Because it makes sense

‘We need investment that prioritises long-term wellbeing for people and planet’

Are we investing in the future we want for our children and grandchildren?

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

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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