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Carrier bag charge from October 5th: reaction from money.co.uk and Friends of the Earth

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The government has introduced a law which will require large shops in England to charge 5p for all single-use plastic carrier bags from 5 October 2015. They anticipate that the charge will reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags, and the litter they can cause, by encouraging people to reuse bags.

Large businesses will need to charge for single-use plastic carrier bags. This applies to retailers who have 250 or more employees. Smaller businesses can also charge on a voluntary basis if they wish. Whether or not a shop must charge for bags depends on the size of the company that runs the shop, not on the size of an individual branch. Ministers were accused of a tax grab after it emerged VAT will apply to sales of bags.  This means the Treasury will pocket almost 1p for each one sold and estimates show it stands to make around £19million a year.

With UK consumers set to be hit with a 5p charge for carrier bags from Monday the 5th of October, new research from financial comparison website money.co.uk reveals that for those who forgot to ‘bring their own’ could together be hit with a bill of almost £100 million for carrier bags between now and Christmas alone. The 5p charge might sound negligible but based on average carrier bag usage, shoppers could find themselves paying for 166 bags in one year, a total bill of £8.32 each.

Hannah Maundrell, Editor in Chief of money.co.uk comments: “Saying farewell to free carrier bags may sound like a simple change for the good of the environment but when you look beneath the surface the new ruling is a minefield for shoppers and checkout staff alike. The intricacies that dictate when shoppers should and shouldn’t be charged for a bag are overly complicated so I wouldn’t rule out checkout chaos next Monday.

“The 5p charge is there as a deterrent, and it will add upwards of £8 to shopping bills over the course of a year, but this is really about cutting the number of plastic bags we use. I’m sure everyone will get used to the charges pretty quickly but I just hope people remember to ‘pack their bags’ before they head to the shops.”

Speaking ahead of its introduction, Friends of the Earth’s Senior Resources Campaigner, David Powell, said:
“Charging for plastic bags has made a massive difference in the rest of the UK, so it’s about time England caught up. The English charge is a good start, but it makes no sense that it only applies to big retailers.  Shoppers will get mixed messages depending on where they shop. This could defeat the main point of the charge in the first place – to change the way people and stores think about over-using plastic bags.

“In Wales 90% of businesses large and small have said their 5p charge hasn’t had an impact on trade, and three quarters of the Welsh population think the charge has been a good thing all round. Reducing plastic bag use is a visible and important measure, but it’s hardly job done.  From the oceans of pointless plastic wrapping our food and consumer goods, to flat-lining household recycling rates, England has a very long way to go if it’s serious about keeping waste out of our land, rivers and seas.”

 

Environment

Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations

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green housing techniques

Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?

The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.

New Construction Options

One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.

In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.

The Simple Retrofit

From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?

Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.

Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.

Big Innovations

Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.

In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.

Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.

It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.

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Environment

How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions

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auto industry to clean air pollution

Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Public Health Crisis

It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.

Used Cars

Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.

Public Perception

With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.

Progress

The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.

With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.

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