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Sustainability: how far have we come?

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Since 2011 what changes have taken place in the realm of sustainability and politics? The ‘Greenest Government’ supposedly stepped into Downing Street, and as a young professional in the industry, it was looking very positive, writes Hayley Williams.

The overarching emissions reduction target has been to achieve an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 (from 1990 levels), so the question is, are we any closer four years down the line? In 2014 the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) reported a 25% reduction on 1990 levels, which showed promise. This report to Parliament also confirmed that the first carbon budget was met, mainly due to the recession and the implementation of policies. However, the CCC suggested that to continue in this vein, policies needed to be strengthened to ensure significant carbon reductions.

As a young professional developing in the industry there have been some policy and regulation changes, which may question the Government’s commitment to the legally binding targets.

The Green Deal scheme was launched at the beginning of 2013 with the aim to improve the energy efficiency of the existing building stock; however there was very little take up of the scheme. With particularly high interest rates it was seen as a costly way to improve a building’s energy performance. After 18 months the scheme was revived, making it much more appealing. This has now resulted in oversubscription, and it is closed for applications. To be successful and sustainable, a scheme needs credibility and stability, which does not appear the case for the current scheme.

Building regulations have been revised, specifically Part L in relation to conservation of fuel and power. The most recent edition (2013) of the Approved Document came into effect in April 2014. These revised regulations require domestic buildings to be 6%, and non-domestic 9%, more efficient than the previous regulations. This could be argued as not being enough to drive the sustainability agenda forward and to meet the legally binding targets.

Hand in hand with this, the Government’s Housing Standards Review in 2013-2014 resulted in the “winding down” of the Code for Sustainable Homes scheme. This scheme provided a straightforward route to developing zero carbon homes. The scheme used a star system (1 to 6) to rate new homes, with level 6 being zero carbon.

Zero carbon homes are still due to be delivered in 2016. One of the main components of this being Allowable Solutions. This allows developments that cannot cost effectively off set their carbon emissions on site, to invest in local projects. It is imperative that this mechanism is monitored effectively, and the cost of carbon is set to a level to encourage the best design of homes on site. Otherwise the scheme will not function as intended.

Ideally homes developed should be zero carbon without Allowable Solutions. Building homes that cannot be self-sufficient could be more problematic in the future, and further retrofitting may be required to reduce carbon emissions to nil. Potentially leaving more challenges for the next generation.

The Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) scheme has also proven controversial. Changes made by the Government late in 2011 resulted in uproar from the industry and customers. The Government was taken to court, and subsequently lost. They appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court rejected the appeal. The reduction in the FIT was not opposed to; it was the way the Government went about enforcing the changes. This understandably seemed to reduce the public’s trust in the Government. It also questioned the lack of support from the Government for renewable technology installations, and consequently carbon emissions and the environment.

Over the last 4 years, there have been positive steps towards implementing policy that should reduce the countries carbon emissions. However, the negativity puts doubt in the minds of the general public. In 2011 George Osborne stated that green policies are a “burden” and “ridiculous cost to British Businesses”. These type of comments are negative and do not assist in pushing the sustainability agenda forward. It also consolidates the non-believing population’s opinions of climate change and sustainability.

Most recently UK party leaders have pledged to tackle climate change after the next election. They have agreed to work towards a legally-binding global climate deal to agree new UK emissions-cutting goals. But what does this actually mean? Surely the current Government should have had the issue of climate change high on the agenda already. As a young professional, I do question whether this is a hollow pledge.

Hayley is a sustainability professional with a Masters in Climate Change and Sustainable Development. Having worked in the industry since 2010 she has a passion for, and understanding of, the current issues around sustainability.

Photo: shining.darkness via Flickr

Further reading:

Cameron, Clegg and Miliband sign joint climate change agreement

General election 2015: a stark choice for voters in five weeks

Sustainability could hold the key to 2015 general election result

‘Greenest government ever’ has failed the environment, NGOs say

Budget 2015: Not the greenest government ever

Environment

How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018

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eco-responsible
Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/kengmerrymikeymelody

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly

eco-friendly

Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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Environment

5 Tips for Making Your Bakery Greener

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green bakery
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Noppadon stocker | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/noppadon

Bakeries are staple businesses in small towns and urban areas alike. Much like diners and cafes, bakeries are the heartbeat of American society. It’s where people drink their morning coffee and grab a slice of pie after a dinner. But from the perspective of sustainability, what are they doing to stay green?

5 Ways to Make Your Bakery a Little Greener

You might think “green” and “bakery” don’t belong in the same sentence unless St. Patrick’s Day is around the corner, but things are changing and there’s actually a huge market for bakeries that use green products and practices. From New York City to Los Angeles and every small town and big city in between, there are bakeries embracing the green movement. Could yours be the next?

As you look to redefine your bakery, here are some green tips you might find helpful:

1. Work With Green Suppliers

Being green isn’t just about making sure the practices inside of your bakery are sustainable and energy efficient. You also need to be sure you’re working with other green companies in your supply chain. Otherwise, you’re not really having much of an impact.

While it used to be a challenge when Rubin first started out, today it’s fairly easy to locate green suppliers. Do some research and reevaluate your current partnerships if they appear to be inefficient.

2. Reduce Packaging Waste

If most of your bakery goods are sold to-go, you probably go through a lot of packaging. One of your primary focuses should be on reducing packaging waste and using more sustainable materials.

“Many of our clients own bakeries and we’ve seen them experience a major shift over the past few years,” Plastic Container City explains. “Whereas they used to be pretty frivolous with how they packaged and served food, they’re now thinking really strategically about how they can curb waste and embrace sustainability. It’s great to see.”

3. Curb Food Waste

Food waste is a big issue in any food-related business. Try to be really cognizant of your biggest causes of food waste and look for solutions that allow you to maximize ingredients and resources. This may look like making bigger batches, moving to smaller batches, donating food to local kitchens, or getting into food composting.

4. Conserve Water

The average bakery uses a lot of water. From making different food items to cleaning pots and dishes, water is always running. One practical step you can take is to use more water-efficient practices in the kitchen. Observe how things are currently being done and look for areas where you can improve – such as with washing dishes.

5. Use More Efficient Appliances

Finally, if you’re willing and able to make an upfront investment, swapping out old appliances with newer energy efficient models can make a big difference in your bakery’s total energy consumption. It’ll cost you something on the front end, but you’ll slowly recoup the money and rest easy knowing your carbon footprint is much lower.

Sustainability in the Heartland

Small town bakeries represent the heartland of the country. And if we’re going to get serious about sustainability at a core societal level, it’s imperative that we begin with the fabric that binds America together. By prioritizing eco-friendly decision making in key American businesses, such as bakeries, we can begin to make noticeable progress. Are you prepared to do your part?

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