China: The New Clean Energy Superpower

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Despite its reputation for extreme urban pollution, China may very well be on its way to becoming one of the world’s most environmentally sustainable countries. As part of the country’s 12th Five Year Plan for Economic and Social Development, China will be investing 1.8 trillion yuan (about $320 billion) into national efforts to counter climate change. This large investment into sustainable development is part of the country’s larger pledge to cut carbon emissions by 45% from 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

One of the major ways China will spend its 1.8 trillion yuan is on carbon emission regulations. China’s environment ministry has already passed legislation that will put in place stricter controls on vehicle and industry pollution. Alongside these industry regulations, China has also asked several cities and provinces to put in place regional caps on emissions in an attempt to add more domestic regulations. The country will be expanding the regions that fall under this pilot program in order to explore the potential for a national system.

Another way that China is slowly developing sustainable habits is in its investment into renewable energy. Indeed, China’s vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission has stated that the country will be investing almost 2.3 trillion yuan in key energy-saving and emission-reducing projects in the coming years. This investment into renewable energy is part of the larger five-year plan to have 100 GW of wind and 35 GW of solar energy by 2015. These numbers will likely change as solar overtakes wind as the world’s most invested renewable energy source. Despite these setbacks, China will still be pushing forward its goal to have 20% of its energy come from renewable energy by 2020.

Interestingly, China has also shown that it is willing to become an international leader in sustainable development. Over the last decade, China has invested more than $40 billion in renewable energy projects from around the globe. Most of these investments were for developed countries such as US, Germany, and Italy, and is likely a way for leaders in renewable energy development to help one another in their energy projects. However, some countries, like South Africa, Pakistan, and Ethiopia, have also attracted significant investments as their energy sectors mature. Overall, these programs have helped generate over 6000 MW of renewable energy worldwide.

If current political trends and social drivers are any indication of where China is heading in the future, then we may very well be in good hands. Despite its history as a large carbon polluter, China does seem to be eager to learn from its mistakes – and to help other countries learn from it too. If these domestic and overseas investments continue, China can substantially contribute to the development of a global, low-carbon economy.

Photo source

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Solar Parks Come to Cuba

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Cuba may very well be on its way to becoming more energy independent. Cuba’s first major solar farm opened this spring, and boasted an impressive 14,000 PV panels – a move that effectively doubled the country’s renewable energy output. The solar park was built 190 miles east of Havana in the rural area called Cantarrana, and was built on land that was both sunny and unfit for agriculture. Most importantly, the project in Cantarrana is just one of seven solar farms in the works, and is indicative of Cuba’s long road towards energy independence.

Cuba’s communist leaders are resorting to renewable sources as a means to an end, rather than as sustainable alternatives. The country faces four expensive and failed attempts to gather fossil fuels from deep-water oil drilling. It was no coincidence that the country began plans for these seven solar parks around the time it was announced, in late 2012, that the fourth exploratory offshore oil well was empty.

The second obstacle that the country faces in its energy needs is the imminent loss of oil imports. Currently, Cuba gets almost 100,000 barrels of highly subsidized oil per day from Venezuela – an import that sustains half of Cuba’s energy consumption. The oil subsidy was maintained by President Hugo Chavez and, following his death, by his successor Nicolar Maduro. Notably, Maduro faces fierce opposition from other Venezuelan parties – if these parties win, it is very likely that they will cut the Cuban oil subsidy.

“The reality is that cheap, abundant oil is over, and we have to turn toward these technologies,” said Vicente Estrada Cajigal, a specialist on regional alternative energy initiatives.

As such, Cuba is turning towards cheap renewable sources, such as solar energy, to help make ends meet on their energy needs. Of course, planning and making a few solar farms is still a far cry from the energy independence that Cuba seeks. Currently, alternative energy source amounts to just 4% of Cuba’s electric output. Alongside the new solar park in Cantarrana, the island also has a few experimental wind farms and small hydroelectric facilities. However, these are not major contributors to the energy grid – and will likely not contribute much in the future. Wind production is outclassed by solar energy on a country as sunny as Cuba, and the island’s shallow rivers are not ideal for large-scale power generators.

However, according to a government report from May, the island hopes to get upwards of 10% of its electricity from renewables by 2030. Much of this will likely come from solar energy. A secondary source of renewable energy output may also come from burning biomass such as sugarcane. With any luck, the opening of its second solar park in the coming months may very well be Cuba’s next step towards energy

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

In Focus: Green Walls

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As the modern sustainability movement tightens its tendrils on current design trends, ‘green walls’ (or vertical gardens) are becoming increasingly popular as the eco-friendly among us reap the benefits of injecting life, quite literally, into our home interiors.

These stunningly serene green walls are not only aesthetically pleasing and perfectly in keeping with the primitive shapes and nature-inspired trends this season, they also reduce noise pollution, provide edible produce and improve psychological wellbeing with their calming presence.

The cleaner air provided by photosynthesising plants can also reduce air conditioning costs in some cases and, when placed on the exterior of buildings, reduce what is known as the Urban Heat Island Effect where increased CO2 in the atmosphere of cities causes a rise in temperature.

The concept of green walls isn’t new; in fact the idea was first patented by Stanley Hart White in 1938 and made famous by Patrick Blanc’s show-stopping ‘vegetal wall’ installation at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, nearly 70 years later.

Since then, green walls became ubiquitous with award-seeking architects looking to brighten up the dreary corners of corporate buildings. But now, finally, the trend is being welcomed into the homes of the ecological and style conscious, adding an exciting and dynamic dimension to any décor scheme.

Vertical gardens are grown and maintained using a process called hydroponics, where a ‘geo-textile laminated curtain’ acts as a pocket for your plants. Water and minerals are absorbed through a series of irrigation channels that slowly filter down the wall, with excess water being recycled in a clean and efficient process that’s surprisingly easy to maintain. So for those of us who don’t possess green fingers, trimming, weeding and checking water levels regularly are all that is really required.

An array of beautiful blooms and plants will thrive in a vertical garden provided they have small roots. Succulents are perfect because they need very little water. Tropical and fern species will also work as they have similar care requirements, and to give your green wall a contrasting shade, peace lilies will add a touch of elegance.

One important point to bear in mind however is that no green wall lasts forever – unlike plants out in the ground that have almost unlimited depth for their roots, on a vertical wall those roots are quickly going to run out of space to grow and when that happens, the plant will die. So choose plants whose roots will grow a little slower, and if you want to be really plant-friendly move them over to a garden at the first signs of wilting and replace with a new, young plant.

Now all you have to do is pick a wall in your home that sees the most sunlight and then a specialist green wall design and installation team can meet your requirements from there – unless you want to be extra daring and have a go at this yourself!

Happy vertical gardening!

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Top 5 Greenest European Cities

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Building a sustainable future for our planet has become increasingly important and over the years countries all over the world have taken it upon themselves to make green living a priority, completely rejuvenating towns and cities, providing an eco-friendly life for all. For some people this means not driving their cars as often, or washing at 30 degrees instead of 40, however for others it’s a way of life.

If you’re planning your summer holiday why not continue the green trend and head to one of Europe’s greenest cities for a spot of relaxation and sight-seeing:

Barcelona

Barcelona is famous for its delicious food and stunning scenery and now it’s also renowned for its green living too.  Over recent years Barcelona has made a considerable effort to reduce its carbon footprint, encouraging residents and tourists to recycle as well as take more pride and responsibility in the well-being of their city.

Barcelona has worked hard in creating a greener lifestyle for its residents, there is now a discount on health foods meaning people can enjoy a healthy, balanced diet without breaking the bank. They have also allocated streets, squares and parks dedicated to green living as well as a biking scheme to encourage both tourists and residents to cycle around the city as a pose to using taxis and trains.

Nantes

Nantes is the sixth largest city in France and is the 2013 winner of the European Green Capital of the Year awarded by the European Commission. The sea port city of Nantes is absolutely beautiful, whether you’re looking for inspirational modern building, Roman ruins or medieval architecture, Nantes had got it all – as well as being incredibly green!

For the past 10 years Nantes has been working on developing a highly sustainable transport system for the city. It was the first city in France to re-introduce electric tramways as well as encouraging residents and tourists to use bicycles within the city.

Reykjavik

Iceland may conjure up images of quiet, quaint towns and cities with not a lot going on however Reykjavik, Iceland’s largest city boasts a plethora of bars, hotels and restaurants not forgetting the impressive scenery on offer in and around the city. They also have a healthy reputation of being incredibly green, having invested millions into a fund to help a leading energy company and several universities to become a major location for environmental research.

They also have a number of programs whereby the natural supply of geothermal heat from hot springs in and around the city is harnessed to heat buildings, roads and pavements. It’s hoped this will lower the number of accidents that take place on the icy city streets during winter.

Stockholm

Sweden’s capital is nicknamed ‘The Venice of the North’ and it’s no surprise when you witness the fantastic medieval architecture twinned with the trendy bars, cafés and designer boutiques. Couple this with it now being known as one of the greenest cities in Europe and you have yourself a very sought after city to visit.

Over the years Stockholm has worked really hard to clean up its act, its reduced noise and air pollution within the city as well as tackling the dirty water supply by incorporating an eco-friendly waste system. The city is clearly planning on continuing with this winning green city as it hopes to be entirely independent of fossil fuels by 2050.

Hamburg

Germany’s second largest city is the place to visit when you want to party hard as well as getting in that all important shopping trip. Hamburg is also one of the greenest cities in Europe and has won awards for its commitment to reducing CO2 emissions in the city. It’s already reduced its emissions by over 15% and has plans to get this figure up to 40% by 2020. It also boasts an impressive public transport system, providing many residents with trains and trams available to pick them up literally from their door.


This post was written by Meredith Watts, a keen eco enthusiast busy planning her summer trips whilst working towards turning her house into an eco-home with the help of the team at SolarTechPhoto source

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Renewable Energy: Worth the Investment?

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Climate Progress says according to Bloomberg, “Energy investments are projected to double over the next eight years and reach $395 billion per year.” That number is possible compared to $195 billion invested in 2010; in 2011 over $260 billion invested in renewables so it does seem green energy investments are on the rise and worth the investment risk.

ROI Is Also a Plus

Investors generally like to see a 20 to 25 percent return on their investments—with renewable energies, that percentage has gone as high as 11 percent according to MIT Technology Review. Other investors say they realized a ROI of 15 percent depending upon the type of renewable chosen as the investment. And, the investment popularity tree seems is first hydro, then wind, then solar.

Top investors are generally corporations that invest or implement green energy at their plants and office buildings. Then there is the Prudential Capital Group which funded $121 million in financing to an Arizona solar power project in March of 2012, says Forbes. General Electric has invested $1.4 billion in solar energy investments, however, both Prudential and GE looked at these investments as “investing in core infrastructure projects with high gross margins and revenues fixed for 20 to 25 years.” Shares of these companies are a smart choice.

For the average investor, ROI will most likely fall between the 10 to 15 percent mark—not a bad ROI at all and the outlook is good based on the urgency to stop using fossil fuels.

Investing in Our Future Is an Attractive Option

Everyone knows in order to remain sustainable, we must find ways to stop using fossil fuels and concentrate on renewable energies. That means innovative energy companies seek investors and government grants or loans to develop what our planet needs most—renewable options and solutions.

Energy expert Daniel Yergin is a strong proponent of investing in our future and the future must include hydro power, wind and solar solutions. The trick is to skip just donating to a green cause but investing in it instead.

Investors do seem to analyze renewable investments and even if investments are based on the desire for a better planet because to many, that’s a good reason to invest. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) agrees the rise in renewable investments will continue in the areas of:

  • Bioenergy – Developing and using more biofuels.
  • Hydro – Using innovative water reuse methods in office buildings, schools and municipalities to protect this valuable resource.
  • Marine – Investing in funding electricity through the power of ocean and sea waves.
  • Solar – Investors are seeing the highest return in solar investments due to tax credits and the change in affordability of solar panels.
  • Wind – Investing in ways to increase both onshore and offshore wind power.

The question of whether investing in renewable energies shouldn’t be: Is it a good idea? The real question is shouldn’t we all be investing in the future of the planet we call home?

Resources:

https://www.technologyreview.com/news/422295/is-renewable-energy-a-good-investment/

https://about.bnef.com/markets/renewable-energy/

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

The Green Summer Camp Experience

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For many kids day or overnight camp is one of the best parts of summer because of the activities they are involved in and the chances to meet some of the greatest friends they’ll ever have.

At the same time since so much of what goes on at camp is related to the great outdoors better consideration should be taken in terms of how all that programming affects the environment.

After all when a lot of people gather in rural locations it can create a lot of waste and wreak havoc on local ecosystems.

That being the case consider the following points for a greener summer camp experience and how that can foster better appreciation for the world around us in our children.

Trash

One of the immediate results of summer camps being in session is accumulation of a lot of trash in areas that typically have little contact with people ten months out of the year. Furthermore, depending on the type of garbage it can affect wildlife, streams and rivers, and vegetation.

Where does all the trash come from? Mostly cafeterias, overnight housing, and overnight camping trips yet despite the problem the issue can be dealt with in several ways:

  • Recycle: Trash can become less of an issue if people understood more about recycling. That’s why establishing easily accessible recycling centers around the campgrounds listing why recycling is important and what can and cannot be recycled will give kids the knowledge to better understand how to deal with their trash.

  • Reuse: All staff and campers should be encouraged to stop using disposables and have reusable water bottles, cups, and utensils on hand. This will tremendously cut down on the amount of trash being generated.

  • Repurpose: Many types of trash can be repurposed for other things such as art projects or building things so whenever the opportunity presents itself repurposing is a great way of dealing with various types of trash.

Energy

Ask electricians in San Diego which was recently named the summer camp capital of the US and they will tell you energy consumption at summer camps isn’t usually high because of all the outdoor activities. Nevertheless there are areas where administrations can cut back usage.

  • Air-conditioning: This is probably used mainly in staff lounges and offices. Ceiling or regular fans are big energy savers and allow the AC to be saved for when its really needed.

  • Lights: Indoors camps could use Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) or Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) which can save nearly 80% of what it costs to burn incandescents. Outdoor lights can be converted to solar power so they are totally off the grid.

  • Electronics: Since camp is about a change of scenery campers should be encouraged to cut down on using electronics.

  • However, keep in mind energy is still being used when chargers are left plugged in or devices are sitting idle.

Transportation

Chances are there aren’t a lot of cars passing through the camp grounds but there are ways to make camp transportation a bit greener.

  • Drop off and pick up days: Bus kids in and out to cut down on traffic coming and going from rural areas.

  • Walk around campus: Try to get staff to walk around campus instead of driving through roads in the woods. Alternatively a number of bicycles could be left at various spots for everyone to use.

Food

Let’s face it, everyone has to eat and if a camp supplies meals there are a number of ways to turn food consumption into a greener process. For instance:

  • Buy local: Depending on a camp’s location it may be possible to buy produce locally and support farmers in the region. It’s a great way to cut down on the carbon footprint companies often run up importing fruits and vegetables.

  • Garden: If a camp has large swaths of land it could use some of it for agriculture and grow crops to be used during the summer. This may take some planning but even if it begins next spring it’s an amazing venture showing kids what being sustainable is all about.

  • Organic matter: Finally, a lot of organic matter gets tossed into the trash despite the fact it has two specific values. First, it can be used for compost and second, it can be collected and used to feed animals. For this reason camp administrations should get in touch with local farmers who may want to come by every day or so and collect all scraps.

Jakob Barry is a green living journalist for Networx.com. Networx.com helps homeowners save time, money and frustration by connecting them with home improvement professionals. From plumbers and roofers to electricians and HVAC contractors Networx simplifies the process of locating a reliable professional. Photo source

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

In Focus: Smart Homes Of The Future

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We are living in an age where reality is starting to catch up to the futuristic dreams of generations that lived before us. Smart phones, self-driving cars and motion-controlled video games were dreams just a decade ago.

Hover cars or talking robot butlers aren’t available yet, but we are progressing to the next evolution in housing design – the smart home. In addition to improving our quality of life, a smart home will provide energy savings and be kinder on the environment.

This article will look at the current developments in smart home design, and some of the features that may soon be commonplace in homes around the world. Most of the devices listed here can be installed in your home today at a small outlay, and provide immediate benefits.

Power Saving Features

Saving money on energy costs has become a hot topic recently, with home owners feeling the pinch of colder winters and economic recession. Heating and controlling temperature is one of the main costs involved in maintaining a house.

Smart Meters

Smart meters replace existing electricity and gas meters, and work with a smart monitor device which is placed in a visible part of the home. The monitor displays current power usage of the home, and can display data on an hourly, weekly and monthly basis. This simple addition to the home can make an important difference to energy usage, with a visual reminder of how much power is being used at any time. Homes with renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, can also have the power amount displayed on the monitor. The smart meter will calculate the amount due in real money terms, instead of being presented with an estimated power bill, with the difference estimated to be around 100 pounds a year for the average home.

Remote Heating Control

With a small hardware upgrade to the existing heating system, the temperature of the home can be controlled from anywhere. This can be done using a smart phone app, by accessing a PC or by sending an SMS. The remote heating control system can tell what the temperature is inside and outside the home, and adjust the heating system according to your directions. This simple and smart upgrade can have a considerable effect on heating costs, and also improve the owners’ quality of life.

Imagine getting delayed on a trip somewhere and being able to shut down the heating system to save money. Then, before arriving home you can turn on the boiler with a few taps of your finger and return to a warm welcome. Further benefits include being able to set up a heating schedule and temperature alerts with frost protection.

Renewable Energy Features

Renewable or sustainable energy has been growing in popularity over the last few years, with many home-owners discovering the benefits of solar hot water systems. By installing a solar thermal panel system – solar panels fitted to the roof of the home, a special hot water tank and heat transfer unit – you could generate up to 60% of your hot water using the power of the sun.

You could transform your house into a futuristic smart home with the addition of the devices listed in this article. For a small upfront outlay, you could soon be monitoring your homes energy usage, controlling the heating from afar, and generating your own hot water using the natural energy of the sun.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

In Focus: Clean Green Certification

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Companies that demonstrate an effort to protect and preserve the environment through their business practices are recognized by the Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA), which awards them “Clean Green” status. Common recipients of this status are industrial laundries due to their extreme efficiency conserving water and energy versus an individual doing his or her laundry at home. Essentially, Clean Green certification verifies that the items laundered at a particular facility are done so in a manner that is friendly to the environment.

Companies seeking Clean Green certification must document their business practices, the items washed, water and detergent used, and undergo inspection from TRSA to validate these practices. Some key practices that TRSA looks for prior to issuing certification are the use of reusable items, recapturing and reusing drained water, and alternative or more efficient forms of energy use. These companies are accredited every three years.

Clean Green Companies for Clean Green Certification

Several industrial laundry chains have gained Clean Green certification by adhering to TRSA’s conservation standards. They have done so primarily by focusing on water usage and minimal production of solid waste.

Save Some for the Fishes!

You’ve heard it a million times before. 70-percent of the Earth is covered by water. Why the need to conserve if there’s so much of it? Well, believe it or not, there is a worldwide decline in the availability of fresh water. Of all the water on the planet, less than two percent of it is fresh water, and only one percent is available for drinking. The more water used in your home or business, the less fresh water in the environment, and the more it costs treatment plants (and ultimately you) to filter and put it back in the environment for consumption.

With that said, did you know that bringing your laundry in to an industrial Laundromat conserves one third more water than doing it in your washing machine at home? Couple that with the fact that these Clean Green companies already employ strategies to reduce the time of wash and dry cycles; this means less water used without compromising quality. In fact, these companies practice the use of 35-percent fewer gallons of water per pound of laundry than your home wash. That’s a lot of happy fish.

Down in the Dumps

Companies that use disposable towels, mats and other items that get dirty, grimy and are subsequently thrown in the trash produce tons of solid waste – literally. Two billion pounds of waste are produced by these paper products each year and use of these products also lead to the destruction of millions of trees. Clean Green certified industrial laundry companies use reusable textile products which, in addition to keeping more waste out of landfills, actually use less energy to manufacture and can be used hundreds of times before their ultimate disposal. That’s hundreds of uses versus a single use.

But wait! There’s more!

The increased water and waste conservation practices employed by these Clean Green certified companies also save plenty of energy. Shorter wash/dry cycles cut down the amount of power used per load of laundry, and use 42-percent less energy than your home wash. Additionally, the use of an industrial service also cuts down your CO2 footprint by 46-percent when laundering company uniforms.  With all these environmental and pocket friendly facts, is it even an argument anymore?

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

In Focus: Eco SmartHomes

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Our smartphones are like Batman’s utility belt. Encased within their sleek and slim, aluminium and glass coated bodies is, sometimes seemingly, the answer to all our problems. Roaring into the limelight in the last few years, smartphones are a brilliant example of the natural progression of technology, taking an old premise and stuffing it full of modernity until it’s a barely recognizable shade of its former self. Now, many of us claim we couldn’t leave the house without our smartphone, the mere suggestion causing us to tremble and shake before needing to lie down immediately. So what’s next; SmartHomes? Quite possibly.

The House of Tomorrow

Whilst there are many different visions for the House of Tomorrow, or the SmartHome, one of the most predominant features that many developers and artists are working toward is the completely eco-efficient home. Sustainable energy is something just about every industry is factoring into their many equations these days, and as our home can often be the base upon which we carve out and increasingly deep and detailed carbon footprint, it’s certainly something that needs to be addressed.

So how do SmartHomes change all this? Essentially, they fuse the latest technological advancements to the home to deliver both convenience and energy saving solutions simultaneously. Take for example one significant, increasingly popular technology which is actually available today – home automation.

Automatic Man

Home automation systems, cleverly meld your home to your smartphone – in many ways they are the most significant step toward a more literal, literary ‘SmartHome’. By connecting up each and every aspect of the home to a single system, it can grant you remote access from wherever you are. From your lights to your fireplace, to your home cinema system, everything can be connected allowing you to control it from you smartphone. This means you need never leave unnecessary lights or appliances on and you can even set curtains and blinds to move according to the amount of light in the room. Clever just doesn’t cut it.

Sustainable Living

But it’s not just fangled, futuristic convenience technology that will transform the homes of tomorrow, as one Flintshire-based entrepreneur is out there proving right now. Russell White, owner of Field Farm near Northop has refurbished a huge 39 homes that now either have no running costs at all or actually make money from their renewable energy sources. His own property is also a zero-carbon home, generating 7,000 kW of electricity a year, powering the house for him and his family and feeding the rest back into the grid.

Every inch of his innovative, high-tech home has been tailored for optimal energy consumption, with efficient LED bulbs lighting the rooms, a sophisticated ventilation system that ensures no heat is wasted, and an electric ribbon under floor heating solution that eradicates the need for radiators.

Is this the true home of the future? An entirely sustainable building that generates electricity, heat and even money? This emphasis on renewable energy, combined with innovative leaps in consumer technology such as that seen in home automation products could well be laying the foundations for new housing standards in the coming years. So are SmartHomes the new Smartphones? It’s unlikely such an undefined idea will reach the dizzying popularity heights of Apple’s biggest seller, but one way or another something will change over the next few years in regards to how our houses are built and how they function, and ‘SmartHome’ might just be the tag line the housing industry runs with.


This article was written by Rob Vicars of Bygone Windows, home enthusiasts and sash window specialists. To make a real, energy efficient upgrade to your home today, Bygone supply eco-friendly sash windows at brilliant prices! Image source

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

The Green Office of the Future

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Dingy offices in the midst of a concrete jungle.

Windows sealed shut against the pollution outside.

Anaemic looking staff hunched over their computers, images of their glowing screen indelibly printed on their yellow eyeballs.

Sound like somewhere you want to be?  Sound like somewhere you want your children to be? These are the type of images that have me running outside trying to find some fresh air at lunchtime. The kind of thoughts I have that make me want to sniff the oxygen right out of the spider plant on my desk.

Trouble Inside and Trouble Outside

As I walk to work I worry what I’m breathing in and when I get there it doesn’t stop. Reading about sick building syndrome and the chemicals that are trying to attack me from inside the office has turned me into a hypochondriac. Every sneeze, cough or wheeze has me convinced the office is killing me.

As our cities and their suburbs and even small towns become paved over in concrete, our access to green spaces is becoming ever more limited. But further to this, with an increasing percentage of the population working in an office, as a community we need to be worried about what the office culture is doing to the environment and our health.

As more and more of our inner city space is taken up with office buildings, architects, designers and office managers have been looking to the future and the demand for eco-friendly solutions to our modern working environment.

The Answer Is Eco

Businesses have long been touting buzzphrases such as ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘environmentally concerned’, their power for improving brand perceptions known and exploited. But actually taking these practices into the office has been limited to quick wins and easy gains. A complete revolution for office buildings across the country is needed. Genuinely eco-friendly office buildings and environments on a wide scale will help to improve business, build value and promote staff wellbeing and productivity, while also reducing pollution, enhancing company image and bolstering community engagement.

So what will the green office of the future look like?

Clean But Harmless

Look at your desk, your chair, those drab office walls – they look harmless enough, right? Wrong.

They leach harmful chemicals and toxins into your air and the balance needs to be addressed. While we wait for nano-robots to clean the air, or for private air bubbles to be invented, removing these from our environment would be a good start.

Sustainable furniture and non-toxic cleaning products will need to be introduced in the modern office, with businesses taking responsibility for the companies and services they employ.

Work Hard, Play Outside

The modern office shouldn’t just take into account the well-being of employees when they are inside but the environment they are exposed to on breaks or at lunch-time. Having an oasis indoors is all good and well but not if staff have to step out into the heavy hazy air of the company car park if they want to munch their lunch al fresco. A sandwich with a side of exhaust fumes, madam? No thanks.

Providing a space where employees can get access to fresh air, green leaves and calm, quiet surroundings – away from the frenetic pace of downtown – will do wonders for staff morale and so productivity.

Disguised By Plants

Even when designed and built by the most talented hands, office buildings are always going to appear ugly to me. You see lots of offices planting a few extra trees in the entrance way, placing a few extra pot-plants in reception but what if everyone went one step further?

Rather than going backwards and letting nature reclaim our cities in an ‘I am Legend’ kind of way, modern technology allows us to move forward and get the best of both worlds. From roof-top gardens to living green walls, carefully selected plants that help to clean the air and reduce the urban heat island effect can be placed on the top and sides of buildings.

This has a multitude of benefits, both to the environment, but also to the business – protecting the building from the elements while enhancing both its value and the image of the company.

Plants placed inside the office will clean the air, reduce staff illness and increase productivity and wellbeing. Sounds like the future to me.

Accepting the status quo as fact isn’t going to get us anywhere. The evolution of the office needs to start now so that the future is brighter and greener.

How green is your office? Is your business thinking about its ecological footprint or stuck in the polluted past? Share your thoughts below.


Louise Blake is worried for the future. As she thinks about going back to the office she wonders if she can cope in the concrete jungle.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

In Focus: Affordable Hybrid Cars

The price of gas is rising on a daily basis, polar caps are melting what ca do we do to lower our monthly cost and also protect the enviroment? Well until the polar caps will melt we still face ourselves with the ongoing price of gas . What is the best way that we can avoid paying hundreds of dollars monthly on gas? Well the best thing will be to invest in hybrid cars they’re as fast as gas powered cars and also they are eco-friendly so that’s why we bring you Top 5 Hybrid Cars in the world.

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

The 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ranks 5 out of 20 Affordable Midsize Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 18 published reviews and test drives of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and our analysis of reliability and safety data. Avg. Paid:$25,164 – $29,825

Toyota Camry Hybrid

The 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid ranks 2 out of 20 Affordable Midsize Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 12 published reviews and test drives of the Toyota Camry Hybrid, and our analysis of reliability and safety data. Avg. Paid:$25,280 – $26,715

Chevrolet Volt

The 2013 Chevrolet Volt ranks 4 out of 20 Upscale Midsize Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 31 published reviews and test drives of the Chevrolet Volt, and our analysis of reliability and safety data. Avg. Paid:$38,736 – $38,736

Toyota Prius V

The 2013 Toyota Prius V ranks 3 out of 8 Wagons. This ranking is based on our analysis of 23 published reviews and test drives of the Toyota Prius V, and our analysis of reliability and safety data. Avg. Paid:$26,143 – $29,613

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid ranks 1 out of 20 Affordable Midsize Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 47 published reviews and test drives of the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and our analysis of reliability and safety data. $26,789 – $31,458

Ford C-Max Hybrid

The 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid ranks 5 out of 8 Wagons. This ranking is based on our analysis of 12 published reviews and test drives of the Ford C-Max Hybrid, and our analysis of reliability and safety data Avg. Paid:$25,091 – $28,133

Honda CR-Z

The 2012 Honda CR-Z ranks 9 out of 43 Affordable Small Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 29 published reviews and test drives of the Honda CR-Z, and our analysis of reliability and safety data. Avg. Paid:$20,253 – $24,219

 

Nissan Leaf

The 2012 Nissan Leaf ranks 6 out of 11 Upscale Small Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 39 published reviews and test drives of the Nissan Leaf, and our analysis of reliability and safety data. Avg. Paid:$35,200 – $37,250

 

Toyota Prius

The 2013 Toyota Prius ranks 8 out of 20 Affordable Midsize Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 35 published reviews and test drives of the Toyota Prius, and our analysis of reliability and safety data. Avg. Paid:$24,045 – $29,309


Julie is a naturist, she enjoys nature and does anything in her power to protect it. She advises everyone to invest in a hybrid car. Judy also thinks this website: https://www.coopskw.com/ is interesting.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

In Focus: Game Changing Renewable Technologies

renewable-energy

The EU has a directive in place for all member states to produce 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.  But how exactly does the UK government plan to meet with these (not so far away) energy targets?

EarthStaff, as a specialist energy recruitment company, provide up-to-date information on the latest developments within the ‘green energy’ sphere.

The green energy market is a lucrative business, with the plans government has put in to place to meet with the EU targets expecting to employ over half a million people in renewable energy by 2020.

To meet with the targets set by the EU directive the UK will be harnessing the benefits of nuclear power, carbon capture storage (CCS), improved energy efficiency and most importantly renewable energy sources.

But what exactly are we referring to when we say ‘renewable energy sources’? The Government has singled out 8 technologies that will be helping the UK to meet with the EU targets.

 

Onshore Wind

The first commercial UK onshore wind farm was built in Delabole, Cornwall in 1991. Onshore wind is currently the UKs largest source of renewable energy. Producing more than 4GW of wind power, the government is looking to raise this to around 13GW by 2020. Taking in to account the existing wind power production, wind turbines alone could contribute to a large part of our 2020 target.

Onshore wind farms not only significantly reduce CO2 production but have a positive impact for the community surrounding the developments. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has shown that ‘for each installed megawatt (MW), around £100,000 stays in the community for the lifetime of a project.’

Although there have been some negative reactions towards the onshore developments, opinion polls are consistently showing high levels of support.

 

Offshore Wind

According to the UK Governments ‘renewable energy roadmap’, ‘the UK is the global leader for offshore wind energy’. We have some of the best resources in Europe, boasting 20 offshore wind facilities and 4 of the largest wind farms in the world.

The UK currently produces 1.3GW of wind energy across 15 wind farms and has predicted a continued leading role by 2020, producing around 18GW. However, to reach such high potential the production costs of offshore wind farms is required to fall dramatically, minimising investment risk and ensuring ‘cost-effective grid investment’.

The growth of offshore wind farms will depend largely on the cost of this technology compared with other renewable energy options, and the need to increase our renewable resources beyond the 2020 targets.

 

Marine Energy

Marine energy is a term which refers to the energy derived via both wave power – from surface waves, and tidal power – kinetic energy from large amounts of moving water. Offshore wind power is not classed as marine energy, as it produced by wind.

Marine energy is still in the very early stages of development, ‘with around 4MW of prototypes currently undergoing testing in the UK’ according to the renewable energy roadmap. However specific projects aren’t expected to be operational before 2020 due to the lead time for construction and anticipated high costs.

Before marine energy can be deployed on a commercial scale the management of the costs of research and development will need to be reviewed, along with the supply chain and infrastructure.

Biomass Electricity

Biomass energy is possibly the first kind of energy to be harnessed by humans, derived from the burning of wood to make fire. Biomass energy is produced from living or recently living organisms, either used directly via combustion to produce heat or indirectly afterward by converting the materials in to forms of ‘biofuels’.

Currently the UK has around 2.5GW in operation but is looking to increase this by 9%, to 6GW by 2020. The growth of biomass energy depends largely on the sustainability and not creating increased deforestation or loss of habitats and its ability to actually deliver greenhouse gas savings.

Biomass Heat

Biomass heat is created by using either ‘agricultural, forest, urban and industrial residues and waste to produce heat and electricity’ (wikipedia.co.uk) this has less effect on the environment than burning fossil fuels, as the carbon produced via such methods is part of the natural carbon cycle.

‘In 2010 the UK generated 12.4 TWh of renewable heat from biomass, 12.1 TWh of this from biomass boilers and 0.3 TWh from Energy from Waste.’ – Renewable energy roadmap. Biomass heat doesn’t look like it’s set to play a large contribution the UKs renewable energy production by 2020, this is due to technology costs, fuel sustainability and investor confidence.

 

Ground Source & Air Source Pumps

Ground source and air source pumps work in the same way, by extracting heat from either the ground or the air to warm the home (via radiators, heating systems or water.) The ground and air pumps do require electricity to run off but the heat acquired from the ground, air or water is constantly being renewed naturally.

This isn’t currently high priority on the Governments renewable roadmap agenda due to the technology costs and licensing processes.

Renewable Energy in Transport

The UK Government has committed to meeting with renewable energy targets set for transport via various policies to support the use of biofuels.

The ‘Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation’ (RTFO) requires fossil fuel suppliers to commit to 5% of their fuels coming from renewable resources by 2014.

In addition the ‘Renewable Energy Directive’ (RED) has set targets for the whole of the UK to reach of target of 10% of its fuel from renewable energy by 2020.

The transport sector also has to comply with the ‘Fuel Quality Directive’, requiring a 6% reduction in greenhouse gases from transport fuels by 2020.

Currently it looks like the UK is set to meet with the targets set by the EU for 2020.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Making Manufacturing Greener

green-manufacturing

When most people think of conveyors and material handling systems, they imagine the stereotypical redundant mechanical processes that manufacturers employ to produce and sort products. The thought of manufacturers becoming more eco-friendly conjures up ideas of major changes in the manufacturing process that will be very costly and lead to inefficiencies. In some cases, that may be true in the short term, however, going green in the long term usually results in significant savings and additional revenue streams.

The Bottom-line Appeal of Sustainability

According to a study published by Kate O’Sullivan, the green movement is quickly becoming the domain of finance executives instead of a few passionate tree-hugging do-gooders. She credits the elevated status of sustainability in corporate America to the “bottom-line appeal” of going green. She points out that some companies see the green movement as much more than just a trend. A textbook example of a company that considers eco-friendliness as a founding principle is At Method, a 100 million dollar company that manufactures household cleaning supplies.  Listed below are five ways manufacturers like At Method benefit from going green.

1. Reduced Manufacturing Expenses

Since most green initiatives in manufacturing have a focus on reducing energy consumption, which includes the adoption of efficient energy technologies and the transition to energy sources that are renewable, the long term result is a reduction in expenses. Energy consumption accounts for a huge portion of manufacturing costs and therefore, when energy consumption is reduced, manufacturing expenses are in turn reduced as well. Many financial experts consider this to be one of the biggest financial benefits of going green.

2. Tax Incentives

State and federal governments are continually adding and expanding tax incentives, credits, and grant programs in an effort to entice manufacturers and reward them for implementing green initiatives. Some of these incentives and credits are crafted to encourage the use of renewable energy sources to maintain manufacturing operations. While tax incentives should not be a primary motivation for businesses to become more responsible, it is certainly a benefit that needs to be seriously considered.

 3. Turning Waste Into Profits

In the past, manufacturers allotted much of their resources and budget in managing and disposing of the waste created in the manufacturing process. Green initiatives have the ability to greatly reduce expenses and even generate new revenue through recycling and by the creation of new byproducts generated from waste materials. New byproducts can generate new forms of revenue for businesses.

4. Greater Loyalty From Educated Consumers

Consumers are significantly more informed about the negative effects of manufacturing processes on the environment than they were a few short decades ago. Because of this, many are becoming very concerned about and involved in causes that will promote sustainability. This growing segment of society is very loyal to environmentally friendly manufacturers. Market demand results in greater sales for those with a strong green agenda and a good marketing team that knows how to leverage the initiatives with the PR initiatives of the company.

5. Greater Sales From Green Products

In addition to being loyal to manufacturers with sustainable manufacturing processes that are eco-friendly, informed consumers are always very interested in purchasing green products. For this reason, businesses that introduce and promote green products and services that show respect and concern for the environment we live in, will find a very passionate segment of society that will be very interested in the products and services being sold.

Move Over Windex

Because sustainability now makes financial sense, chemical heavy mainstream products such as Windex and Clorox are now finding eco-friendly products competing with them.  Companies like At Method are enjoying the five benefits listed above while making a profound change in how products such as cleaning products are made. Going green is no longer just the right thing to do, but it is also a very profitable thing to do as well.


Contributed by Tyson Gifford. Tyson is a big proponent of the green movement and works for the experts in automation and conveyor systems – Bastian Solutions.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

Principles of Sustainable Architecture

green-architectureOver the years sustainable architecture has taken on many different names and forms. What makes architecture sustainable varies widely and can include anything from a building which is constructed entirely of recycled materials to being one which is powered completely by the sun.

By following sustainable principles, architects are able to create environmentally sound and energy efficient buildings which promote conservation and a consideration of environmental impacts and historical preservation. Essentially, the entire life cycle of the building and its component parts are considered along with the economic and environmental impact the building will have on its surroundings.

Harness natural energy

The argument here is that humans, like the living world, should use energy from perpetual resources such as the sun and wind when it comes to harnessing energy and attempt to derive their inspiration from these when it comes to creating sustainable designs.

Eliminate waste

The aim should be to eliminate all aspects of waste and to utilise the full lifecycle of all products and processes. A focus on using renewable energy sources together with a concerted effort to conserve water with wastewater management system and attempts to collect and harvest rainwater should be central to sustainable design.

Use local, natural materials

An unnecessarily high carbon footprint is created when buildings are designed using materials which have travelled from far afield and you have less control over how these materials are harvested. By only building with local materials you’ll significantly reduce your carbon footprint and help the local economy. Natural building materials can help to promote day lighting and provide superior quality acoustics unlike other materials which require adjustments in order to achieve the same levels of quality.

Understand the limitations of design

Nothing we design lasts forever and those responsible for design should practice humility in
the face of nature, treating it has a model and not an inconvenience or an obstacle which has to be overcome. The key here is to establish clear communication, cooperation and coloration between architects, engineers, contractors and ultimately the end user. After all, it’s pointless creating a stunning, highly energy efficient building if it has little or no connection with the people who use it.

Seek continual improvement

Through the sharing of knowledge and open communication we can begin to understand more and link together long term sustainable considerations with the ethical responsibilities we all have. By creating sustainable buildings we can enrich lives and provide a healthier working and living environment through the use of non-toxic building materials.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal