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First stage of world-class project to help combat climate change complete: Wallasea Island Wild Coast project

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The UK Government and the European Commission will officially open Jubilee Marsh today, marking the completion of the first phase of the RSPB’s Wallasea Island Wild Coast project – a world-class initiative in Essex in which conservation and business sectors have united to help wildlife and local communities adapt to continuing climate change.

With climate change predicted to have an increasingly severe impact on wildlife and people, Defra Environment Minister, Rory Stewart, and European Environment Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, will visit Wallasea Island to see how a unique partnership between the RSPB and Crossrail is creating a landscape helping to roll with the punches of climate change. It is hoped this project will inspire similar initiatives between business and conservation elsewhere in the UK and the European Union.

Over three million tonnes of material excavated from London as part of the Crossrail project was shipped to Wallasea to create Jubilee Marsh, named in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which was held when work on the marsh began in 2012. A five-tonne, seven-metre tall cutter arm from Tunnel Boring Machine Victoria, one of eight machines that created 42km of new tunnels under the capital will be unveiled as a permanent monument to this innovative partnership.

The Wallasea Island Wild Cost Project will safeguard local wildlife and communities from rising sea levels, including providing a habitat for the arrival of species from further south in Europe, such as the black-winged stilt, expected to colonise southern England as the climate continues to change. Additionally, the Kentish plover, a wading bird which became extinct as a nesting bird in the UK, could possibly return with the conditions being created at Wallasea. The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project is a long-term project and will require a further seven million tonnes of soil to complete.

The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project, north of Southend, is helping to tackle several climate change impacts, including creating conditions for colonising species, replacing habitat lost to rising sea levels and reducing flood risk to local communities. The project is also moving forward the science of landscape engineering by creating inter-tidal habitats on the largest scale seen so far in Europe.

Environment Minister Rory Stewart said: “The Wallasea Island project is a fantastic example of how creative thinking can bring development and environmental protection together, delivering win-win solutions for both. This kind of sustainable growth allows us to protect our natural environment while putting in place the infrastructure our country needs to grow.

“The Essex estuaries are one of our most beautiful natural assets and thanks to the vision and hard work of RSPB and Crossrail, the area will continue to flourish and support our diverse wildlife for decades to come.”

Karmenu Vella said: “The innovative project involving the RSPB and Crossrail shows the value of applying new environmentally-sound techniques.  It applies a circular economy approach to build an extraordinary natural resource and add to Europe’s growing ‘Natura 2000’ network of protected areas.”

Mike Clarke is the RSPB’s Chief Executive. He said: “We need to care for our coasts as they are vital for people and wildlife. Preparing our low-lying coasts for rising sea levels is a major challenge for society.

“The scale of this challenge requires bold and inventive solutions.  This partnership has proven that it’s possible to create the conditions for developing a world-class economy alongside a world-class environment.  We hope that this way of working together will become a model for similar initiatives to recreate threatened habitats and protect threatened species elsewhere in the UK and across Europe.”

Crossrail’s Chief Executive, Andrew Wolstenholme, said: “Crossrail has helped deliver one of Europe’s most significant conservation projects on Wallasea Island. This trailblazing partnership with the RSPB is a key part of Crossrail’s sustainability strategy and demonstrates the benefits that can be achieved when the construction industry and environment groups work together.”

The RSPB’s vision has redrawn the map of south Essex. Originally farmland lying below sea level, Wallasea Island was increasingly difficult to defend from rising sea levels. Using over three million tonnes of unwanted soil from tunnels of the Crossrail project, in just three years, the level of the land has been raised and the sea defences breached to create a mosaic of inter-tidal habitats, reducing flood risk and recreating wildlife habitats that are continually under threat for the benefit of species like brent goose, dunlin and avocet.

A lagoon with a specifically designed island has been created which it is hoped will provide a major UK nesting site for the spoonbill – a relative of herons and ibises. While it’s anticipated that other lagoon areas will become nesting sites for black-winged stilts, a long-legged wading bird yet to establish itself properly in the UK, and for the Kentish plover. All three species are priorities for conservation across the European Union as they are listed on Annex 1 of the European Union Birds Directive.

Chris Tyas, Wallasea Island Project Manager, said: “Black-winged stilts are increasingly spending time in Britain from further south in Europe. In the last two years, the bird has nested in Britain, but it hasn’t established itself yet. However, we hope Wallasea Island will provide the bridgehead this bird needs extends its range on our side of the English Channel in the face of continuing climate change.”

The island is open to the public, who can now see Jubilee Marsh flooded, following a controlled breach of the sea wall on 11 July 2015.

In addition to Crossrail, the RSPB is delivering the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project alongside organisations including the Environment Agency, Defra and Natural England.

Environment

Environmentally Sustainable Furniture for Dummies

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eco-friendly sustainable furniture choices
Shutterstock / By Rawpixel.com | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/rawpixel

We probably don’t think a great deal about our furniture choices. I know that I tend to just buy whatever looks pretty, seems functional and fits my budget. That usually means a trip to a few showrooms and big warehouse stores, like Ikea.

But we have a responsibility to the planet. We can do better. There are three major ways that our furniture can help the environment:

  1. Purchase used and/or recycled furniture and extends the lifecycle of precious materials.
  2. Source furniture that is free of environmentally unsustainable products.
  3. Choose furniture that doesn’t require electricity – opting for manual transitioning.

By investing in environmentally sustainable, high-qualify furniture, you’ll be able to pass down items from generation to generation. This will save your heirs on the cost of furnishing their own home, and help to protect the environment from wasteful fad furniture that only lasts a season or two.

Natural and Recycled Furniture Materials

If you absolutely love the look of wood furniture, search for environmentally sustainable products. For example, locally sourced wood or bamboo can easily be replenished without requiring excessive international harvesting of precious woods that harm the environment.

Sustainable wood products are only sourced from companies and locations that have the ability to quickly replace harvested wood – providing a responsible resource for generations of manufacturers and consumers.

Recycled furniture can either be a gently used item from someone else’s home, or a new piece of furniture that’s been used from reclaimed sources. You’ve probably seen examples of this at your local park – cities are increasingly using recycled materials to create benches and picnic tables.

But recycled materials don’t have to feel rough or rustic. Items made from recycled wood are readily available for order online or in-store. And believe it or not, electronic waste can be reclaimed and crafted into beautiful pieces of modern furniture.

The only limitation on recycled furniture design is the imagination of the creator. If you want to do it yourself, check out this DIY recycled furniture pinterest board!

Avoid Harsh Chemicals that Harm the Environment

Did you know that many cushions are made of highly-flammable polyurethane? Furniture manufacturers help keep our butts out of the hot seat by treating the materials in cushions with fire-retardant toxins. Unfortunately this padding breaks down overtime and the dust is both toxic to humans and the environment.

There are multiple lines of eco-friendly furniture that avoid the use of flammable polyurethane – often substituting with organic cotton. Just understand that you’re going to be in for a bit of sticker shock – eco-friendly furniture, when purchased new from major brands, gets pricey.

If you can’t afford the pricetag, I recommend finding used furniture from the same product line. There are a ton of websites dedicated to helping eco-friendly consumers find used organic, responsibly sourced products – and that includes furniture.

You’ll also want to stay away from faux leather. Furniture made from pleather and other leather substitutes are heavily treated with chemicals. That’s never a win.

Hypo-allergenic stuffing, combine with traditional leather might be a decent compromise if you have to have the leather look to tie a room together. But be conscious of the fact that tanning is not an environmentally friendly process, so try to limit these materials in your design.

In conclusion, it’s up to you how crazy you want to go. I think that as long as you stay with used furniture, you’re on the right track – even if it isn’t environmentally perfect, it’s at least a sunk cost for the environment – the damage has been done and you’re extending its useful life. But I think the most important takeaway here is buy quality items that you can pass down to your next generation – if that means spending more on higher quality new items that are sustainably sourced, so be it.

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Environment

Livery Services: Mother Nature Needs You to Invest in an Eco-Friendly Fleet

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green fleets
Shutterstock Photos - By tostphoto | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/tostphoto

In the United Kingdom, fleet vehicles make up most of the traffic traveling our roadways. If there’s one area of the transportation sector environmentalists should be focusing on, it’s the way we move goods, services and people around the empire.

Businesses that operate a fleet of vehicles need to realize the environmental impact of their service, and the opportunities available to help them lower their operating costs, while saving mother nature.

A green fleet is much cheaper to operate – both because of lower petrol consumption and government grants and tax benefits.

Let’s take a closer look at the things your company is unnecessarily spending money on every year due to an old, dirty fleet of polluters.

Vehicle Taxes on Polluters vs. Environmentally Friendly Fleets

If you want to operate your commercial van on public roads, you’re going to have to pay a VED, or Vehicle Excise Duty. The total fee assessed for this is based on the age of your vehicle, not how much you drive it. This is important, because an idle fleet of polluters can be just as costly as a fleet of green vehicles that produce value for your company.

Vans that were built after 1 March 2001 were taxed either £132 every six months, or £240 annually. This rate is effective per the TC39 VED tax code. There are exceptions to this rate.

For example, if your van is classified as a Euro 4 van, and was manufactured between 1 March 2003 and 31 December 2006, TC36 VED tax code applies to you. The six-month rate is £77, or £140 annually.

For older vans, manufactured prior to 1 March 2001, your tax rate is based on the size of the engine. Vans with engines less than 1549cc are charged £82.50 every six months, or £150 annually. Old vans with larger engines must pay £134.75 every six months, or £245 annually.

Euro 4 vans are the cheapest to operate from a tax perspective. Why? Because they were fitted with specialized filters that help to reduce the amount of dangerous pollutants that make it into earth’s atmosphere. You enjoy the tax savings year-after-year by operating these vehicles.

It really is economically more affordable to operate a green fleet.

Petrol Costs – Another Reason to Think Green to Save Green

The cost of petrol is heavily impacted by our environment. When Britain is thrashed by stormy weather due to global warming, or oil production is impacted by environmental disasters, the cost of filling up skyrockets.

At the time of this writing, petrol is £1.16 per liter, and diesel is £1.18 per liter. There are forecasts from reliable agencies that see the price continuing to rise in the near future, passing price points not seen since 2014.

Regardless of the speculative nature of future fuel prices, the fact remains that vehicles that use less fuel save their operators money every time the wheels turn.

As an alternative, many companies are heavily investigating and testing all-electric and hybrid alternatives for a greener, more economical fleet. As an example, the Nissan Leaf is one of the most popular all-electric vehicles – and it’s a fantastic choice for transporting people or smaller cargo payloads to residential destinations.  The total cost to charge a Nissan Leaf, using current electrical vehicle charging technology, is just £3.64 to go from empty to full charge.

That’s a HUGE savings over filling a petrol tank. And with the prevalence of fast-charge locations, it’s possible to go from zero to empty in just 30 minutes.

In conclusion, there are many ways to save on fleet operation costs. And by investing in a more efficient fleet, you’ll be doing your part to save the environment. Both tax incentives and lower operating costs make green fleets a no-brainier for serious fleet operators throughout the United Kingdom.

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