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Zoe Palmer, the Golden Co: balancing nature with sustainability



Shortlisted at the recent 2013 Observer Ethical Awards, Zoe Palmer is a role model for young people who want to engage with sustainability, wildlife and entrepreneurship. Founder of the social enterprise, the Golden Co, Palmer spoke with Emma Websdale to discuss the importance of balancing business with nature.

Providing a platform to allow young minds between the ages of 16-21 to develop crucial skills for employment and offer them a chance to engage with nature, the Golden Co is a social enterprise with a difference.

“We train young people to look after bees and to produce natural products from their hives”, says founder Zoe Palmer.

We offer them the opportunity to go and work along the rooftops of corporate client’s in London, looking after the bees and sharing their knowledge with employees from the different organisations.”

“We then sell our products on a market stall in the local community. This ensures that the young people are involved in all aspects of the lifecycle of the products from growing, producing and selling products made from wax.”  

The Golden Co’s projects are all about connecting young minds with wildlife. Palmer describes why she feels this works so effectively: “I think young people are very connected to the area they are living in, so they already have a strong identity with the land in some sense, but what a lot of them are missing is a connection with nature.

“When we have given them the opportunity to connect with nature in a safe environment, it’s allowed them to relax and step into a place that is different and without some of the difficulties they have to face when they are in their own normal environment.

“At the same time it’s just on their doorstep, so it’s like stepping into a different arena and I think this allows a better connection with themselves and one another.”

A recent poll revealed that almost 75% of young people aged 11-16 are worried about the consequences of global warming. Palmer, too, has witnessed this level of awareness and environmental stewardship among the younger generation.

“Younger children have a great citizenship”, she says.

 In many ways they are better versed then a lot of us are because they are growing up in a time where there is more consciousness of the environment.

 “However, although they are educated about environmental issues to some extent, they lack the experience within a wild, natural environmental and so it’s hard for them to connect to the impacts that will arise from future issues.”

With recent debate over the topic of climate change being removed from the latest draft guidelines of the national curriculum for children in key stages 1-3, Palmer explains some of the likely consequences involved with failing to engage younger people with environmental issues.

“There is a book out at the moment called The Nature Principle – and we’ve been inspired by that. It’s about the nature deficient disorder – how our lives are becoming increasingly disconnected to the natural world”, she says.

 I think young people today live in a very technological connected world; making them become increasingly disconnected from nature.

 “It’s been scientifically proven that this disconnection can have a physiological impact on their health, well-being and happiness.

 “On a broader level, environmental issues are facing us, and if younger people don’t feel encouraged or know how to tackle these, it will cause them a lot of stress and trouble in the future.”

 During 2012, the Golden Co received funding from the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund, which the it used to co-ordinate an entrepreneurship programme.

Palmer explains,“This programme is used to provide young people with credited and practical training in the development, marketing and selling of products.

“Last year, three teams of young people developed their own lip balm, all based on the sustainable values of our company.

“In their last session, they sell their products. They learn about the lifecycle of a product in six weeks and then at the end they receive a certificate that contributes towards UCAS points.

“During the last session, we also have a Dragons’ Den type session, where we have experts from the field’s enterprise. A member from the Fairtrade Foundation was a judge of the winning products last year.”

A recent report commissioned by Friends of the Earth revealed that many of Britain’s wild bees are in serious decline, and Palmer explains why bees play a leading role within the Golden Co: “Bees represent the agility and power of nature.

 We lost many hives this year because of the bad weather. Bees are vulnerable to starvation over the winter and this demonstrates to young people how nature is effected by climate change. I feel this is something that we should all recognize.

“We also get to witness the way nature adapts to climate change, which is also very inspiring. There is also the broader issue that bees in the UK and around the world are facing population declines and colony collapses.

“Bees also offer us a way to connect with other people. For example, around the beehive you have to work as a team, you have to connect together; otherwise, if you are stressing and battling with others you are going to get stung.

“Overall bees work as a tool to promote connection, whilst acting as a metaphor for the fragility and wildness of nature.”

Palmer was recently shortlisted for the unsung local hero award at the 2013 Observer Ethical Awards. She was put forward by one of the young people she worked with.

“A combination of things [inspires me]”, says Palmer

I find working with young people inspiring because they have a sense of resilience and creativity that I want to bring out of them. Nature is also my inspiration – to create products whilst working in harmony with it.”

To find out more about the Golden Co, its projects and products, you can visit its website.

Further reading:

 EU ban on bee-harmful pesticides to begin in December

British bees on the brink of extinction

Loss of $200bn pollinating services will be harmful, scientists warn

Shortlist revealed for 2013 Observer Ethical Awards

BBC urged to promote flourishing social business sector in The Apprentice


How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool



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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4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018




green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By

Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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