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Eco-friendly home ideas for the environmentally conscious

The term “eco-friendly home” all too often conjures images of a ramshackle wooden shack in the middle of a forest – isolated and without the benefit of even basic facilities. Hand in hand with this picture goes the notion that eco-friendly living requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice. However, there are many ways in which you can transform your home into an eco-friendly haven, while maintaining high levels of luxury, style and comfort.

The power of the elements

Solar power is a fantastic way to heat water. All it takes is a bank of solar panels fixed to a southerly facing exterior surface. The heated water can be channelled through pipes that run below your floorboards to provide an efficient underfloor heating system. For external water sources, rainwater harvesting is an easy way to leverage the UK’s annual rainfall quota. Rainwater is collected in large rooftop butts, to be used for anything from cleaning the car to flushing the toilet. Solar power and harvested rainwater can easily be supplemented by mains supply, so you need not worry about ever running short.

Insulate

Good insulation reduces energy consumption, minimising the need to use heaters or air conditioning units. Beyond the essential wall cavity insulation and argon double glazing, wooden shutters can provide an additional advantage. Shutters act as a buffer between the elements and the window pane, preventing windows from freezing up in winter. In summer, they can be closed to keep the sun out and ensure the house stays cool.

Fuel

Eco-house Manual: A Guide to Making Environmentally Friendly Improvements to Your Home

Eco-house Manual: A Guide to Making Environmentally Friendly Improvements to Your Home

Wood will feature highly in any eco-friendly home, not least as a renewable source of fuel. Wood pellet boilers, already common in the US and Europe, are now coming into vogue in the UK. As their popularity increases, it is thought that the cost of pellets will remain cheaper and more stable than that of oil or gas. Wood-burning agas are another fantastic eco-feature, versatile enough to look fantastic in both rustic and modern kitchen setups.

Lay it down

The best material for eco-friendly flooring is also wood. A great option is bamboo, which grows fast; each plant can be harvested every five years. A stand of bamboo also produces 35% more oxygen than the same area covered with trees. If you prefer a more traditional look, reclaimed wood salvaged from disused barns, turn-of-the-century properties or factories can be processed and turned into beautiful hardwood floorboards that provide a rustic-chic finish with no harm done to the world’s forests.

Good wood

If you are concerned about the eco-friendly credentials of your home, you should obtain wood from a renewable source. Much wood comes from illegal logging – particularly rare grains such as mahogany. This does immeasurable harm to the Earth’s rainforests, with large swathes destroyed just to get to one valuable tree. This does immeasurable damage to natural ecosystems, and trees do not grow back on the sun-scorched ground. To be sure you are getting wood from a trusted source, check the supplier carries the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo.

With very little effort and expense, there are numerous ways you can transform your home to make it eco-friendly without suffering any inconvenience. From shutters to solar panels, eco-friendly installations will help you feel good and reduce your energy bills.

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Posted by Eco Warrior - March 3, 2015 at 9:09 am

Categories: Eco Home   Tags:

Modern gold rush drives deforestation spike in South America

If you enjoy the US TV programme Gold Rush, you might want to think again. If you idly wondered whether one particular team’s antics in South America caused damage to the jungle they ripped apart in a futile search for gold last season, the answer is yes. According to the Institute of Physics, the growing environmental impact of gold mining in some of the most biologically diverse regions in the tropics is having a huge and distressing impact.

Gold mining damage increases – And it’s down to the recession

Researchers from the University of Puerto Rico revealed how, between 2001 and 2013, about 1680 square kilometres of tropical forest was lost in South America because of gold miners, a massive increase compared to pre-recession figures collected in 2007.

The frightening power of gold

The current gold rush is nothing new. Every time the consumer economy takes a nosedive, gold becomes the investment of choice because, unlike everyday financial investments, it’s tangible. As a result the price of gold almost always rises when there’s a slump, and the current worldwide recession has been a monster.

But it gets worse. About 90% of the forest loss took place in just four areas. And a large amount of the loss happened alarmingly close to conservation areas.

While the effects of mining are nowhere near as damaging or extensive as forest loss through land uses like farming, the deforestation caused by mining is taking place in some of the most bio-diverse areas in the tropics. Take the stunning Madre de Dios Region in Peru. It’s incredibly rich, with just a single hectare of forest containing as many as 300 different tree species. But it’s under serious threat from gold miners.

Global gold production has increased to meet recent demand. About 2445 metric tons were hacked out of the earth in the year 2000 but a massive 2770 metric tons or so were grabbed in 2013. At the same time the price of gold has increased from $250/ounce in 2000 to $1300/ounce in 2013.

Greed and conservation just don’t mix

The issue is this: gold mining and conservation don’t mix at all well. Their aims are so very different: one to rip the place apart for money, the other to save it for the future.


Article contributed by The Rainforest Foundation

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Posted by Eco Warrior - March 3, 2015 at 9:00 am

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Make your office green in 4 easy steps

An increasing number of businesses are becoming aware and concerned about their carbon footprint and as a result are introducing the concept of greener working conditions – who can blame them? Going green often means saving money too!

Here are 4 simple tips for maintaining a greener working environment, without causing huge outlay or disruption to your day to day practices.

Reuse and recycle

Try to reuse materials or equipment wherever possible as this is both the cost effective option and the environmentally friendly one. Why buy a new printer if you can have your old one repaired at a fraction of the cost? Even paper can often be reused, reversing to print on both sides – although, you should save this for internal use only!

Recycle whatever you can’t reuse. The Data Protection Act 1998 requires organisations to store data securely and dispose of it safely – and personal and confidential information such as personnel files and customer information must be destroyed. If you are concerned about the safety of your information, you can hire a reputable shredding company who can dispose of confidential waste securely either offsite or at your premises, before taking it away for recycling.

Save water

Believe it or not a great deal of water gets wasted on a daily basis in the average office. You can make savings on a small scale by using only the water you need when it’s your turn to make the tea (this saves electricity too) whilst waterless urinals, modern dual-flush toilets and motion sensor taps can all lead to a more efficient bathroom.

Use less electricity

With the amount of electronic equipment and gadgets used in the typical office, there are almost always opportunities to cut down you power usage, which can also be a big money saver. Try not to automatically switch on lights if you don’t need to – also, switch off monitors that are not in use and unplug your mobile phone charger once it’s fully charged.

Share what you can

Does everyone in the building need their own stapler, hole-punch or scissors? Come to that, does every office or department need access to a printer, scanner or other IT equipment at all times? Consider what you actually need however, you should remember to keep a balance between cutting down on unnecessary equipment and inconveniencing workers, which could be damaging to morale.

 

With these four steps in mind, going green in your office environment should be no problem!

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Posted by Eco Warrior - February 18, 2015 at 9:03 am

Categories: Eco Business   Tags:

An Introduction to Ecopreneurs

In the modern world, being eco-friendly is becoming increasingly important, in both the business and domestic worlds. It’s now fairly commonplace for consumers to monitor their energy consumption and how much waste they produce, and more and more businesses are accepting responsibility for their environmental impact(s) all the time.

But, some particularly innovative, business-minded individuals are taking things one green step further – by becoming ecopreneurs.

What is an ecopreneur?

The word ‘ecopreneur’ comes from combining the words ‘eco’ and ‘entrepreneur’. In essence, an ecopreneur is someone who starts an eco-friendly business venture.

Usually, this means starting up a business that offers environmentally friendly products or services. For example, a retailer selling jewellery or trinkets that have been locally and sustainability sourced, or a green construction company.

No matter the business or the industry, all ecopreneurs have one thing in common: they put the planet before profits. Of course, this doesn’t mean forget about products completely – as a business needs to make profits in order to exist – it just means finding a balance between what benefits the business, and what benefits the environment.

Why be an ecopreneur?

There are a number of reasons why a budding businessperson may want to go down the green route and become an ecopreneur. As such, there are many advantages to be had by anyone who does start an eco-business. Many of these extend further than the obvious environmental perks, and actually make good business sense. Some of these benefits are as follows:

  • Access to a replete market space
  • A reduced environmental impact
  • A clear eco-conscience for your business
  • An advantageous green marketing angle
  • A competitive edge over the opposition
  • Ability to attract a niche audience

This list is not exhaustive, and depending on the nature of the startup business you’re devising, you could uncover a whole host of other perks to being an ecopreneur.

Can you be an ecopreneur?

Yes, anyone can.

It doesn’t take much more than it does to be a normal entrepreneur – only putting the environment first, before your own personal or business gain. It’s about achieving a balance, as your venture will need to be profitable in a financial business sense, but make sure that it doesn’t cost the Earth to do so.

It is possible to be a successful startup business and conscious of the environment at the same time, contrary to the beliefs of some. If you are committed to sustainability, and willing to incorporate this commitment into the essence of your business plan, then you can be a successful ecopreneur.


Enthusiastic about all things green energy, Hannah Corbett is a writer and blogger, often combining her passion for renewables with her knowledge of the startup and small business world. You can follow Hannah on Twitter, or connect with on Google+. Or, you can learn more about business energy solutions at www.makeitcheaper.com.

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Posted by Eco Warrior - February 17, 2015 at 4:40 pm

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The Effect of Asbestos Worldwide

Asbestos was once of the most popular materials used worldwide and is still being used today. It is now banned in over 50 countries. So what happened?

Infographic by Mission Safety Services.

Mission Safety Services-IG

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Posted by Eco Warrior - February 10, 2015 at 7:51 am

Categories: Issues   Tags:

Urban Forests

“To exist as a nation, to prosper as a state, and to live as people, we most have trees. Theodore Rossevelt

Urban forestry can be described as the science and art of managing trees, forests and natural ecosystems in and around urban communities to maximise the physiological, sociological, economic and aesthetic benefits that trees provide society.This infographic from http://www.jarrimber.com.au explores some of the many benefits that urban forests provide.

Jarrimber IG UrbanForests

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Posted by Eco Warrior - February 9, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Categories: Eco Friendly   Tags:

Stop the Press: How to Go Paperless in 2015

Since papyrus was re-branded as paper and Gutenberg press first began printing, the ideal of the ‘Paperless Office’ has been strived for by some and derided by others as an impossible dream, fanciful folklore and a mere modern myth.

In 2014, Wrap.org (Waste & Resources Action Programme) calculated that the average office worker in the U.K. uses 45 pieces of paper a day – with over half of this figure considered as waste.

A depressing statistic indeed, but as the new year is a time for optimism and promise, a time to lay yesterday’s bad habits to rest and turn over a new leaf, we’re looking at easy and cost-effective ways to set your company on track to achieve the seemingly unachievable.

Introduce Electric Signatures

Sometimes there’s just no substitute for a nice weighty piece of paper. Like, for instance, when you need a physical signature on an important document. This is one of the rare occasions when it’s ok to say “hey environment, you don’t mind do you?”

Hmm. Sorry but yes, the environment does mind. Copying and printing forms in order to get written signatures is one of the most common practices in the workplace – from estate agents to law firms, schools and hospitals – everyone’s doing it and has been for far too long. Yet in most countries (including the U.S. and the U.K.) e-signatures hold the same legal weight as traditional, hand-scribed authentications. Changing your company policy to make sure that electronic signatures are compulsory in all cases is one sure-fire way to stop this madness once and for all.

Curtail Your Snail Mail

Wage-slips, bills and invoices – if you haven’t switched the majority of your company correspondence to paperless methods, you’re not only hurting the environment, you’re hurting your stationary bill too. Transform your mailshots to e-shots and change corporate Christmas cards to e-cards to drastically cut-down company paper usage. Fully switching to an online marketing strategy can save tonnes of paper and provide instant and more reliable statistics for your company about who has viewed and engaged with your campaign.

Newspaper minus the Paper

With the proliferation of tablets, phablets and smartphones in the workplace, why are we still reading newspapers on former forests? If you’re someone who thinks that you can’t substitute the ‘feel’ of the real thing, then perhaps take a moment to consider how it will ‘feel’ when the earth is a smouldering crater… Ok, so we’re being a little dramatic, but with so much free and up-to-the-minute news content available on the web, along with very reasonably priced subscriptions to most popular news publications, maybe it’s time to make use of company property for something other than just emails and calls.

Printer Limits

Take Control of Your Paperless Office

Take Control of Your Paperless Office

Whilst many offices have enforced double-sided printing policies and introduced tactics to reduce printer use (replacing smaller machines with one central printer located a walk away from all employees) we’re suggesting another way to limit what makes it to the printer tray. Printer codes or fobs that restrict the amount of printing that can be done by each employee per day/week can be particularly effective in weaning members of staff off their addiction to the white stuff.

File Sharing

Share files internally (and paperless-ly) using useful online applications like Google Docs. This file sharing app not only saves trips to the printer but also allows users to work on a document simultaneously, automatically saving every time the file is modified.

All these suggestions provide a way of setting a course towards an eventual paper-free office environment. And looking at these tip you may notice a theme: technology. Technology is making one valuable leap after the next in granting the average office worker the means to gradually reduce the amount of paper used in the office without hindering productivity. And as technology continues to develop, it’s no longer relevant to argue that the ‘Paperless Office’ is inefficient and unattainable. Instead, it’s time to make a date (in your online diary, of course) to make the change for good.


Christiana Brockbank writes for Ecard Mint, a corporate ecard provider and champion of eco-friendly marketing methods for small to medium-sized businesses.

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Posted by Guest Author - January 24, 2015 at 8:49 am

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Are Electric Cars More Harmful To The Environment?

Electric cars have been frequently touted as being more environmentally friendly than standard petrol vehicles. This point, as many of you know is a key differentiator that most of the electric car companies use heavily in their marketing, both on and offline.

However, this view of electric cars being less environmentally damaging, although the most popularly held, is not the only one being bought to public attention. There is a small but vocal group that argue that electric cars may actually be more harmful to the environment than the gas guzzling beasts most commonly seen on our roads today.

So, are electric cars more harmful to the environment? The people at Carbuyertom.com did some research, the answer is not clear cut and is dependent on a number of factors which we will be discussing below.

yes no

Groups that assert that electric cars are more harmful to the environment than petrol cars centre their arguments around two major points, some of which are mentioned in a key study conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The main arguments are;

  1. The production process of the electric car is more damaging to the environment than that of the non-electric cars, as “EVs exhibit the potential for significant increases in human toxicity, freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, and metal depletion impacts, largely emanating from the vehicle supply chain”.
  2. The generation of the electricity needed to produce and later run the electric cars still often requires the burning of fossil fuels that are damaging to the environment. In some cases the burning of fossil fuels for car production is greater for electric cars which need more electricity to produce compared to non-electric cars.

With regards to the first point, a number of leading electric car manufacturers are increasingly doing more to make sure they are producing their vehicles in the least environmentally damaging way possible.

On the second point, even the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s, Guillaume Majeau-Bettez who has criticised electric cars has said, as mentioned by the BBC, that the electric cars success from an environmental standpoint is largely dependant on “how much we can clean up our electricity grid – both for the electricity you use when you drive your car, and for the electricity used for producing the car.” So a solution is posed. And on this note it is worth mentioning Tesla, a company who make it a priority to produce and run their cars using solar energy. But, harking back to Bettez’s point, the Tesla way has to become the mainstream way if the true environmental benefits of electric cars are to be realised. And there already seems to be a move in the right direction in the UK as according to the Department for Energy and Climate Change, “by 2020 it is estimated that coal will provide only 11% of electricity”, with the assumption being that most if not all of the remaining 89% of electricity production is going to be coming from renewable, clean sources.

The Electric Car Guide - 2015 Edition: Discover the truth about owning and using electric cars

The Electric Car Guide – 2015 Edition: Discover the truth about owning and using electric cars

It is also worth mentioning that the criticisms of the negative environmental impact of electric cars outlined in this article have been largely based on studies by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology which itself has been criticised by some for having links with oil company Statoil. However the university stresses that no oil money was used to fund the research and that their results are published online so are free to be challenged and scrutinised by other parties.

Furthermore, other studies such as the one conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists which analysed emissions and costs for both electric cars and gasoline-powered car from a well-to-wheel perspective (including drilling, refining, burning for gas and mining coal, making electricity for electric vehicles) found greater benefits coming from electric vehicle technology than that determined by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s.

So as we mentioned at the start of this article, when asking the question are electric cars more harmful to the environment than standard vehicles, the answer is not a clear cut yes or no, it’s dependent on a number of factors and the response varies depending on who you ask and what their motives are.

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Posted by Eco Warrior - January 23, 2015 at 9:26 am

Categories: Eco Travel   Tags: ,

So what if our rainforests disappear?

Everyone’s talking about rainforest deforestation. We all know it’s a bad thing. But what, exactly, would happen to our beautiful blue planet if our rainforests disappeared?

Brand new research delivers a powerful message

A new piece of research delivers a powerful message: clearing trees not only hurls damaging carbon into the atmosphere, it also drives dramatic changes in rainfall patterns and increases temperatures right across the globe.

Worse still, the effects of cutting down forests are just as dangerous as human-driven carbon pollution, and levels of agricultural productivity are at risk too, threatened by the resulting deforestation-induced warming and changing patterns of rainfall.

Tropical rainforest destruction impacts farming conditions across the globe

The report is called Effects of Tropical Deforestation on Climate Change and Agriculture and it was published recently by Nature Climate Change magazine, the internationally respected scientific journal. It gives us the most comprehensive analysis so far about the impact of tropical deforestation on climate change as well as the impact of climate change on farming. More specifically, the research reveals how deforestation in South America, south east Asia and Africa might be instrumental in changing farming conditions as far away as the US’s mid-west, the EU and China.

The results are particularly important because this is the only global synthesis of research based on innovative new climate models plus empirical data about the direct local, regional and worldwide impact of destroying and damaging forests.

Rainforest deforestation could warm the climate 0.7 degrees Celsius more

Tropical forests play a vital role in the planet’s health, regulating interactions between the planet and its atmosphere. The findings indicate how complete tropical deforestation might push the earth’s temperatures 0.7 degrees Celsius higher, in addition to the impact of greenhouse gases. As lead author Deborah Lawrence, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, says:

“Tropical deforestation delivers a double whammy to the climate – and to farmers. Most people know that climate change is a dangerous global problem, and that it’s caused by pumping carbon into the atmosphere. But it turns out that removing forests alters moisture and air flow, leading to changes – from fluctuating rainfall patterns to rises in temperatures – that are just as hazardous, and happen right away. The impacts go beyond the tropics – the United Kingdom and Hawaii could see an increase in rainfall while the US Midwest and Southern France could see a decline.”

As if we needed it, the report provides plenty more reasons for protecting and cherishing our precious rainforest environments.


Guest post by the Rainforest Foundation.

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Posted by Eco Warrior - January 22, 2015 at 10:40 am

Categories: Conservation   Tags:

How Scotland can set the agenda for recycling

With more powers than ever before, the Scottish Government can now truly play a role in setting the green agenda for the entire British Isles.

One way that this can be done is by increasing the profile of recycling, so that both individual homes and businesses understand the importance of having a proactive approach.

Zero waste

The country’s first Zero Waste Plan was introduced on the 9th of June 2010 and has set out the Scottish Government’s vision for a zero waste society. The concept is still to create a Scotland where all waste is seen as a resource to be used in a positive manner, rather than as a problem to be dealt with by literally throwing it away.

This can be achieved by making sure valuable resources are not disposed of in landfills and that most waste is treated with the result that only limited amounts will remain to be disposed of.

Information

Part of the current problem is that information about waste management isn’t seen as a ‘sexy’ subject. No matter how much value it has – talking about refuse disposal techniques and recycling is a difficult conversation to start.

However, when it comes to businesses and commercial activities, overheads are always important. Individuals are likely to listen when they are told how to make cost cutting measures and introduce efficiencies that streamline working practices.

In this way, changes can be encouraged by offering companies information about how they can take part in Zero Waste activities and save money at the same time.

Compacting

Waste Management - Prevention, Recycling, Conservation

Waste Management – Prevention, Recycling, Conservation

Waste management can be expensive for a business in many ways. Storage of waste products and refuse can take up a large volume of space and transportation costs can also be a significant outlay.

By taking advantage of waste compactor rental deals a company can save money on both of these aspects of expenditure.

A compactor uses its clever design to literally squash waste materials together so that they take up far less room. This therefore means less need for storage space and less frequent transportation to disposal areas.

Not only does this save space at landfill sites but emissions from heavy duty waste transport vehicles are also reduced.

This is only one example of how Scotland’s businesses can take on a proactive green role and help the country achieve its Zero Waste targets.

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Posted by Eco Warrior - January 22, 2015 at 10:27 am

Categories: Recycling   Tags:

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