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Owen Paterson confirms plans to ‘privatise’ government environmental science agency



The UK environment secretary has defended controversial plans to allow private sector organisations to invest in the government’s Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

Earlier this week, reports broke that Fera, which is responsible for scientific research across a wide range of issues, covering agriculture and the food supply chain, would be opened up for investment.

On Thursday, Owen Paterson, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, confirmed that the agency was now looking for a joint venture partner.

In a statement, he said, “Fera is a leader in its field with an international reputation for protecting plant and bee health and food safety.

“A joint venture will protect and enhance its scientific capabilities in the long term, and free it from public sector constraints. This will give Fera the opportunity to access new markets and grow its non-government business, which it cannot do in its current capacity.” 

However, the announcement has provoked concern that commercial pressures will lead to scientific standards being lowered and jobs being cut.

The agency is currently involved in many crucial areas of research, including investigations into the effects of pesticides on bees, badger vaccination and ash dieback, a chronic fungal disease killing Britain’s ash trees.

Speaking to the Guardian before Paterson’s announcement, Geraldine O’Connell, the national secretary for the union Prospect, which represents Fera scientists, said, “One of our biggest concerns is that science has a long-term responsibility. We don’t know what a joint venture is going to do.

“If you look at ash dieback, for example, what we’ve said is there need to be horizon scanning to five to ten years out. That sort of work could be potentially affected.”

Paterson seems to address these concerns in his statement, saying that the outside investment will help Fera achieve its long-term aims and provide “new opportunities” to its staff.

But speaking after the announcement, shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle said, “The public deserve to know the full detail of how the new private sector partnership would work to make sure the highest scientific standards are maintained.

“Without that detail this looks like a secretive sell-off by a government that has shown once again that it is anti-science.” 

The controversial environment secretary has come in for frequent criticism over an apparent lack of understanding on some environmental issues.

In September, Paterson was mocked for claiming that climate change would benefit the UK. He said that he was “relieved” by the findings of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that warned that potentially devastating temperature increases were likely, unless drastic cuts to global greenhouse gas emissions are made in the next few decades.

In October, he was also criticised for attending only two official briefings on climate change during his tenure

Paterson said that the preferred bidder and the commencement date for the joint venture with Fera will be announced by the end of the year.

Photo: Policy Exchange via Flickr 

Further reading:

Private sector could become involved in government scientific research

Government spending slashed on climate change preparation

Owen Paterson should get with the conservation programme


4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again



reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan |

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!


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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These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money




eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete |

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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