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That was the year that was… 2012



2012 is nearly over. On the final day of the year, we look at the 12 best articles, features and reports that you visited in the greatest numbers, stayed with the longest and those which encouraged you to visit even more articles, features and reports.

Coming in at number 12 was the news in May that the California-based reforestation charity, the Eden Project, was nearing a significant milestone. Planting 45m trees in places as diverse as Ethiopia (14% deforestation between 1990 and 2005), Madagascar (-9%) and Haiti (-9%) is not a bad start in fixing the mess we’ve made.

Closer to home at number 11 were the nominees of June’s Financial Times/International Finance Corporation Sustainable Finance Awards. Financial companies from 22 countries competed for eight awards, amongst them seven UK companies including the Co-operative Banking Group and our old friends at Triodos. The UK scored an impressive haul of five, with the Co-op getting two gongs.

Squeezing into the top ten at number 10 is our editor’s first in-depth report with B&GT from March – The Rise of Renewable Energy 2012. Leading voices in the sector spoke to Alex Blackburne and the Guide makes a useful primer for anyone interested in this exciting investment and cleantech sector.

The number 9 spot goes to a June article from Mercia Fund Management about community-led cleantech projects – the broader investment sector of which renewable energy is just a part, for those interested in creating a sustainable future.

Tackling one of the biggest myths about sustainable, responsible or ethical investment at number 8, Alex talked in May to leading players about the poor performance myth. As Audrey Ryan, manager of the Kames Capital Ethical Equity Fund, said, “There is no long term performance penalty for investing ethically” – something we dramatically proved in December.

Five years of National Ethical Investment Week and the first with a dedicated independent guide to the event bags the lucky number 7 slot. Enlightened investors said some very nice things about this accessible, useful and informative Guide from October.

Globe-trotting editor Alex Blackburne faced the sprawling metropolis that is London in September to cover the FT’s Global Energy Leaders Summit – with day two, that had Jeremy Leggett of Solarcentury, the Danish Minister for climate, energy and building and a host of other excellent speakers, securing the number 6 place on the top 12.

News that the global solar market was brimming with innovation broke in May and comes in at number 5 with news of three large-scale projects in Africa, a continent rich with sunshine as natural resource.

During the aforementioned National Ethical Investment Week our publisher, Simon Leadbetter, tackled a provocative and one-sided article in a leading investment magazine, the Investors Chronicle. To say the author was a little annoyed would be an understatement and all the attention pushed this article to number 4.

Names matter and renewable energy has really caught the public imagination. Limitless and clean energy on the other hand, sounds rather wonderful, especially when compared to the fossil fuel alternative of very dirty and running out. Building on the success of the Rise of Renewable Energy we dived even deeper into the subject in July with our third Guide of the year, The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy – which sits at number 3. The guide was kindly sponsored by Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable energy company.

So pop-pickers, who will secure the number one slot?

Missing the top spot by a tiny margin at number 2 is May’s The Guide to Sustainable Tourism. A hit on our site and over at Scribd and Issuu, the Guide’s take on travelling in a responsible way that minimises the environmental impact and maximises the ethical benefit that travel creates. The second edition of this exceptional Guide will be the first out of the traps in 2013.

Our purpose is to encourage people to invest more sustainably by providing fair, optimistic and responsibly articles about the incredible people and organisations making the world a better, rather than worse, place. It’s reassuring therefore that our flagship report, The Guide to Sustainable Investment, lands at number 1.

Other notable mentions go to our coverage of the Green Investment Bank, the energy bill, the misbehaviour of financial services organisations and the failure of political leadership in the face of overwhelming public support for more sustainable action by governments.

The world didn’t end in 2012, and 2013 is certainly hotting up to be an interesting year, in more ways than one.

See you next year (that’s Wednesday 2nd).


How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life



how climate change affect our lives
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By --

Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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



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 >

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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