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Government rejects MPs’ greener vision for HS2 rail project

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The government has rejected calls from MPs to better protect the environment during the construction of the controversial HS2 rail project.

In April, the environmental audit committee urged the government to provide greater “environmental compensation” for sites of natural value and areas of ancient woodland destroyed by the line.

They said that the government’s aim to settle for the £42 billion project incurring no overall biodiversity loss is not ambitious enough, and asked for some of its considerable budget to be used to ensure the project improves England’s environment overall.

However, in a response published on Wednesday, the government said its current level of ambition is “appropriate”, because “the objective of seeking no net loss to biodiversity is very challenging for a major infrastructure project”. 

The response also rejects the recommendation to lower the maximum speed of trains on the route – in order to lower carbon emissions – and refuses to ring-fence its budget for environmental measures.

Although 40% of the planned route has not been surveyed, the government also insists that it has established “an appropriate baseline” to support its environmental assessments.

The chair of the environmental audit committee, Labour MP Joan Walley, called the response “disappointing”.

“Opinion is divided on the merits or otherwise of HS2. But everyone should be united in wanting the environmental impacts of the railway to be avoided or minimised as much as possible,” she said.

“[It] is a wasted opportunity. If ancient woodlands and other critical habitats will be lost, they should at least be much more fully compensated for than currently planned by the government’s off-setting system.”

Anti-HS2 protestors have also criticised the government, calling its approach “cavalier”.

Joe Rukin, campaign manager at Stop HS2, said, “Yet again, we have had proper scrutiny of HS2 from a group of independent MPs, who have taken their time, examined the evidence and come up with well-thought out recommendations, and yet again they government have stuck their fingers in their ears and ignored every word.” 

The much-criticised project, which will go ahead after a vote in the House of Commons in April, will run from London to Birmingham by 2026 and to Manchester and Leeds by 2033. Construction is now expected to begin in 2017. 

Much concern has already been expressed about the impact on England’s environment. Campaigners have complained that the official environmental impact assessment of the project demonstrates a shocking disregard for England’s wildlife.

Offering a similar vision to that of the environmental audit committee, the Wildlife Trusts have urged the government to use HS2 to restore communities and countryside across the UK. 

The Trusts say that for less than 1% of the project’s budget, developers could maintain a 1km strip of “wildlife-rich landscape” on either side of the line.

This would have both social and economic benefits, such as reduced flood risk and more resilient towns and countryside, the organisation says.

Further reading:

HS2 vote: project to go ahead despite Tory revolt

Wildlife Trusts sets out ‘greener vision’ for HS2

HS2: Church of England concerned over destruction of burial grounds

MPs voice concerns about environmental cost of HS2

Half of Britons oppose HS2, poll finds

 

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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