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DECC report suggests continued but controlled fracking

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The fracking industry has received an unwelcome boost after publication of a report that includes measures to control its negative impact.

The independent study, conducted on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), acknowledges that the controversial activity caused two minor earthquakes in Blackpool last year, but highlights a handful of ways to “mitigate the risk” of future tremors.

These include adding a “smaller pre-injection and monitoring stage” to the process, and a “traffic light” system, whereby a red light is given to “activity levels of magnitude of 0.5 or above” – meaning “fracking should be stopped and remedial action taken”.

Interesting to note the use of the term injection given Al Gore’s rather grim yet poetic analogy at a TED Talk back in 2008: “Junkies find veins in their toes when the ones in their arms and their legs collapse. Developing tar sands and coal shale is the equivalent.”

Cuadrilla Resources, a UK-based energy company, admitted in November that it was highly probable that its activities had caused the earthquakes, which measured 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale—an admission that led to protests at one of its gas exploration sites in Merseyside last year.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the action of inserting a solution into shale rock, which causes them to fracture (hence, fracking) and produce energy in the form of gas.

Aside from the fact that it causes earthquakes, it’s claimed that the procedure also contaminates drinking water. And if it doesn’t do this, it certainly consumes a vast amount of the stuff, which at a time of drought in the UK, can’t be a good thing.

DECC’s chief scientific advisor, David MacKay, said, “If shale gas is to be part of the UK’s energy mix we need to have a good understanding of its potential environmental impacts and what can be done to mitigate those impacts.

This comprehensive independent expert review of Cuadrilla’s evidence suggests a set of robust measures to make sure future seismic risks are minimised – not just at this location but at any other potential sites across the UK.”

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme invited one of the report’s authors, Brian Baptie, onto its show yesterday to talk about the issue. He said there was “no evidence of structural damage” from the earthquakes in question, and was firmly in the pro-fracking camp, as long as it was closely monitored.

However, Hannah Kitchen, campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said, “Earth tremors are only one of the problems associated with fracking and there are many more potentially negative impacts on the environment and public health.

Fracking is very energy and water intensive, it involves large amounts of toxic chemicals and there is a significant risk of methane leakage from the bore, which can pollute groundwater sources or escape into the atmosphere as a potent greenhouse gas.

These risks would multiply in any commercial project because of the large number of wells required in one area.”

Kitchen isn’t the only campaigner to have voiced their worry about the extension of the industry.

Elsie Walker, an activist at Frack Off, an anti-fracking campaign group, called the DECC report a dangerous distraction.

She added, “People need to understand that the wave of unconventional gas development that is threatening the British Isles will bring with it far greater consequences than a number of small earthquakes.”

Indeed, the UK’s reliance on gas as a source of energy is a topic that has baffled many. In his budget statement last month, George Osborne highlighted the Government’s strong ties with gas, saying that it is “cheap, has much less carbon than coal and will be the largest single source of our electricity in the coming years”.

A gas leak at a North Sea platform less than a week after Osborne proclaimed this bond with fossil fuels should have given the chancellor pause for thought.

Osborne’s commitment to gas, buttressed by the Government’s apparent intent to continue fracking, means the role of renewable energy in our economy is once again cast into doubt.

Before the Government pins its hopes on shale gas, it should look at all the potential implications, not just whether it can be extracted without causing mini earth tremors”, said Renewable Energy Association chief executive, Gaynor Hartnell.

There is no justification for this to undermine the case for renewables.

Globally, renewables are being deployed at a faster rate than any other energy technologies, and for good reason.

The UK needs to get firmly on the path to a renewable future and not be left behind.

Whilst Nick Clegg sends a strong message on this, the overall impression is that the Government risks getting distracted by other potential options such as nuclear, carbon capture and storage and now shale gas.”

The news that fracking has been given the green light is another blow for what should be a thriving renewables sector.

Our recent in-depth report, The Rise of Renewable Energy, explores the past, present and future of the clean power industry, and singles out renewables as a beautifully-formed, natural solution that should underpin our economy.

A study last year by Cornell University found that the natural gas produced by fracking could actually be dirtier” than coal. At a time when the UK is trying to decrease its carbon emissions, should we really be placing a greater emphasis on an industry that, in essence, we are fighting against?

Also speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Tony Juniper, former director of Friends of the Earth, said the impact of fracking was “comparable to coal, and in some estimations, actually worse”.

Given this, renewable energy once again emerges as the only viable alternative energy option. And because of its positive impact on the environment, it’s imperative that the Government realises the opportunities offered by clean power.

Good Energy – the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier – is on hand to provide individuals with straightforward steps to switch their home to renewable power.

Further reading:

Fracking debate reignited after new protest

Budget statement: what about the environment?

The Rise of Renewable Energy

Environment

5 Eco-friendly Appliance Maintenance Tips

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Eco-friendly Appliance
Shutterstock Photos - By Punyhong | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/punyhong

Modern day society is becoming ever more conscious about the effects of human consumption on the environment & the planet.

As a collective, more people are considering taking action to positively counteract their environmental footprint. This is accomplished by cutting down on water consumption, recycling and switching from plastic to more sustainable materials. Although most people forget about the additional things that can be done at home to improve your individual eco footprint.

Appliances, for example, can be overlooked when it comes to helping the environment, despite the fact they are items which are found in every household, and if they are not maintained effectively they can be detrimental to the environment. The longer an appliance is used, the less of an impact it has on the environment, so it is essential for you to keep them well maintained.

If you’re considering becoming more eco-conscious, here are 5 handy appliance maintenance tips to help you.

Don’t Forget to Disconnect From Power First

General maintenance of all your appliances start with disconnecting them from power; microwaves, washing machines and ovens all use residual energy when plugged in, so it’s essential to unplug them.

Disconnecting the plugs can help keep them in their best condition, as it ensures no electrical current is running through them whilst they are supposed to be out of use. Additionally, this can help you save on energy bills. By doing this you are minimising your energy footprint.

Here we break down 4 tips to keep the most popular household appliances maintained.

Eco-Friendly Oven Maintenance

Ovens generally require very little maintenance, although it is essential to stay on top of cleaning.

A simple task to make sure you don’t have any issues in the future is to check the oven door has a tight seal. To do this ensure the oven is cold, open the oven door and use your hands to locate the rubber seal. You can now feel for any tears or breaks. If any have occurred simply replace the seal. More oven tips can be read here.

Eco-Friendly Refrigerator Maintenance

When keeping a fridge in good condition, don’t forget about exterior maintenance. Refrigerator coils, although an external fixture, can cause damage when overlooked.

Refrigerator coils can be found either at the front or rear of a fridge (check you user manual if you are unsure of its location). These tend to accumulate various sources of dust and dirt over a substantial time-period, which clog refrigerator coils, causing the refrigerator to have to work twice as hard to stay cool. An easy tip to solve this is to periodically use a vacuum to get rid of any loose dirt.

Eco-Friendly Washing Machine Maintenance

Most people tend to remember the basics tasks for maintaining a washing machine, such as not to overload the machine, not to slam the door and to ensure the washing machine is on a solid and level platform.

In addition, it is necessary to routinely do a maintenance wash for your washing machine. This means running an empty wash on the highest temperature setting and letting it complete a full wash to erase any build up and residue. You should repeat this task at least once a month.

Try to schedule this task around your bulk wash load times to save on water consumption.

This will help keep your washing machine in peak working condition.

Eco-Friendly Dishwasher Maintenance Tips

Dishwasher maintenance can be simple if implemented after every wash cycle.

To keep your best dishwasher hygiene standards, scrape away excess food whilst making sure to keep the filter at the bottom of the cavity empty between cycles. This simple task can be highly effective at preventing food build up from occurring in your dishwasher.

If you need additional tips or tasks you, can reference your manufacturer’s guidebook to check for a full breakdown. You can also head to Service Force’s extensive database of repair and maintenance manuals – including extensive troubleshooting guides for all of the critical appliance maintenance procedures.

In conclusion, you can save both money and energy by keeping your appliances in peak condition. The steps outlined in this guide will help us all preserve the environment and reduce industrial waste from discarded appliances.

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Environment

Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living

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Eco-Living
Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.

Mottainai

Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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