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A sustainable high street

Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas has outlined her vision for the future of Britain’s high streets before they “disappear forever”. But how sustainable is her plan to bring the high street back to life? Charlotte Reid finds out.

The Portas Review sets out a plan to bring Britain’s high streets back to life.



Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas has outlined her vision for the future of Britain’s high streets before they “disappear forever”. But how sustainable is her plan to bring the high street back to life? Charlotte Reid finds out.

The Portas Review sets out a plan to bring Britain’s high streets back to life.

It wants to put the heart back into town centres and improve Britain’s towns and cities whilst getting them to work better as businesses. Portas says, “I fundamentally believe that once we invest in and create social capital in the heart of our communities, the economic capital will follow“.

But did she consider the impact of the high street on the environment?

Portas came up with 28 recommendations. These range from giving more support to new local businesses to giving people a voice about their town centres.

A number of these recommendations are to ease business and planning restrictions for new shops and encourage them to open next door to the well-known high street shops. To help them out they will be mentored by larger retailers to get more support and a helping hand for their businesses.

Towns are told they should work on becoming attractive and safer areas to work in and visit.

The Portas Review emerged after the news, in May 2011, that town centre vacancy rates had doubled over the past two years. Towns up and down the nation looked closed which led to a drop in footfall in the high streets.

It’s not only the shops being unoccupied that make the high street look unappealing. It is the empty, unused and run down spaces above the shops.

Recently, Croydon Council asked traders and businesses to let the flats above their work. These flats were then offered to homeless people to help get them into permanent housing.

So this not only helps people out by giving them a home, and making the high street look more alive, it will help to create the community spirit that Portas wants back in the high street.

The review does call for local areas to develop free car parking schemes – but why don’t we consider park and ride schemes? And if more people are living above the high street, then some of them are already there.

Nowadays, rather than visiting individual shops in a town centre it is easier to drive to the nearest supermarket or department store and buy everything you need, whenever you want.

We should be encouraging building more around the high street, rather than retail parks. New Economics listed some areas that the Queen of Shops forgot about, including that the power of the supermarkets need to be reined in.

Some of the national chains that dominate our high streets have started making moves towards becoming sustainable. According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) firms accounting for more than half the UK’s retailers are signed up to the Carbon Trust Standard.

Companies signed up must commit to measuring and reporting their emissions and show that they are making reductions.

The BRC say that John Lewis, Harrods and Selfridges combined have made savings of over £1m by reducing their emissions. Many smaller, local shops, which the report puts a lot of emphasis on, should also be sustainable by not having the same supply chain because they will locally sourcing their products.

Generally, Portas’ review has had good feedback – highlighting areas that need to be looked at – but much more needs to be done.

The high street is in a desperate situation, with shoe shop Barratts’ the latest victim of the economy as they went into administration last week. In order to bring it back to life, it needs a dramatic overhaul, including some of Portas’ insights. But while we are there, why don’t we improve it environmentally as well as financially to create a high street that will last.

If you want to invest in retailers that consider the environment then talk to your financial adviser. Or let us find you one through our online form. If you want to find out more about shopping sustainably then visit the Ethical Superstore.

Photo: Post Box

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How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life



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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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