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Cluster bomb manufacturers ostracised by banks

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A number of Britain’s biggest banks and insurance companies are abandoning investments in the cluster bomb manufacturing industry—a welcome but overdue decision.

The quartet—Lloyds Banking Group, Aviva, the Royal Bank of Scotland and The Co-operative—are all implementing measures to cut all ties with a dozen companies that assemble cluster bombs and landmines, and subsequently banishing them from their investment portfolios.

It is very positive news, but the fact that it’s taken this long to decide to dump a sector that accounts for thousands of civilian deaths every year further highlights the overriding emphasis placed on profit. It also highlights that there are a good many other banks and insurers who are still investing in a very unethical space.

Guardian reporter Severin Carrell wrote that the decision came “following intense pressure from human rights campaigners”.

A cluster bomb, as described by this video from The Real News, is a weapon that contains explosive material, and is designed to be dropped from an aircraft or fired from the ground onto a large area.

On occasions, the bombs don’t explode, leaving behind a deadly hidden shell that can cause serious injury or death when disturbed.

The banks and insurers who continue to invest in the industry do so despite Britain signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM)—a global treaty that prohibits all use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster bombs—in August 2010.

Questions must be raised over the UK Government’s commitment to the CCM, given that it has taken 19 months for the quartet of more scrupulous institutions to duck out of investing in the industry.

“Cluster bombs are horrific weapons that have a devastating and long-lasting impact on communities where they have been used”, Laura Cheeseman, director of the Cluster Munition Coalition said. 

“All countries should outlaw these weapons by joining the CCM that bans them.

“Financial institutions need to make sure that they aren’t financing the production of illegal weapons. This is best done through comprehensive policies and strong national laws making investment expressly illegal.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross released a report in 2010 that looked at cluster bomb victims. An overview reads, “There are victims of cluster munitions in at least 21 states and four areas of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

“A 2007 study published by Handicap International confirmed 13,306 deaths and injuries due to cluster munitions.

“Survivors of cluster munition incidents will often have serious blast or fragment injuries. They will frequently need long term treatment and rehabilitation, which will include medical care, physical rehabilitation, psycho-social support and socioeconomic reintegration.”

The harrowing thing is that cluster bomb and landmine sectors tend to make up only a tiny fragment of the portfolios of many high street banks and insurers. Other unethical industries such as tobacco and the wider arms trade can often make up a large portion of an organisation’s investment selection.

It is a sobering thought that those with money in such institutions are unknowingly funding worldwide death and injury.

But all is not lost. There are banks and insurers whose portfolios are more considered, comprising of companies that are more ethical and sustainable and often, doing positive work that balances the needs of the planet, its people and prosperity.

March was Move Your Money month in the UK – a campaign that encourages people to move their money away from high street banks to try to get them to radically change their often unethical behaviour. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t move your money in April, May or June…

The campaign’s co-founder, Danielle Paffard, spoke to Blue & Green Tomorrow and said, “It’s great news that [the banks are] moving in the right direction, but I think there is still a long way to go and it’s important that we maintain pressure from the public to show that investing in things like arms companies that are putting people’s lives in dangers and have terrible human rights records, are not supported by our banks”.

B&GT did a rundown of the top five ethical banks in February, at which point The Co-operative already ranked in second and third place (for its online offering, Smile).

Going beyond who you bank with, you can also ensure that your investments support companies with higher ethical and sustainable standards. Get in touch with your IFA or fill in our online form and we’ll help you through the process.

Further reading:

Time to move your money?

Banking on ethics

Tobacco: investing in death

Lifestyle

5 Things You Can Do Yourself to Improve the Value of Your House

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home renovation and improvement
Shutterstock Licensed Image - By Stock-Asso

Whether you want to own it or list it, every once in a while, a house needs a facelift. This will not only improve quality of your life but will capitalize your home’s value significantly, too.

The best way to improve home value by yourself is to upgrade only what is necessary and nothing more. For instance, why would you buy a new bathroom door when a little retouch and a coat of fresh paint will suffice? By taking this approach, you are allowing yourself to make several small improvements instead of venturing just one or bigger ones. Select projects thoughtfully and know when you should stop.

Pitch in for the kitchen

If you really want a return on investment one day, start in the kitchen. By many, the kitchen still represents the heart and the soul of the house, the central hub of a property and it will all on its own add colossal value to your home. Moreover, the kitchen can be a breaking point in selling the house, so you should not hold on to your wallet in this area.

There are many little things you can do to spruce up the overall image of your kitchen. You may paint the kitchen cabinets, replace old door handles, add additional storage space with a sliding wall or a kitchen island if there is enough room for it. In addition, you may open the living space up by taking a kitchen wall down. Possibilities for do-it-yourself are many.

Add an attic or a basement bedroom

Properties are usually valued by two things: land size and the number of bedrooms. The price range between a three to four-bedroom home is two to four hundred thousand. Since you can’t change the size of your land, you can at least increase the number of bedrooms.

If you are prepared to go full-scale, converting the attic or the basement into the bedroom is another especially favored project that will by far boost up your home’s value once you decide to put it on the market. Until you decide to list it you will enjoy in your own extra space for entertainment, living, sleeping, playing, exercising, or whatever you fancy.

Transformation with paint

If your walls have scrapes and stained paint, a vintage color or shabby wallpaper, several cans of paint can make a striking distinction. In order to increase the value of your home, it is recommended to go with neutral colors that will unify the whole house and make the space visually bigger.

transformation with paint

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Poznyakov > https://www.shutterstock.com/g/poznyakov

Bottom line, nothing can transform a home like a cast of fresh new paint. It is the number one way to beef up a property value of any budget. Additionally, painting the house is still one of the easiest, fastest and highest value drivers.

Secure with style

All of your effort and money would be wasted if you can’t protect the investments you made. A good security door costs as little as a few hundred dollars but if it saves you just once from being robbed it instantly pays itself off. People avoid putting security screens on windows because they mostly do not look stylish enough, but there are other options, such as installing shutters. There are so many elegant and cool shutter options that we found at Independent Blinds & Awnings that it’s really hard not to find something for you.

Basic maintenance for a worry-free mind

A clean house is a healthier house for you and your family. By making a clean house your number one on the list for improving, you accomplish a couple of things at once.

First, you stay on track with maintenance issues and, consequently you are able to recognize future problems before they become costly ones. Secondly, you don’t allow dirt and garbage to pile up over time. Thirdly, smudged, dirty windows can have a bad impact on the overall perception of the house. Same as eyes are windows to the soul, windows are for the home. Therefore, you need to wash them properly.

Spice up the landscaping

Big backyard is an all Australian dream and still, it is more often than not the most ignored area of the house. However, landscaping is really important as it frames a property from every corner.

Simple, low budget cosmetic changes in the front yard including installing garden beds, adding plants, pebbles or mulch, and paving or painting the front walls will positively lift the curb appeal as well as the property value. As for the backyard, you may span a lawn to create more open space for you and your family to move freely, cut and reduce unruly trees and vegetation, and fix the fence if needed.

Adding value to your home through a cosmetic or structural renovation is an actual way to quickly enhance your money invested in a property. In the end, you need to make sure that if you will continue to live in the house and renovate, that your renovations will contribute to a good lifestyle and that it will give the impression of a “ready to move in” property once you decide to list it.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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