Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Keep Britain Green - Do your bit today!

The organic vs non-organic debate goes on....

As you may have seen in the press today an independent review of organic food said there was 'no evidence' to support buying organic food for nutritional reasons. Here's the link to the article;

"Anger as organic claims shot down"

Well, that's hardly surprising - a potato is a potato whether grown organically or not. The issue is not, and never has been, about the nutritional benefits or otherwise, of organic food.

The issue, at least as far as I'm concerned ( and plenty of other organic fans...) is about the chemicals used to grow non-organic food.

I like to know exactly what's in the food I eat - preferably nothing, except the food!

As is so often the case with Government-backed reports, they miss the important issues completely! ( If you have any doubts on this, just search google for reports on the Government's 'Twitter' guidelines for its departments!! Then make up your own minds!)

Organic is best, if you want to be sure of eating unadulterated fruit, veg & meat.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Some concerns about solar energy generation

Keep Britain Green - Do your bit today!

Some concerns about solar energy generation

I am a big fan of solar energy - from a green perspective it is just about the perfect power source - clean, silent, and plentiful. I have many solar gadgets, from calculators to phone & battery chargers.

The cost of converting your home to run on solar power is high, but coming down all the time, so everything looks great on the solar power front.

So what am I concerned about?

I've been looking at companies who are producing solar energy on an industrial scale - nothing wrong with that you might think - it's certainly better than using fossil fuels!

Maybe I'm being too picky, but looking at the websites of these companies, they show acres of land covered with huge, gleaming, solar panels...

Am I the only one who sees something wrong with that picture?

Shouldn't the land be used differently?

I'm actually of the opinion that solar power should be generated in millions of smalls ways - like the gadgets I mentioned, and on individual domestic scales - each home generating just what it needs.

But of course the power generation companies will argue against that, because it cuts them out completely. They want you to keep buying power from them, so they can make massive profits and pay themselves huge salaries.

What do you think? Am I being too picky?

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Solar Energy - The Advantages and Disadvantages

Keep Britain Green - Do your bit today!

Solar Energy - The Advantages and Disadvantages

Perhaps the greatest argument that could be leveled about having to use fossil and nuclear fuel is our dependence on it. Global warming, though a real serious threat, maybe something that we could only be very worried about. Singly nothing much could be done about it as it will take serious political will if it is to be addressed effectively , and for now, other countries are not cooperating. But choosing between traditional and alternative sources of energy, that is something most of us can do.

The advantages of Solar Energy:
Solar energy is abundant and free. We can count the sun to rise tomorrow and the day after that. Oil and natural gases on the other hand, are non-renewable, once the sources run out, they are gone forever. Sure, there are other areas that could still be tapped, but sooner or later they will run out as well.

Solar energy does not pollute the air. If anything, the heat coming from the sun cleans the environment and maintains the earth's eco-balance. Not so with oil. Oil, its derivatives and its byproducts are great pollutants. In fact, 22,000 pounds of carbon monoxide will need to be produced first for the oil to be processed and supply a home with electrical energy for a year.

Solar energy harnessing panels are silent operators. Except maybe for the devices that are built into the panels so they can track the sun, from the collection of the suns rays to its photovoltaic conversion, they give neither a peep nor a squeak. It is a world of difference from the cacophony of giant drills and pumps that are used to extract oil from the ground.

Maintenance for the solar panels is very minimal. Except for the mechanical parts that are optional, almost no maintenance is needed. Once it is installed nothing much that can go wrong. The energy that is derived is free. With oil there is no telling what the next pump price would be and when. Oil, being a commodity, heavily depends on market forces to set the price. Often, with the right strategies, even market forces could be manipulated that could cause volatility in pricing.

The Disadvantages of Solar Energy
The cost. While solar energy is free, the cost of installation prevents many households from installing it. Brand new solar energy systems are expensive. Although it tends to pay off over time, the initial cash outlay could run into several thousands of pounds depending on the quality and volume of generated power you require. While solar energy technology has been around since the 1950's, it is only in recent years that its development has been more rapid. While costs of installation could also be subjective depending on the purchasing capacity of a customer, the benefits that could be derived from it are enormous, although mostly in unquantifiable terms.

For mass consumption, distribution lines are needed and this remains to be a big issue. Antiquated distribution lines used to transfer electricity and other modes of fuel into the home are clogged-up in many regions, so that to deliver solar energy to them will require a different approach.

Be that as it may, the benefits from solar power far outweigh its disadvantages. It is an ideal source of energy that it may soon be the norm in power generation.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Saving Energy - Help Save the Environment

Keeping Britain Green
- Do something Green today!

Saving Energy - Help Save the Environment

As the cost of living continues to rise, energy reports and broadcasts are crammed with energy saving tips and suggestions. Some energy saving tips require initial investments, some just solicit a change of lifestyle. The best energy saving tips are those that require almost nothing but changing a habit. This one is about the wise energy saving choices.

1. Limit, as much as possible, the use of water. Of course water is not that expensive (at least for now); but saving water saves energy. When cleaning the driveway, the deck or patio, using the broom instead of the hose would save several hundreds of gallons of water a year.

2. A push mower is a good idea to mow a small lawn. Aside from not using electricity or fuel to ride the mowing machine, it is also good exercise.

3. Rakes are good leaf movers. Like the push mower, you do not need energy to fuel up a machine to get the job done. There is also a sense of nostalgia in using this traditional tool.

4. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs to light up your driveway or as a security light. CFLs are one of the most handy and energy efficient products that you can have. If you are worried about bugs sticking to the light, there are yellow CFLs that are available.

5. When shopping, avoid going for the disposable ones. Disposable products need more landfills and landfills emit dangerous gasses. Go instead for items that could be used several times over. Again when shopping, go for products that are made of better quality. They might be a little more expensive but generally, quality products last longer.

6. Bring your own bags when shopping. Paper bags are made from trees; the environment can use more of them. Plastic bags on the contrary are oil based and are not biodegradable. If you bring your bag with you, you do not only help in saving energy, you could also get a discount from your store.

7. Batteries contain toxic materials. They produce heavy metal like zinc, zinc, arsenic, cadmium, mercury etc. Thus, disposal needs proper care. Once the heavy metal in batteries seeped into the ground it has a good chance of contaminating the ground. When buying products that would need batteries, pick those that are rechargeable. That way battery disposal is limited and you save on the cost of buying new batteries.

8. Good thing that SUV sales everywhere are going down (well, at least for the environment and not for car manufacturers). SUVs use much more energy than compact sedans for the same distance. While using SUV's could be fun, there is also that tinge of indifference to the current energy issues and environmental problems we are facing. Reducing the use of SUVs on the street may not mean much in terms greenhouse gas emissions but is a signal to manufacturers to build more energy efficient vehicles.

9. The use of solar power is an excellent idea if you want to tackle the issues of energy conservation and environment protection. If there is one thing that the world needs most at this time, it is the widespread use of solar power.

10. Energy saving devices may cost a little extra but the pays offs are much more than the extra cost in terms longer life spans and energy saved.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Battle Between Eating And Sustainable Power

Keep Britain Green - Do something green today!

Today climate change is a reality that is acknowledge by even the most doubtful of skeptics. The warmer temperatures in areas where its supposed to be cool, scorching summers, and bone-chilling winter have become a pattern that people cannot simply ignore.

What's The Battle About?
Funny enough it seems that people are getting desperate and all are turning to bio-fuel like it’s the saviour of all mankind. So what is bio-fuel? Bio-fuel is any gaseous, solid, or liquid material derived from biological materials. The argument ensues when people talk of the future. Bio-fuel’s raw materials are usually agricultural crops that are made to undergo fermentation and certain processes in order to produce bio-fuel.

The Problem
Who is the world’s largest oil consumer? Those with the highest number of vehicles running their roads, countries like the US, England and generally most of the European nations. When you think about it bio-fuel is made from corn, sugar-cane, palm oil, vegetable oil, and etc; where do these agricultural crops come from? Third World Countries.

In Mexico they have this “tortilla crisis”. Corn which is the basic ingredient of tortilla is now sold five times the price it used to be marketed for. The reason for the inflated prices? The demand of bio-fuel in highly developed countries has severely altered the business people’s sense of profit. Why sell for a dollar when you can for 5 because the demand is now higher.

Who Suffers?
The first world countries will have to export goods from the third world countries to fuel their increasing demand for energy. The third world countries are usually tropical ones located near the equator, hence a higher crop growth of corn, and all those needed to manufacture bio-fuel; but for these countries corn is food, so is sugar cane. For the first world to survive, the poorer countries must either starve in hunger, or break their back working to be able to afford the price hikes of the most basic of all commodities: food.

A Compromise
So what should we do? We need to address the problems of the environment and pollution, but it is also not right that to solve a problem we must create one. Think about it if the agricultural countries go into decline because its people can’t afford food then who will till the land to supply the giants with endless bio-fuel?

Sustainable energy is geared to sustain life, not make it harder. A proposal is in order. Since the crops needed for the production of bio-fuel can only survive in tropical countries then the governments of the more well off countries will have to invest in the agricultural countries to supply their own demand. These crops must be independent from those for local consumers. Stringent rules governing pricing and distribution must be implemented to further protect the source of the energy.

Sustainable power means the world working hand in hand to create a better way of life for the future. The road to betterment is paved with hard work and dedication. The ancient Egyptian used sails to go up and down the Nile; they were patient and they reached their destination. Let us all be patient but diligent in our quest for sustainable power to sustain life.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Ten Tips for Spotting a Green Scam

Make every day 'Green Britain Day!

Do your bit today to keep Britain Green!

In an earlier post I mentioned how some companies were perhaps not as green as they claimed to be - I discovered that this is known as 'greenwashing', Here's a quick guide to spotting 'greenwash' when reading company literature or adverts;

Ten Tips for Spotting a Green Scam

Communications company Futerra has compiled an easy guide to spotting greenwash. Here’s what to look out for,

1. Fluffy language
Words or terms with no clear meaning, e.g. "ecofriendly".

2. Green products v dirty company
Such as efficient light bulbs made in a factory which pollutes rivers.

3. Suggestive pictures
Green images that indicate an (unjustified) green impact eg flowers blooming from exhaust pipes.

4. Irrelevant claims
Emphasising one tiny green attribute when everything else is "ungreen".

5. Best in a class?
Declaring you are slightly greener than the rest, even if the rest are pretty terrible.

6. When it's just not credible
"Ecofriendly" cigarettes anyone? "Greening" a dangerous product doesn't make it safe.

7. Gobbledygook
Jargon and information that only a scientist could check or understand.

8. Imaginary friends
A "label" that looks like third party endorsement ... except it is made up by the company itself.

9. No proof
It could be right, but where's the evidence?

10. Outright lying
Totally fabricated claims or data.

Remember - be careful what you accept as fact!

Using 'Xeriscaping' to Save Time and Water;

Make every day 'Green Britain Day'!! Do your bit today, to make Britain greener!

Using 'Xeriscaping' to Save Time and Water;

While having a full fledged garden is rewarding and enjoyable, lots of people simply don’t have the time that is required to maintain it. Whether you have too much going on at work or too many kids to take care of, you should never try to operate a garden if you don’t think you can handle it.

For those people who are just too busy for a normal garden, I would suggest a somewhat recent method of gardening known as Xeriscaping. This minimal yet stylish theory first emerged in the US when water levels were at an all time low. It is a great method of having a great looking yard or garden, without having to maintain it or water it very often at all.

If your area is undergoing a drought, you should check with the water utilities and see if they are offering lessons in Xeriscaping. If you attend those, you will be able to get advice specific to your region (e.g. types of plants to grow, how much to water
them, etc).

To some, the name Xeriscaping conjures the image of a yard that consists of a giant rock bed. However, this is known as 'zero-scaping', and it is a considerably different concept. It focuses on reducing your yard to nothing that requires any maintenance whatsoever. Unfortunately this is usually just rocks. But this shouldn’t be your goal. While keeping maintenance at a minimum, it is still possibly to retain a nice looking yard that won’t attract the negative attention of everyone who passes by.

This might sound like it would be hard to implement without making your yard into a hideous mess, but this is not so at all. The theory basically involves choosing plants which are low maintenance to begin with, then putting them each in environments that are ideal. It is usually applied by figuring out what side of the house to place it on to get the best amount of shade, and figuring out how to group it with plants with similar water needs.

To get started in your Xeriscaping approach, you first need to pick out all the plants you will be using. They should for the most part require a low amount of water. This doesn’t mean you can only grow cactuses in your yard. Just cut back on the really thirsty plants that you have to water every day to keep alive. You’ll want to stick with local plants for the most part, and don’t go with anything too exotic as these generally require larger amounts of water.

The second most important principle of xeriscaping is placing the plants in ideal areas. If you place them all together with plants that require essentially the same amount of water, then you will end up saving lots of water. Also place the plants in areas where they will be protected from wind or excessive sun, depending on the needs of the plants. Xeriscaping is almost the same thing as microclimating, just with more of a focus on adaptation to harsh conditions rather than avoiding them. So if it sounds good to you and you’re looking to save time and water by renovating your garden, you should try xeriscaping!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

A to Z of Water-Saving Tips!

Make EVERY day 'Green Britain Day' - Do your bit today!

A to Z of Water-Saving Tips;

In the 20th Century, conflicts were about land, or vaulable energy resourses such as oil - In the 21st Century, I predict we are going to see conflicts about the most precious resource on the planet - WATER!

The challenges facing the world in the provision of clean water may be daunting, but here are 26 ways you can play your part in conserving water.( Adapted from Thames Water's Waterwise campaign. )

A) A dripping tap could waste as much as 90 litres a week.

B) Brushing your teeth with the tap running wastes almost 9 litres a minute. Rinse out from a tumbler instead.

C) Cool water kept in the fridge means you won't have to run the tap for ages to get a cold drink.

D) Don't use your washing machine until you've got a full load. The average wash needs about 95 litres. A full load uses less water than 2 half loads.

E) Every time you boil an egg recycle the cooled water for your houseplants. They'll benefit from the nutrients released from the shell.

F) Fit a water saving device in your cistern and save up to three litres a flush.

G) Grow your grass a little longer. It will stay greener than a close mown lawn and need less watering.

H) Hoeing stimulates the growth of plants, reduces water loss from the soil surface and removes weeds that take up valuable water and nutrients.

I) Installing a water meter can save you water and money by monitoring how much you use.

J) Just taking a five minute shower very day, instead of a bath, will use a third of the water, saving up to 400 litres a week.

K) Kettles should be filled with enough water for your needs but not to the brim. This will reduce your fuel bills too.

L) Lag your pipes to avoid bursts and leave your heating on a low setting while you are out in cold weather to prevent pipes freezing.

M) Mulch for moisture in the garden. Adding a layer of tree bark, compost, coconut husks or even newspaper keeps the sun off the soil and retains precious moisture.

N) No further watering is usually required for established trees and shrubs.

O) Once a week is all the watering your lawn needs even in the hottest weather. Over-watering can weaken your lawn by encouraging roots to seek the surface.

P) Purchasing a water butt will help you to collect rain water for use on the garden.

Q) Question your local garden centre about the water requirements of different plants. Some thrive in drier conditions.

R) Replacing a toilet cistern can save water. Toilets manufactured after 1993 use less water per flush.

S) Sprinklers can be wasteful. It doesn't take long for a sprinkler to soak your lawn thoroughly. A sprinkler can use as much water in an hour as a family of four will use in a day!

T) Trigger nozzles can save water by using it only when needed. This can save up to 225 litres a week.

U) Use the dirty water when cleaning a fish tank on your houseplants. It's rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, which provides an excellent fertiliser.

V) Very 'water efficient' washing machines and dishwashers are now manufactured. Machines with 'A' ratings are the most economical.
You'll find that they save on energy too.

W) Water your garden at the coolest part of the day to reduce evaporation.

X) Xeriscape means 'to landscape for water conservation.' The idea is to use plants that require less water. You can also utilise objects for decorative effect such as rocks, bricks, benches and gravel.

Y) You can use less water by turning the hot tap down, rather than the cold tap up, if you require cooler water.

Z) Zero water-waste is the goal. It's also the end of the alphabet but not the end of water saving ideas - why not tell us of any you've discovered? Just leave them as comments and I'll feature the best ones in a later post!