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National ethical investment week

The 16th of October to the 22nd of October is National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW). Simon Leadbetter asks what’s it about.

“NEIW brings together Advisers, Charities and Trusts, Financial Organisations, Faith Groups, NGOs and Community Groups to spread the word about green and ethical investing.”  The idea is to raise awareness of investing in a way that matches your values and beliefs.

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The 16th of October to the 22nd of October is National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW). Simon Leadbetter asks what’s it about.

“NEIW brings together Advisers, Charities and Trusts, Financial Organisations, Faith Groups, NGOs and Community Groups to spread the word about green and ethical investing.”  The idea is to raise awareness of investing in a way that matches your values and beliefs.

Which raises important questions, do your values affect your investment decisions and whose future are you investing for? Your own, your family’s, your country’s or your planet’s? While eyes might role at the last in the list, the connection between investment and our planet’s future is profound and we might need to explore it in more depth.

What future do you want your children to have?

Most of what we do in life pails into insignificance against the responsibility of raising children and supporting your children in raising theirs’. We wash them, clothe them, feed them, house them, educate them, entertain them, finance them, pick up the pieces when things go wrong and praise them when they do well. Why? Because we want them to have the best opportunity in the future whatever our own circumstances.  We make mistakes, but to err is human. Moreover, if you’re talking to your teenager or have a relationship with your adult child you’ve probably done okay.  We all want our offspring to be happy, healthy and provided for.

If you have invested so much emotion, time, money and energy to do the best for your offspring… have you considered what kind of future your investment decisions are creating.

Follow the money

This is where we need to make a small creative leap. It’s a relatively straightforward one but not widely thought about or discussed in relation to investment. It’s very easy to underestimate the wider impact of investing, simply seeing how we invest as a vehicle to pay for something in the future: a good retirement, family holidays, a child’s education or wedding, etc. However all that money we invest is traded many times over in global finance. Global financial trades are far, far larger than the value of the world’s non-financial output. To put this into perspective for every pound of product or service you buy or sell in the real world £98 is traded on global financial markets.  Your savings and investments are working round the clock, round the globe investing in things, and speculating.

What we invest in today echoes for future generations

And what are they investing in?  You can buy a hybrid car, use renewable energy, switch to energy saving light bulbs and ‘do the green thing’ as much as possible but if your pension, savings and investments are in an oil and gas firm the net effect for the future will be more resource depletion, more pollution and a degraded environment for your kids.

Investment lubricates the economic engine.  Companies that receive investment today will grow to create the products and services we buy tomorrow. Those that do not receive funding, unless exceptionally lucky, will usually wither and die.

Previous generations’ investments in oil, gas, mining, tobacco, arms companies and other less savoury industries, such as pornography, has spurred their growth and dominance for the current generation of investors and consumers.  If a company receives investment it create a product it intends to sell.
And this creates a trap for current investors. Can you risk investing in renewable energy when so much shareholder value is in oil, gas and mining companies. With so many wars the arms industry pays a great dividend. So what if the oil that one of the companies (that you’ve invested in) wants happens to be in a country they can’t access, then that investment in the arms industry really pays off.

So what is the current generation of investors investing in? Of the top ten companies in the FTSE100, half are in oil, gas and mining and one is in tobacco. Whether you smoke or not, smoking causes one in ten adult deaths globally, that’s six million people (WHO, July 2011).  Tobacco companies, tired of endless regulation, restrictions on advertising and health concerns in the developed world, have turned to less regulated, less well-informed people in the developing world to bolster their sales. They have a duty to their shareholders, you, to seek profit.  Oil, gas and basic materials (metals, oils and minerals) represent a third of the whole FTSE100. Those companies do not have the best record in environmental or ethical best practice.  We cannot deny that many are trying very hard to mend their ways, and it does no one any good to treat them as the enemy. Nevertheless where investment flow, companies will follow.  If their share price is affected by the flow of funds into renewable or sustainable companies, they will only mend their ways faster.

No really, what future do you want your children to have?

Therefore, as you care about the future your children and grandchildren will live in the question to ask yourself and/or your financial adviser is “what kind of future do I want to invest in?”

Globally we need cleaner sources of energy as demand rises for energy hungry products and more efficient production processes as natural resources run out.  The developing world wants all our shiny toys after all. In the developed world we need businesses to find cost-effective and innovative ways to support an ageing population with all the physical and mental challenges that arise from living significantly longer.

These are the companies our children need us to invest in to create a better future and these are the companies that should make up the FTSE 100 of 2020 and beyond if you want them to live In a stable world.

Take action today

Many ethical funds that invest in these kind of companies deliver solid returns with solid values. A professional financial adviser can guide you through the options. It takes no more than ten minutes to start the process.  Phone your IFA, if you have one, or fill in our online form and we will put you in touch with one of our expert panel of specialist financial advisers.

Spending a small amount of time today will make a large difference tomorrow.

Blue & Green Tomorrow is delighted to support National Ethical Investment Week.

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

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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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Environment

How Home Automation Can Help You Go Green

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home automation to go green

The holidays are an exciting, nostalgic time: the crispness in the air, the crunch of snow under your boot, the display of ornate holiday lighting up your home like a beacon to outer space, and the sound of Santa’s bell at your local Walmart.

Oh, yeah—and your enormous electric bill.

Extra lights and heating can make for some unexpected budgeting problems, and they also cause your home to emit higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants.

So, it’s not just your wallet that’s hurting—the planet is hurting as well.

You can take the usual steps to save energy and be more eco-conscious as you go about your normal winter routine (e.g., keeping cooler temperatures in the home, keeping lights off in naturally lit rooms, etc.), but these methods can often be exhausting and ultimately ineffective.

So what can you actually do to create a greener home?

Turn to tech.

Technology is making waves in conservation efforts. AI and home automation have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, not only because of their cost saving benefits but also because of their ability to improve a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Use the following guide to identify your home’s inefficiencies and find a solution to your energy woes.

Monitor Your Energy Usage

Many people don’t understand how their homes use energy, so they struggle with conservation. Start by looking at your monthly utility bills. They can show you how much energy your home typically uses and what systems cost you the most.

monitor energy usage

Licensed from Shutterstock – By Piotr Adamowicz

The usual culprits for high costs and energy waste tend to be the water heater and heating and cooling system. Other factors could also impact your home’s efficiency. Your home’s insulation, for example, could be a huge source of wasted heating and cooling—especially if the insulation hasn’t been inspected or replaced in years. You should also check your windows and doors for proper weatherproofing every year.

However, waiting for your monthly bill or checking out your home’s construction issues are time-consuming steps, and they don’t help you immediately understand and tackle the problem. Instead, opt for an easier solution. Some homeowners, for example, use a smart energy monitor such as Sense to track energy use in real time and identify energy hogs.

Use Smart Plugs

Computers, televisions, and lights still consume energy if they’re left on and unused. Computers offer easy cost savings with their built-in timers that allow the devices to use less energy—they typically turn off after a set number of minutes. Televisions sometimes provide the same benefit, although you may have to fiddle with the settings to activate this feature.

A better option—and one that thwarts both the television and the lights—is purchasing smart plugs. The average US home uses more than 900 kilowatts of electricity per month. That can really add up, especially when you realize that people are wasting more than $19 billion every year on household appliances that are always plugged in. Smart plugs like WeMo can help eliminate wasted electricity by letting you control plugged-in items from your smartphone.

Update Your Lighting

Incandescent lightbulbs can consume and waste a lot of energy—35% of CO2 emissions are generated from electric power plants. This can have serious consequences for increased global warming.

To reduce your impact on the environment, you can install more efficient lightbulbs to offset your energy usage. However, many homeowners choose smart lights, like the Philips Hue bulbs, to save money and make their homes more energy efficient.

Smart lights can be controlled from your smartphone, and many smart light options come with monthly energy reporting so you can continue to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take Control of the Thermostat

Homeowners often leave the thermostat on its default settings, but defaults often result in heating and cooling systems that run longer and harder than they need to.

In fact, almost half the average residential energy use comes from energy-demanding heating and cooling systems. As an alternative to fiddling with outdated systems, eco-conscious homeowners use smart thermostats to save at least 10% on heating and roughly 15% on cooling per year.

Change your home’s story by employing a smart thermostat such as the Nest, ecobee3, or Honeywell Lyric. Smart thermostats automatically adjust your in-home temperature by accounting for a variety of factors, including outdoor humidity and precipitation. A lot of smart thermostats will also adjust your home’s temperature depending on the time of day and whether you’re home.

Stop Wasting Water

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day. About one-third of that goes to maintaining their yards. Using a smart irrigation systems to improve your water usage can save your home up to 8,800 gallons of water per year.

Smart irrigation systems use AI to sync with local weather predictions, which can be really helpful if you have a garden or fruit trees that you use your irrigation system for  water. Smart features help keep your garden and landscaping healthy by making sure you never overwater your plants or deprive them of adequate moisture.

If you’re looking to make your home greener, AI-enabled products could make the transition much easier. Has a favorite tool you use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below.

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