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The durable future of money



Twenty-eight years ago today, pound notes were discontinued after more than 150 years of circulation. The former chancellor Lord Lawson delivered the news, claiming that the change from note to coin would add longevity and durability to the sterling. A look back into the history of money shows how banknotes originated and whether their time as a means of currency is coming to end.

The Bank of England first issued a banknote in 1694 to help King William III raise money to fight a war against the French. British citizens were given paper receipts from the bank as proof and representation of storing their gold. This has since developed into our modern day banknotes. To this day there are just under £55 billion worth of notes in circulation in the UK.

The Chinese invented the first type of paper note back in 118BC. Unable to find enough copper to make the coins needed, pieces of deerskin were used to stand for 40,000 units of a number of coins.

And yet, despite such a deep-rooted history, the banknote has struggled in recent days to justify itself as a primary means of currency. With risks of counterfeiting, not to mention a short lifespan, is it time for a more modern equivalent to be introduced?

Such a decision has already been made in certain countries, with the polymer note the popular choice.

Australia was the first country to issue the plastic currency in 1988, and has gone 100% polymer. At the moment, 23 countries use polymer banknotes, with Brunei, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Romania and Vietnam among those using purely polymer notes as their currency.

More recently, in November 2011, the Bank of Canada began circulating $100 polymer banknotes in an effort to combat counterfeiting and reduce costs. The country claimed its $100 bill was the world’s most advanced banknote, as it includes a hologram within the note’s transparent window. It also shows a circle of numbers that match the value of the denomination when held up to light.

A $50 polymer denomination followed in March this year, with a $20 bill expected soon. By the end of 2013, new $10 and $5 bills will have been introduced, and all Canadian currency will be printed on polymer.

Why plastic notes?

One of the major reasons for converting to polymer currency is the extended lifetime. Polymer notes last at least two-and-a-half times longer than paper notes, reducing processing and replacement costs, as well as the environmental impact. The introduction of plastic currency saves production costs because fewer bills are produced, as well as the fact that polymer notes are recyclable at the end of their lifetime, compared to current cotton currency, which often ends up in landfill.

Another advantage is that the notes stay cleaner for longer. Indeed, in the UK, many notes are taken out of circulation and often destroyed each year due to deteriorating quality, frequently due to contamination or damage. In 2009, 830 million notes, worth £11.4 billion, were taken out of circulation and destroyed due to their worsening quality.

Cleanliness is an advantage to countries with warmer climates, with humidity less likely to affect paper currency.

The tropical climate is a challenging environment for banknotes, especially because of high humidity and high temperatures”, polymer researcher Stane Straus told the BBC. “This causes paper notes to absorb moisture, thus becoming dirty. Polymer notes, on the other hand, do not absorb moisture.”

The technology has not been without its issues, however. Haiti and Cost Rica were the first to trial polymer banknotes during the 1980s; yet the quality of ink was below what was thought necessary. A plastic note was also introduced in the Isle of Man in 1983, using British technology, but withdrawn in 1988, with ink problems suspected as the cause, also.

There are lingering questions over the necessity of polymer notes, though, with some concerned with their lack of practicality, as well as the fact that the security risks with traditional cotton banknotes are decreasing.

Paper is much more secure than it used to be and the new £50 note, for example, has features that are extremely hard to counterfeit”, said Tom Hockenhull, curator of the Modern Money exhibition at the British Museum.

Hockenhull refers to new cotton notes, which contain transparent polymer windows in to minimise the risk of counterfeiting. It is thought that polymer notes are not as secure as this modern cotton note, as it is considered easier to replicate.

A further problem, particularly for developing countries, is the initial cost of producing polymer notes. They are most expensive to make and their longevity can only be maximised with the right recycling facilities.

Nevertheless, over a longer period, polymer notes outweigh conventional paper.

There have recently been developments in the UK regarding currency change. Bank of England officials have expressed their concerns that the £5 note is not durable enough, which, as a low denomination, changes hands quickly. A source close to the Bank of England told The Independent, “This is at the evaluation stage. A decision won’t be made for the next year or two and production a little while after that, but a plastic £5 note is a possibility.”

It is clear that traditional banknotes – regardless of their 300-year history and heritage – have their drawbacks – whether it is security, reusability or longevity – and many countries have already looked at alternative forms of currency. Whilst polymer currency might present a large initial financial outlay, their practical advantages cannot be ignored.

Further reading:

Making money last (literally)

Joseph Iddison is a master’s student at the University of Leicester. Having graduated from the same institution in July 2013 in English, Joseph will start the global environmental change course in September.


How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life



how climate change affect our lives
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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



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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

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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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