29 August 2008

Obama and McCain who would Planet Earth vote for?

If our Planet was voting in the US Presidental Elections in November where would Earth cast its vote...ermm...I wonder?
Would it want a leader that would plunder the oil in its rich heart or a leader that would use wind,solar and water energy.
The real question that Earth would ask the new leader in the USA is "What are you going to do to help me".
Do we want a President that just wants to "take" or a President who wants to "give back".
Who can answer the question of Earth?
To me the one who can answer the question is the one who will use the energy that is the least harmful to our planet.

28 August 2008

Thought for the day

"Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good action,try to use ordinary situation"
Jean Paul Richter

26 August 2008

President Bush becomes an environmentalist-WHAT!

President Bush isn't a man that many would consider as an "environmental champion" in fact quite the reverse.Though I guess even the White House isn't immune to the change in attitude towards our planet.
Infact what he is trying to do may be the most significant environmental act by any US President...shock...horror!
So whats it all about you may wonder?
President Bush wants to protect some of the Pacific Oceans most remote and unspoiled islands,coral reefs,atolls from fishing and deep sea mining.Bush used the Antiquities Act a few years go to establish the worlds largets Marine protected area near Northwest Hawaiian Islands.
The important issue is not just to designate these areas as monument or marine sanctuary but to establish these sites as "no take reserves" where no extractive activity is allowed.
Now would Bush go that far,lets wait and see.

Emirates is trying to be eco-friendly

Dubai based airline Emirates is going eco-friendly.
Really...you gasp!When we think of an airline ,we would think that green issues would be the last thing we would think of!
Emirates is to receive its first eco-friendly Airbus A380.They want to reduce energy consumption and waste internally and increase reycling.
HH Sheikh Al-Makoum,Chairman and Chief executive for Emirates Airline and group stated
"our environmental commitment began well before it was considered fashionable,when we sponsored the creation of Dubai Desert Conversation Reserve in 1997"

The airline added that it is hoping to lauch next year one of the worlds most environmentally ambitious conservation resort in 400 acre Wolgan Valley Resort Spa in the Blue Mountains in Australia.
The idea is to restore tracts of distressed farming land back to its native state.Sounds great to me!

24 August 2008

Will China be able to keep its "green promise"

The Olympics has finished and China has shown the world that they can tackle their environment.Yet what will happen now when the worlds focus has moved from the Chinese shores and they go back to business.They will re open the factories and the cars will be back in Beijing.Smog returns.
We have already seen that China can create a cleaner Beijing and is building an ecocity but will the Chinese Govt be able to keep their green promise.I guess that to a certain extent they will try to.Yet China is a vast country with many issues.We can only hope and maybe the Chinese won't need to hold their breath again.

"Spoon me"-Frozen yoghurt serves you and your planet

Ryan Combe of Spoon me frozen yoghurt has said "eco-friendly commerce will be the norm rather than the exception."
He has shown that this is possible with his frozen yoghurt restaurants
.The first store opened in Salt Lake City back in Oct 07 and more stores are now opening.You can eat your spoons if you like! His stores use eco-friendly paints,light saving bulbs,recycled linen and the staff wear recycled clothes.They even have community based projects.In fact nearly all their products are eco friendly and the fact that you can go to this "eating place" and feel that you've actually done something to help the environment rather than contributing to more waste...has to be a major reason to go there.

The National Trust in the UK concentrates on the environment in their shops

The National Trust is an organisation in the UK with helps preserve our history,culture and wildlife.
The National Trust introduced a five pence charge for plastic bags from the 1st May 2008.This has caused a 95% drop in the usage of plastic bags from their shops.This equates to more than 325,000 carrier bags saved from landfill.They are also working closely with their suppliers to cut the amount of packaging waste and energy that is used in their shops.
Eco-friendly iniatives introduced into National Trust shops include recycled paper bags.

15 August 2008

What does "sustainable" mean to the environmentalists and Shell.

What image is Shell trying to portray.They released an advert in 2007 which has been branded as "misleading" by the Advertising Standards Authority.(ASA)
In the advert Shell stated that it wanted to meet the growing need for energy in ways that are not only profitable but sustainable.They have future projects lined up in Canada to unlock the potential of vast Canadian oil sand deposits.In the USA they are building the nations largest oil refinary and they are going to have a new generation of bio fuels from non food sources.
Hurrah,we think,at last the big boys at Shell care a bit about their environment!
Oh no,don't think so!
Now the WWF did not like the way Shell used "vague and ambiguous" claims to give the impression that Shell had a general concern for the environment.This advert certainly likes to blur what is really behind it all.
WWF argued that Shell is not helping provide a sustainable energy source by exploiting the oil sands.
Infact the oils sands according to the WWF are the worlds dirtest sources of fuel and had a major impact on the environment.
ASA decided to uphold WWFs complaint and this is an important step to stop companies such as Shell trying to give the impression that they are doing all they can to find ways to lessen the harm on the environment.
Lets face it,Shell have to answer to their shareholders and oil companies are just that,Oil companies.
Maybe Shell should think about investing in wind,solar and water power and then and only then can they claim a sustainable energy source that is a benefit to our planet.
In the this changing world and an increasing hostile world to oil they want to keep ahead but maybe they should look at their symbol the Shell and think about where it lived,the sea and maybe think about the life of the Shell and not its death.Its a big hint here!!

14 August 2008

Why we should switch our computers off!!!!

Its so easy to forget to switch our computers off and the net.We feel very proud when we switch off the TV and lights but we have forgotten to remember the tool we are all using the most! This one!!!

Also do you leave your mobile phone on the charger all day and night! Don't..you only need to charge it for a few hours.
We are wasting so much electricity and our bills are increasing.We seem to have more and more gadgets that we think require to be on 24hrs a day.They don't.
What about the wireless connections...are they always on?
Go on make a real difference,yes you!! Switch that computer off.

Dogs doing their bit for the planet.

Do you have a dog? When you take your dog for "walkies" and he decides to do a number two...what do you used to pick it up?
Well there are poop bags that can make you feel better!
BioBag Dog Waste Bags - 100% Biodegradable / 100% Compostable

* Shelf-stable, like paper goods, but will start to decompose within 10-45 days once it enters a composting or landfill environment.

* Contains no polyethylene - therefore no plastic residue remains.

* Certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, meets specification ASTM #D6400-99.

* Meets California Law, SB 1749, regarding biodegradable and compostable requirements.

* Made in Norway - Certificate, EN 13432 - certifies the bag is 100% biodegradable and compostable. This certificate is based on the strictest European standard for compostable products.

* Made out of GMO-free (genetically modified-free) corn.

* Inks and dyes used for color and printing on bags are soy-based, and does not contain any heavy metals.

I have these for my dogs and they are great.

13 August 2008

Wilderness , conservation and the environment

When we look at the environment around us and we think of conservation of the wilderness,we look at the first step of trying to help the whole planet.The Native American Indians in America valued their environment and the animals that were in harmony with the earth.The Europeans arrived and did not have any concern for their environment but that changed when the Europeans realised what we could do to the environment and thus they decided to protect the wilderness.Many of these changes took place in the 19th and 20th centuries and now we have wilderness projects in the US and Africa and around the world.
We need to protect the wilderness and conserve our lands.In protecting the wilderness we can infact protect our planet.

Solar Cities

Solar cities are being developed in Australia.Perth Solar City is the seventh city to join the Australian Govt Solar Cities program.It is estimated that more than 6,OOO homes and businesses will participate in the Perth Solar City trial.Participants will receive access to low flow showerheads that save water,efficient low wattage light bulbs,home energy assessments and discounted solar heated water and panels.

New Orleans in the USA is being re built with solar in mind.New Orleans has an opportunity to become one of the most important sustainable solar cities in the nation, saving thousands of dollars for homeowners while reducing carbon emissions,” said Ron Kenedi, vice president, Sharp Solar Energy Solutions Group. “As the U.S. solar market leader, we are extremely proud of having brought together our installers to help rebuild a Katrina-damaged New Orleans neighborhood.”

India with the help of the Clinton Foundation is also going to develop a solar City.

12 August 2008

Eco paints for cars

Cars are not considered eco friendly but you can think about having them painted with a water based product.
Its cost efficent,there is less pollution and there many colours to choose from.
Its just that it requires a change of thought and the knowledge that water based paints are better over all.
So next time you think about buying a car or having it re painted...ask about a water based paint.

China leads the world in the first major green city

Shanghai is buzzing.Its a place full of life , pollution and power cuts.Yet just outside the huge City is a place called Dongtan.
Dongtan is changing the way China and the world will look at planning and cities.Dongtan aims to use wind,solar power and bio fuels.It is using walkable neighbourhoods, a recycling scheme,organic farms and even green roofs.A new revolution is coming to China and it just might shape our world.
This is the hope of the Arup Group,based in London and designed by them.They also designed Beijings Olympic pool.
Dongtan should house 5,000 people by the end of 2010 and 500,000 by 2050.

How exciting is this....very!!
It shows that with planning and thought we can make eco towns and cities and feel proud of our achievements.

11 August 2008

Local farm shops are the way forward to a better environment

You know its always been nice to taste locally produced food.What if you could help the environment by eating local.Well Farmshops are very popular and one site deals with farmshops in the UK and soon worldwide www.farmshop.uk.com

Here is an article that supports the idea
Homegrown products save environment, money
UCLA project has potential to show how food grown locally can decrease greenhouse gases

Before ending up in last night’s salad, a lettuce head undergoes a long and rough journey. From the moment a farmer picks it, the lettuce head travels for many miles, reaching a grocery store where store employees wash, refrigerate and sell its head of fresh leaves.

According to UCLA environmentalists, the journey of produce from the farms to the dinner tables can be a wasteful use of energy because most products can be grown at home.

In recent years, UCLA has become more aware of sustaining the environment and promoting earth-friendly actions through research, activism and teaching.

“Do you know how your food gets to your table?” said Erick Sanchez de Leon, a fifth-year geography student. “It’s a long chain of oil and trucks.”

Sanchez is involved in a student group called Team Green Bite. Its members help build community gardens for poverty-stricken neighborhoods such as south Los Angeles.

Much of the transporting process of supermarket produce is unnecessary because it could have just been planted in your backyard, Sanchez de Leon said.

Such community gardens are economically more affordable and socially beneficial to neighborhoods in south Los Angeles, said Joseph Adams, a fourth-year political science student who is also involved in Team Green Bite.

Besides teaching, environmentalists are also researching the implementation of sophisticated technology to help sustain the earth by making all people aware of their green impact. Their hope is that this knowledge will make people understand how every step they take makes a difference and will allow them to see how wasteful the journey of the lettuce really is.

Members of the UCLA Center for Embedded Networked Sensing are working on the Personal Environmental Impact Report, which will have the ability to track each person’s influence on the environment.

This project is led by Deborah Estrin, a computer science professor at UCLA.

They use a software program installed on cell phones to track the carbon emission and pollution exposure based on where they go and how much they drive, said Katie Shilton, a graduate student of information studies and a researcher of the project.

“PEIR allows you to go beyond static measure of your carbon footprint by adding in your habits, like if you want to drive or if you want to take the bus,” she said.

After logging in, users can modify their means of transportation on the PEIR Web site and compare their personal exposure and contribution to pollution with Facebook friends, said Min Mun, a graduate student of computer science and also a researcher of the project.

PEIR researchers are still testing the program, but the public will be able to download it free of charge starting this fall.

The PEIR team envisions future broad uses for the program. Anyone who drives frequently, like truck drivers, could use their cell phone to benefit from this tool, Shilton said.

“This system could really be tied into things like our food supply,” she added.

This sort of program will assist in letting communities know the benefits of saving energy on all things, such as growing your own fruits and vegetables.

Some environmental activists let communities know the benefits of consuming public fruit, such as those overhanging a public sidewalk because it is more environmentally friendly.

Fallen Fruit is an organization made by three artists who have been tracking Los Angeles’ public fruit trees and mapping them for almost five years.

As a UCLA alumnus, Fallen Fruit co-creator Matias Viegener added that such fruit trees exist on campus.

Additionally, UCLA researchers said to be aware when shopping for produce in grocery stores.

Generally, it is better to purchase something local and organic because it utilizes less energy than buying produce shipped from another country, said Robert Gilbert, a graduate student of environmental health science and a researcher of UCLA Sustainability.

UCLA researchers also said the choice of what we eat affects greenhouse gas emissions, or gas that is released from vehicles that contribute to global warming.

The cost of the maintenance of cows, especially from their carbon output, is significantly higher than other animals we eat, said Cully Nordby, an academic director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and the chairwoman of the UCLA Sustainability Committee.

“If you choose to eat chicken over beef, you’re taking a step to be much more sustainable,” she said.

Researchers of the UCLA Institute of the Environment said they like to emphasize the sustainability of eating foods that are in season locally.

For example, buying star fruit in the time of year when California does not grow it might mean that it comes from overseas, said Matthew Kahn, a professor of the UCLA Institute of the Environment.

“If we are serious about mitigating greenhouse gases, we need to change our diet or the seasonality of our diet,” he said.

The good news is consumers could actually find excitement and enjoyment in a seasonal diet, Nordby said.

“If you have to wait for your raspberries and then they finally show up at the store, you’re so excited, and they are so much better-tasting than raspberries you would get at other times of the year,” she said.

What have you switched it off lately?

Has the message of this blog helped?
Have you remembered to switch it off?
Go on make a difference!!!
Turn that plug off and you know just by making one small effort you can help the Earth.
We all can.

Mayor of London doing his bit for the environment

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today confirmed his manifesto commitment to encourage all Greater London Authority staff to spend time out of the office helping to 'clean and green' London - the Mayor announced he and his senior advisers will also sign up to the scheme and lead by example.

The Mayor believes City Hall staff can encourage more Londoners to volunteer by spending at least one day a year volunteering themselves for one of the many organisations that are dedicated to protect and enhance the environment.

The Mayor unveiled a list of organisations that he will recommend staff to get involved with, including: the Environment Trust, the London Wildlife Trust, the National Trust, Dogs Trust, Trees for Cities, Blue Cross - pet charity, British Trust Conservation Volunteers, Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers, Enfield Conservation Volunteers, Lea Valley Park Volunteers, Epping Forest Conservation, Spitalfields City Farm and the Trust for Urban Ecology.

The Mayor of London, said: 'Today I am announcing my intention to roll up my sleeves, and commit to spend some of my time volunteering to help 'clean and green' London in the same way I am strongly encouraging City Hall staff to do so.

'There are an army of marvellous people that are doing a fantastic job to make our local neighbourhoods and green spaces, cleaner and more pleasant. I want to see even more Londoners getting involved in those organisations helping to make their environment better, and it is only right that me and my senior staff lead by example.'

The Environment Trust, one of the organisations included in the list, welcomed today's announcement. Volunteers for the Environment Trust works across London - mainly in the east end - on projects to improve the social, economic and physical environment for the capital's communities.

Jon Aldenton, Chief Executive of the Environment Trust, said: 'We welcome all types of active citizenship so today's announcement by the Mayor is great news. It's good to hear the Trust's efforts will be aided by this push for even more volunteers. We have a wide range of exciting, hands-on activities for Londoners to get involved with such as planting native wild flowers through projects such as 'East End Flowers', which is helping to brighten and enhance this area of London.'
London Daily news.

10 August 2008

Divorce and the environment

DIVORCE is not just heart-breaking -- it's bad for the environment. When a couple or family separates, they create two households where there used to be one.

Suddenly, the same number of people are using twice the number of hot water systems, two refrigerators, two kitchens, two heaters and two air-conditioners. If there are kids, then sometimes each child inherits two bedrooms instead of one.

It's like a mini-fiscal expansion: separation puts upward pressure on the rental market and is a boom for suppliers of furnishings and electrical goods like Harvey Norman and Bing Lee. But it's a much less efficient way to live.

A four-person family that breaks up will generate around 43 per cent more garbage than they did when they were together. They will use up to 34 per cent more water and up to 70 per cent more energy, depending on the type of new dwellings being occupied.

It's not a trivial problem. Around 40 per cent of marriages will end in divorce. If governments want to improve environmental performance, maybe they should start recruiting marriage counsellors.

Divorce is only one of a number of evolving social changes making Australian households less sustainable. The number of people living in each Australian household has been falling steadily since before federation.

Late last century, there were around five people living in each household. By the 1960s, it was fewer than four people and by 1990 it was fewer than three. In its latest projections, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that households will be approaching two people by 2026.

This decline is the result not only of family break-ups but other social drivers, such as more couples deciding not to have children, more people not getting married and baby boomers living longer.

As a result, the number of households is expected to increase by up to 47 per cent between 2001 and 2026, while the population will only increase by 25 per cent.

As bookshops fill their shelves with handy eco-guides on how to switch to more efficient lighting and appliances, the savings are dwarfed by these social and structural trends in the way we live.

The biggest determinant of the total energy used by Australian households, the waste generated and even the amount of water used is the number of people who live in each household.

No one took much notice of a remarkable new study on household energy use released by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts in June. They soon will.

The DEWHA study found that despite the advent of airconditioners and plasma-screen TVs, the average energy consumption of each Australian household is not expected to change significantly. From 1990 to 2020, household energy demand will increase by 56 per cent, but mainly because the number of Australian households will increase by 61 per cent.

The report noted the rise of wood-burning stoves and water beds in the 1980s, and their subsequent decline. It predicts increased energy demand to be offset by a range of efficiency programs, including better insulation, more gas and solar hot water, and more efficient appliances.

When it comes to the number of people in each home, small is not beautiful. In 2004, a detailed audit of household waste in Canberra found that the rate of waste generated per person decreased by 30 per cent for each extra person in the household. Similar household audits by Yarra Valley Water in 2003 found a similar relationship for water use, tapering off after three or more people. It's more efficient to live with other people and share the economies of scale in lighting, heating, cooking and watering the lawn.

Similar estimates can be made of per capita energy use by combining surveys of household time use with data contained in the DEWHA report.

Despite the numbers of people per household falling steadily over the past century, the physical size of each household continues to increase.

According to the DEWHA report, the average area per household has increased from 113sqm metres in 1990 to 145sqm in 2007 and is projected to increase to more than 170sqm by 2020.

This growth is being driven in part by renovation of the existing stock of dwellings, but mainly by the strong financial incentives that exist for new home builders to maximise the size of their house.

The principal place of residence is exempt from capital gains tax and it's the main personal investment for most Australian households.

The value of this asset is increased by maximising the numbers of bedrooms, bathrooms or car spaces.

While not diminishing the ongoing role of micro-efficiency improvements in Australian households, the DEWHA report reveals the breadth of policy thinking needed to address environmental challenges.

Ignoring these macro social factors threatens to negate any hard-won improvements made by government initiatives or enthusiasts.

Perhaps planners should think beyond more efficient building to encouraging more efficient societies: share-houses for baby boomers, the return of the granny-flat or other systems that can at least arrest if not reverse the inefficient demographic trend that unwittingly consumes us.

Australian Business.

Eye On The Environment: Read the labels on all green products

By David Goldstein Ventura USA article.Its interesting.

Have you heard of "nutrition fatigue"? It is a term for the problem faced by nutrition advocates after years of telling people so many things are dangerous to human health.

People stop paying attention. The problem is made worse by conflicting claims and counterclaims. One day something is bad for you, and the next day it has redeeming qualities.

The same problem might be happening with all things green. People overwhelmed by all the green noise of environmental claims might cynically turn away from the issue and stop paying so much attention to what's being said.

Fortunately, many efforts are under way to ensure truth in labeling. On the legislative front, Assemblyman Pedro Nava recently sent to constituents a summary of legislation he is currently considering, including Assembly Bill 1851. Nava said the bill would ensure that consumers buying "global warming offsets" or "carbon offsets" would actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would set minimum standards ensuring that "offsets are real and not counted more than once."

Certification of environmental claims is overseen by public, private and nonprofit groups. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designates energy-saving appliances with an Energy Star label. Home Depot is beginning to use an Eco Options label on products after ensuring claims are valid. The Forest Stewardship Council awards FSC certification to products made from wood harvested in ways that avoid deforestation (through replanting above legally required standards), water runoff (through precautionary measures taken when harvesting timber on slopes) and other sustainable practices.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a group of industry and environmental representatives, certifies palm plantations committed to standards for producing palm oil.

These certifications, however, are not always perfect. For example, critics, such as Glenn Hurowitz in Grist Magazine, cite a Greenpeace report accusing the palm standards of being useless because the group does not inspect the tree plantations to see if they are actually following the guidelines.

In some cases, if you want a green product, you have to consider the ingredients. For example, when buying a detergent, look for labels saying "phosphate free." A bill with bipartisan sponsorship by senators in the Great Lakes region was introduced May 15 to ban the sale of residential dish detergents containing more than 0.5 percent phosphorus, starting in 2010.

Waste News, a publication serving the waste industry, quoted Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, as saying phosphorous causes "harmful algal blooms and the dead zone that emerges every summer" in Lake Erie.

Although Ventura County does not seem to have dead zones, phosphorous likely has similar effects in local ecosystems, causing excessive algae growth. That leads to bacteria consuming dead vegetation when the algae dies, depleting oxygen from bodies of water and resulting eventually in the decline of fish populations.

In other cases, it is useful to carefully read the wording of an environmental claim. For example, the word "recyclable" and the arrows of the recycling symbol do not necessarily mean a product is recyclable in local programs. Curbside recycling programs in Ventura County do not recycle plastic foam, despite the recycling symbol printed on foam cups and packaging.

The term "recycled," however, has real meaning, especially if a label further specifies "post-consumer recycled," which means it was made from material recycled after its useful former life as a product. This contrasts with "post-industrial" recycled content, which means a product was made from factory scrap that is relatively easy to recycle.

Perhaps most confusing are claims with no specific meaning. A product label bragging "natural" or "degradable," or a food label saying "not sprayed," might have no useful significance. In contrast, a label such as "USDA Organic" means a food was certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as meeting strict standards regulating use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Every time you buy a product, you send a message to the manufacturer to "make more like this."

By keeping an eye on environmental claims, you encourage manufacturers and growers to keep an eye on the environment.

On the Net:


9 August 2008

The humble bee and the planet

When we see a bee in the garden we take them for granted.Yet the humble bee is so vital to our environment.The bee is vital for our food,our crops,our flowers and our ecology.They are important for our bio fuels but they are disappearing and their loss may have a terrible impact on our environment.
What can we do?
Maybe we could encourage bees into our gardens and plant flowers to help them.

7 August 2008

Love the earth ,make a difference and change one step at a time

You know sometimes we want to do something for our planet and make a difference and we don't know where to start.There are so many people telling us what is the best way to help our planet ,our environment.
There are so many websites out there.
Yet one simple action each day,week can make the difference.
Firstly,just switch off the TV .Don't leave it on stand by.
Then think about the waste you produce.Do I really make as much effort as I can to recycle as much waste as I can.Oh its so easy not to wash a tin or bottle and chuck it(think of Wall E,a robot with a heart).
Just try a simple task.
Its easy to say..I don't see the point if I'm the only one doing it...well you know what if we all made one simple action each day...well thats alot of people on our planet making a difference.
Infact helping the environment makes us feel special,makes us feel connected and actually I think it unites a community.
We all have a common aim to help the earth.

6 August 2008

The curse of the plastic bag

One simple way of each of us helping the environment is to "do away" with those annoying plastic bags.
Its hard to believe that the humble plastic bag is truly wicked! Yes its destroying our environment in ways we couldn't even imagine.
I am so happy that the supermarkets and major shops have really took to the idea of getting rid of using plastic and 2008 has seen a wonderful change in attitudes of the general public.
I love the re usable cotton bags and find them trendy infact.
I've never liked the plastic anyway and many European countries lead the way in re using bags.
For example German companies have been re using their bags in supermarkets for over twenty years.
Go on get a lovely cotton bag and use it!

Cadbury shows the world its not just about chocolate

When we think of Cadbury.We think chocolate and even Ronald Dahl but do you ever consider that Cadbury was a pioneer in affordable green housing.
Here is some info on Cadbury.
Bournville Village

Established by Richard and George Cadbury, two Victorian businessmen with great industrial and social vision, Bournville Village is a story of industrial organisation and community planning covering well over a century. It embraces the building of a factory in a pleasant 'green' environment (in stark contrast to the oppressive conditions of the Victorian industrial scene), the enhancement of employees' working conditions and overall quality of life and the creation of a village community with a balanced residential mix (both employees and non-employees).

George Cadbury was a housing reformer interested in improving the living conditions of working people in addition to advancing working practices. Having built some houses for key workers when the Bournville factory was built, in 1895 he bought 120 acres near the works and began to build houses in line with the ideals of the embryonic Garden City movement.

Motivation for building the Bournville Village was two-fold. George Cadbury wanted to provide affordable housing in pleasant surroundings for wage earners. But as the Bournville factory grew, local land increased in value and was ready to fall into the hands of developers. The last thing the brothers wanted was that their 'factory in a garden' would be hemmed in by monotonous streets.

Dame Elizabeth Cadbury was involved in the planning of Bournville with her husband, George. Her memoirs tell us how these plans became reality:

"When I first came to Birmingham and we were living at Woodbrooke, morning after morning I would walk across the fields and farmland between our home and the Works planning how a village could be developed, where the roads should run and the type of cottages and buildings.

Gradually this dream became reality, houses arose and many of the first tenants being men in Mr Cadbury's Adult School Class - which met every Sunday morning at 8.00am in Bristol Street - who had previously lived in the centre of the city and had never had a garden. Also workers in the factory became tenants.

They too enjoyed their homes in the healthy surroundings, cultivating their gardens, rewarded in many instances by splendid crops of apples from the belt of apple trees which each tenant found at the bottom of his garden."

In 1897 Richard Cadbury built the Bournville Almshouses, an attractive quadrangle of cottage-like homes around a central garden, on the southern edge of the village, on the corner of Linden and Mary Vale Roads. Built mainly, but not exclusively for pensioners of Cadbury Brothers, this group of almshouses still exists today. The Bournville Almshouses Trust was established to administer them, endowed by rents from 35 houses built at the same time.

By 1900, the estate included 330 acres of land with 313 cottages. Although plans had been set out for 'schools, baths and an institute', none had yet been built.

The City of Birmingham had not yet pushed its boundaries beyond Edgbaston, four miles away, to the north of Bournville; Selly Oak was developing fast; and to the east and south Stirchley and King's Norton were spreading.

George Cadbury therefore decided to turn his Bournville Building Estate into a Charitable Trust: 'The Bournville Village Trust'. He decided to preserve his works for future generations and protect the rural aspect of the village from speculators, handing over the land and houses to the Bournville Village Trust with the proviso that revenue should be devoted to the extension of the estate and the promotion of housing reform.

The Trust has always been entirely separate from the Cadbury business, although members of the Cadbury family continue to act as Trustees, closely involved with its work at the forefront of improving housing conditions in the UK, which still continues today.

The Bournville Trust has completed one of the first eco conversions in the UK and leads the way as it did many years ago.

Affordable Housing goes Green

building is often regarded as a luxury of the rich, but affordable housing developers are beginning to take on the green standard. Low-income communities, many experts say, have a lot to gain from greener, more sustainable homes. Sustainable building practices lead to energy conservation, water conservation, healthier indoor air quality, more durable structures and access to public transportation -- all of which significantly cut down on long-term costs for residents.

The green building movement is also creating more jobs -- not only with new construction but also by retrofitting older structures. From a public-health perspective, building affordable housing as green has been shown to reduce injury and disease caused by environmental factors like lead poisoning, particularly in low-income neighborhoods.

While greening houses makes them more affordable on a daily-use basis, the process increases construction costs and also adds the expense of being certified as officially "green." According to an affordable housing study by the non-profit New Ecology Inc., going green can cost developers up to $9,700 more per unit of housing. On average, developers that build green affordable housing face a "greening premium" of roughly 2.42 percent.

This higher cost is the key reason most developers still shy away from building green lower-income housing. Since affordable units are rented or sold below-market rate, any additional building costs can make developers hesitate. In addition, the greening process can also take longer to build, and the certification process requires far more paperwork.

Some housing experts now talk about having local, state and federal governments pick up some of these added costs, in order to make the green standard the mainstream standard for affordable housing.
The challenge with affordable housing is balancing short-term costs with long-term gains, according to New Ecology Inc., a sustainable development group in New England that recently released a cost-benefit analysis of green affordable housing. Take, for example, a building located in a colder climate. Adding more insulation during construction can mean big savings on heating costs, but also means increased initial materials costs.

Other long-term considerations include operational costs, said New Ecology president Ed Connelly. "The challenge for affordable housing isn't just raising the money to build it. It's having the funds going forward to operate it," he said. "It's really not hard to come to a good balance between reducing operating costs by improving construction and performance of new buildings."

The additional price for greening these projects is about 2 to 3 percent of the total construction cost, according to data from the Maryland-based Enterprise Community Partners, a leading provider of capital and expertise for affordable housing and community development. But some developers say the government should be picking up that premium.

Eric Anderson, a developer with the New York-based Urban Green Builders, says the public sector could defray the marginal costs associated with green affordable housing. Urban Green Builders has gained attention for building green affordable housing in the same neighborhoods as green market-rate housing.

"I think the public side," Anderson said, "should take into account the additional capital cost in making decisions about how to finance housing."

That's because, he said, the long-term benefits of green housing are undeniable. He cited getting cars off the road and building stronger communities. According to Enterprise Community Partners, green developments also reduce energy use, cut CO2 emissions, cut health-care costs and even relieve some of the financial burden faced by Americans living in poverty.

Whether the federal government is doing enough is up for debate. But the Environmental Protection Agency has taken some action over the last decade, said New Ecology's Connelly. In 1992, the EPA instituted Energy Star, an international standard or qualification system for energy-efficient products and buildings. Buildings with an Energy Star certification use at least 15 percent less energy than standard buildings.

While the Energy Star rating system can be useful for affordable housing developers, there's a lot the federal government could offer in the way of public policy, says Dana Bourland, a green affordable housing expert who is senior director of Green Communities, a program of Enterprise Community Partners.

Green Communities is now carrying out a five-year plan to build 8,500 green homes for low-income residents. The project's goal is to make environmentally sustainable development the "mainstream" standard for affordable housing.

It's "critically important," says Bourland, that the government offer incentives for developers to go green and provide resources for them to do so. "It's good economic policy. And, at the same time, it leverages the investments that we're already putting into affordable housing," she said.

That's exactly what Green Communities has found at the state and local levels -- where governments take the resources they're already using for affordable housing and make them go farther, by investing in sustainability.

Green Communities, Bourland says, has found that public policy can do a lot even if it doesn't supply funding. Since building to the green standard is so different from building to regular building codes, a rethinking of the financial process is needed, Bourland says. "We need to reprioritize how we're allocating resources," said Bourland. "We can do green affordable housing currently, but if we can use additional or just current resources more effectively and just target them...buildings will have better performance over time."

The U.S. Green Building Council agrees that most progress now is at the local level. USGBC developed the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) rating system -- the most widely used green-building certification system in the country. The LEED system has varying degrees of certification, and the one generally used for affordable housing is LEED For Homes. Achieving the highest LEED rating, LEED Platinum, means investing the most money into the most sustainable practices, because Platinum standards are especially strict. For example, developers would be required to obtain a certain number of materials manufactured within a few hundred miles of the building site, or to use state-of-the-art lighting systems.

Michelle Moore, senior vice president of policy and public affairs at USGBC, says efforts to make affordable housing green are often driven by local public policy. "There are many jurisdictions where mayors or city councils have taken leadership positions in delivering green communities for public investment in affordable housing," she said.

Moore also said that public support should go beyond investment in buildings. She talked about how local, state and federal government could invest in green-collar jobs.

"There's a great opportunity," Moore said, "to raise the skill level of people in the building trade, open up new local jobs and keep the jobs here." Skills training could also focus on not just new construction but on retrofitting existing buildings to bring them up to the green standard, says Moore.

Affordable housing advocates might be waiting for help on the federal level, says Moore, but there this is already happening on the local level. "We've seen a huge uptick in the number of green affordable housing projects," she said. "Most of the activity is happening at the local level...Mind shift happens at the local level in a lot of places."

But it may take more than just a mind shift. Experts seem to all agree that what's really needed to make affordable housing green is more green. The current cost premium on green construction, remains a real hurdle for developers of low-income housing, despite the benefits that these new studies show.

From the Washington Post.

5 August 2008

It starts in our own backgarden

How can we help as the little folk in our quest to help the environment,our planet and our future.Well we can look at our own backgarden.
Firstly we can plant trees.They are natural,beautiful and help cover our houses from excess heat in the summer and provide shelter for birds and insects.
We can use rain water from our barrels to water our garden and that means not using our taps.
We can compost our garden waste and our kitchen waste.
We can encourage bees and butterflies into our gardens.
Yes we can make a difference.

4 August 2008

Affordable green housing and helping those in need to create a better world

What a great idea.In helping those who are worse off we help the planet.Affordable green housing is a fantastic concept.I cannot understand why in this day and age that we don't make our new houses eco friendly.Why not put solar panels on the houses?
If we create affordable green houses for people who are struggling then they can use the environment to help them and thus they feel that they are helping the planet.Its all positive.We need to encourage first time buyers and the younger generation to have eco friendly homes built.I think solar and wind power for houses is vital.
Think about it..its simple really.

Eco paints the future of painting

Its hard to believe that we used lead in our household paints and its not that long ago and we now have moved on.
Painting is huge business and we always need to decorate our homes and offices and leisure buildings.
Eco paints are the next hot item on the list of the general public.We are not switching in droves as the prices are higher but we are becoming interested.We are wanting to create the home with chemical free solutions and what better way than to help our health and the environment.
Lets hope that the big boys such as Dulux can push more money into investing in eco paints and just maybe there will be all natural paints in the future as there is no lead in household paints now.

3 August 2008

Have you remembered to switch it off?

This blog is trying to a send a message to every blogger on the planet.Switch it off.Do you think more .Yes you can make a difference and you can make a change.
Just believe that we are all important.
It will happen.Go on remember to switch it off and turn Earth on.

Who can we trust to tell us the truth?

Article from Telegraph.Innocent Smoothies accused over environmental marketing
Britain's leading manufacturer of "smoothie" drinks, and one of the companies at the vanguard of the green revolution, has been accused of making misleading claims about its environmental credentials.

Sam Chase, of campaign group Rising Tide, accused Innocent of using bogus ethical claims . Innocent Smoothies tells consumers on its website that "fruit always travels by boat or rail" because these methods use less fossil fuel than air or road transport per kilo of fruit. Customers are also told the drinks are produced in the UK.

However, the Daily Telegraph can reveal that the drinks are blended on the continent before being driven in dozens of tanker lorries hundreds of miles across Europe for bottling in the UK.

All that the company's website says about where the drinks are made is that they are produced "in the countryside".

Sam Chase, of the environmental campaign group Rising Tide, accused Innocent of greenwash – using bogus ethical claims to enhance a company's reputation.

"People will be happy to pay more for a product if they feel it is environmentally friendly," he said. "These drinks are supposed to be fresh but they're not. You pay a premium for feeling good about yourself.

"We are drowning in a sea of corporate greenwash. Even companies which are supposed to have the highest ethical standards are at it now and the major problem is that it encourages consumers to believe they do not have to make the changes that are necessary to combat global warming."

Despite spending millions on projecting an image of a cottage industry with strong ethical values, the UK smoothie market is as aggressive as any other retail sector.

Innocent, founded by Cambridge graduates Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright, has a 71 per cent share of the £169 million UK smoothie market and the company sells two million smoothies per week. Last year it appeared 40th in a list of the 100 fastest-growing British companies.

Mr Reed, one of the company's co-founders, denied there had been a deliberate attempt to mislead customers but accepted that since moving production overseas, Innocent had not publicised where its drinks were made.

"We are attempting to get the best quality drinks to our customers while generating the least amount of carbon," he said. While it might sound strange, Rotterdam is the port which all the fruit comes into, so it makes sense to blend our drinks there.

"It had been our policy not to talk about where are drinks are made for commercial reasons but we now seek to tell our customers everything about the drinks and be completely open with them.

"There is some material on our website which has not been updated and incorrectly states that we only use rail and sea to transport our fruit. That is a mistake on our part and will be rectified immediately."

1 August 2008

China trying to make a difference

China, pilloried as the world's biggest polluter, has quietly taken a lead in moving to a low carbon economy, an independent climate advisory group said on Friday.

Although it is building one coal-fired power station a week and its carbon dioxide emissions have surged since 2002, from seven percent of the global total to more than 24 per cent, China is also making strides in renewable energy and green technology.

"Everybody sees China as this monster polluter, but it is doing so much more than that," said Changhua Wu, China director of The Climate Group -- an independent, non-profit organization advising business and governments on combating climate change.

“China is already leading in certain types of technologies. In the power sector it is in clean coal, solar, wind. In transport it is developing more efficient compact cars and electric cars,” she said in London, where she is launching the report, "China's Clean Revolution". She noted, however, that China still had a long way to go.

China produces carbon emissions of 5.1 tons per head -- one quarter of the United States -- but with a population of 1.3 billion people it would equal the planet's entire emissions on its own if it hit US levels.

Washington says it can do nothing to combat global warming unless Beijing takes steps to cut its booming emissions of climate changing carbon gases from burning fossil fuels for power and transport.

For its part China, along with other major developing countries, argues that most of the carbon in the atmosphere was put there by the rich developed nations who must therefore shoulder the burden of dealing with its causes and effects.

“Developed countries really need to demonstrate their sincerity, demonstrate the feasibility of the solutions, really demonstrate that they are serious about this,” said Wu. “Telling developing countries that they must do it when they themselves are not, just not acceptable.”

While on the surface it appears to be a major diplomatic standoff, China is already acting on its own, driven by serious domestic stress from rampant pollution and rising food prices caused in part by replacement for biofuel production.


"In China the top leadership are all of the same mindset. China opened up 30 years ago. But our economic miracle was driven by intense resource use that produced great pollution and recently unrest," Wu said in an interview.

"That is fully understood. The leadership has been thinking about a new pathway. They know they can't repeat the path of the past. They know it has to be clean, it has to be more efficient. Low carbon has now been integrated into this new pathway."

The report says China is the world's top maker of solar power panels, is set to become the top exporter of wind turbines and has two-thirds of the global market in solar water heaters.

China is also is a leading producer of energy efficient domestic appliances and rechargeable batteries.

At the same time it has brought in stringent measures to boost fuel efficiency and has boosted production of electric-powered bicycles and efficient compact cars.

"China has got the green message. Companies are making profits in pushing forward the low carbon economy," Wu said.

Much as Japan, rebuilding from scratch after World War Two, led the industrial boom in the global economy, so leading developing countries like China and India are looking to lead the world into the low carbon age.

"The thinking in China is that there is no doubt that in 20 or 30 years time China will be a world leader," Wu said.

"To be a respected, responsible leader of the world we have to start thinking now about what we should do to lead up to the day when China has to lead and will be able to lead well. Climate change is one of the key issues there."

UK dreaming of a green Christmas

If you’re going to deck the halls with boughs of holly this Christmas you might want to stick to the leaves and hold the berries. If a report by the Energy Saving Trust is right, then red is out and green is in when it comes to electronic presents.
According to the study, more than a third of Brits who say they will buy gadgets as Christmas presents will buy energy efficient versions.

If we were trying to be negative about this we’d run the story “Two thirds of Brits ignore environmental concerns at Xmas”. But frankly one third actually caring about what they buy is a good start.

Better still, a hardcore 25 per cent of people say they will choose only energy-efficient gifts for friends and family.

Interestingly, 45 per cent of Brits who do plan to buy electronic products will spend £250 or more on them.

Presents weren’t people’s only green concerns, though.

Eighteen per cent would be happy to ditch the Christmas lights on the outside of their home in a bid to save energy, while 90 per cent say they will still consider buying green electrical products this yule despite the credit crunch.

Almost a quarter of those surveyed also said they would be prepared to drive less or use public transport over the yuletide period.

The research coincides with the launch of the Energy Saving Trust's 3,000th Energy Saving Recommended product, which will be on the shelves in time for the Christmas rush.

“It really is possible for a normal UK family to be truly 'green' at Christmas,” said chief executive Philip Sellwood.

“By taking a number of simple measures such as turning electrical products off at the switch and only buying Energy Saving Recommended electrical devices, Christmas needn’t be an energy-sapping season.

Written by Matt Chapman

China's 'rapid renewables surge'

By Mark Kinver
From BBC

China has the world's fifth largest fleet of wind turbines
China's rapid investment in low carbon technologies has catapulted the nation up the global renewable energy rankings, a report shows.

The Climate Group study said China invested $12bn (£6bn) in renewables during 2007, second only to Germany.

However, it was expected to top the table by the end of 2009, it added.

The findings have been published as China faces criticism over its air quality ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games, which begin on 8 August.

The report, China's Clean Revolution, brings together the latest data on the country's burgeoning renewables sector in one publication.

Co-author Changhua Wu, The Climate Group's China director, said the rapid rise in investment was, in part, the result of the government realising that the western model of industrialisation was unsustainable.

"China has been experiencing similar problems during its industrial revolution that western nations saw during their period of rapid growth - pollution, environmental damage and resource depletion," she told BBC News.

"Domestically, we are being constrained in many ways; we do not have that many natural resources anymore.

"We have to rely on the international markets, so there is a big security concern there."

Uncertainty over future energy supplies has seen global fuel prices reach record levels, which has resulted in renewable technologies becoming a more attractive option.

The report said China's $12bn investment in renewables during 2007 was only just behind top-of-the-table Germany, which spent $14bn.
China will still burn its coal reserve, which is the world's third largest

In order to meet its target of increasing the percentage of energy from low carbon technologies from 8% in 2006 to 15% by 2020, China is expected to invest an average of $33bn annually for the next 12 years.

This was going to result in China becoming the leading investor by the end of 2009, Ms Wu forecast.

Figures within the report showed that China was already the leading producer in terms of installed renewable generation capacity.

It has the world's largest hydroelectricity capacity since the controversial Three Gorges project began producing electricity, and the fifth largest fleet of wind turbines on the planet.

Although its installed capacity of photovoltaic (PV) panels is still relatively low, it is already the leading manufacturer of solar panels.

Ms Wu explained that the rapid growth of the sector was being driven by both government and business.

"In order to really drive towards a low carbon economy, policy incentives are crucial; but it is not always the case," she said.

"The wind sector's fast growth was mainly a result of domestic policies, because the government offered incentives to developments so that private and public sector entrepreneurs would jump on it.

"But the solar PV sector benefitted mainly from the international market, such as demand from the US and EU.

"Even today, the policy incentives are still not there, yet it still has grown to the level it is now."

Lingering legacy

However, despite the advances in low carbon technology, the legacy of rapid economic growth, which was primarily fuelled by burning coal, has been soaring greenhouse gas emissions.

Filthy air conundrum

In the final days before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, there has been growing international concern over the air quality in the Chinese capital as the world's top athletes begin to arrive.

Organisers of the Games had promised that the city's notorious pollution would be cleaned up, so failure to deliver would be seen as an embarrassing environmental shortcoming.

City officials said that they would introduce emergency measures, such as banning the use of private cars and closing some factories, if conditions did not improve.

Although Beijing's troubles are currently under the media spotlight, air quality is a nationwide problem. According to figures from the World Bank, 20 of the planet's 30 most polluted cities are in China.

"In terms of total emissions, China is already the world's biggest emitter," Ms Wu said. "That's publicly available information, even the government is not denying it anymore.

"But if you look at emissions on a per capita basis, we are not the biggest emitters because we have 1.3bn people."

The report suggests that if China's population emitted as much as US citizens, its total emissions would be roughly equivalent to those of the entire planet's human activity.

"But just looking at numbers does not help tackle global climate change," Ms Wu added.

"In China, we are concerned about the speed of growth in emissions; it is really scary."

The report showed that China was only responsible for about 7% of greenhouse gases emitted in the period before 2002, when more than 90% of emissions from human activity were released.

But since the turn of the century, it added, China's portion has been growing steadily and now accounts for 24% of the global total.

The government is looking to stabilise its emissions by 2020, primarily through greater energy efficiency and the expansion of the nation's renewable energy infrastructure, including electric cars.

Ms Wu added that within the international climate negotiations, the Chinese were looking to developed nations to prove that they were serious about tackling climate change, such as delivering the mandatory cuts in emissions outlined in the Kyoto Protocol.

"If they are not able to do it with the technology available to them, then is it reasonable to expect China and India to do it?

"China does not commit itself to a number and then not deliver," she said, referring to whether China would sign up to legally binding targets in the ongoing UN climate negotiations about what system should replace the current Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

"If they commit, then they are very, very serious about; so they have to figure out what is possible."