Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Clearing out

Recently, we’ve had to clear out my father’s house. The process was emotional, but also brought the catharsis of getting rid of unwanted things. We gave piles of furniture to local charity shops, filled a skip, and finally relayed several carloads to the tip. Chelmsford recycling centre in Essex is a far cry from council landfills of the past. Tipping in your mixed waste has been replaced by a discipline of sorting into steel containers your metal, plastics, monitors, garden refuse, timber and glass, for example.  It’s now is the place to be! Busy even on a Monday at lunchtime; one man even turned up with a taxi full of plasterboard. The popularity is symptomatic of the way the District Council promotes recycling through local events, education programmes and its comprehensive website, but also via stringent policies on recycling and (formerly) sanctions for rule-breakers.

Even back home in rural Cumbria, local collections of recyclable are regular and convenient. Indeed, data on UK recycling from 2002–2011 shows a dramatic increase in the proportion of household waste recycled instead of sent to landfills, up from around 15% to 40%. This is impressive in isolation, though it should be remembered that the UK was formerly one of the countries in the EU that recycled least. The success is perhaps based on a clear central policy which has no direct cost to consumers. In essence, promoting consumer recycling through local legislation appears to be a genuinely win-win proposal, where consumer costs are minimal and the costs of transport and processing waste can be offset by its resale to scrap dealers, paper companies and the like. It is possible that the recession is responsible and has reduced the amount of consumer waste produced, though recycling itself has been shown to lower consumption with all data being geographically varied.

As recycling has become more routine, basic assumptions about waste have been subtly challenged—“reduce, reuse, recycle” is normal. As with all sustainable approaches, sustainable waste disposal involves taking responsibility for our behaviour, and in the case of waste and recycling, reconnecting with and re-evaluating our “stuff”. While recycling could add to a dangerous idea that limitless consumption can be responsibly managed, relying on consumers to sort waste for recycling, to select items for charity shops, and to hand on items to others (via online fora such as www.freecycle.org) allows them to engage with material things even as they become waste. As you clear out an old home, the irony that you learn about things as you lose them becomes sadly relevant.

David and Alex Jackman

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tour de France

Last weekend, thousands of people lined the roads in Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire to watch the peloton roar through. For only the second time, the Tour de France, cycling’s leading event and perhaps the biggest sporting event in the world, commenced in the UK. Hundreds of cyclists are competing for the famous yellow jersey, travelling across cobbled streets and wind-swept moors.

I know a bit about wind-swept moors, as I was in the Yorkshire Dales recently. The small towns and villages, including  Masham, Leyburn and Hawes, were uncharacteristically colourful, adorned with strings of small woollen yellow jerseys from house to house and lamppost to lamppost. They looked cheerfully quaint and somewhat incongruous. This is evidence of the local enthusiasm for cycling that has developed in northern parts due to the emergence of local heroes, such as Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. Local knitters have been hard at work decorating the route from the Grand Depart in Leeds, to York and Sheffield. In addition, bright yellow model bicycles adorn shops and public buildings; similar model bicycles have also been seen around Cambridge, where the route continues to London.

Cycling is a very sustainable form of transport. In the UK, CO2 emissions from transport will rise by 35% from 1990-2030, yet much can be done by individuals and communities to reduce that figure. Cycling to school reduces the strain of the school run rush hour. Bicycles can be left at rail stations or carried on trains, and some cities, such as London, have the famous ‘Boris Bikes’.

There is, however, another side. In the UK, 19,000 cyclists are injured or even killed every year. A detailed Welsh survey has just been published, detailing the causes of these injuries and deaths. There are to be 2 billion British pounds of new local growth funds, some of which may go towards cycleways; however, the planning of roads is often prioritised.

In my area a new cycleway will be opened around our local lake; this has involved years of consultation and cost several million pounds. It will be built using local materials and will allow tourists and locals to avoid a busy road, which I would not encourage my children to cycle on right now! The charity, Sustrans, does much to open new routes like this and to promote more sustainable forms of transport. Please visit the website below for useful maps and ways to get involved: www.sustrans.org.uk

Thus, regardless of who rides up to the finish line in the Mall, we should all think about sustainable transport and get pedalling!

Article by David Jackman

Monday, 2 June 2014

New frontiers

Last week I found myself in Toronto, a city that is rapidly growing and attracting new investment and yet is very environmentally aware. There are new initiatives in waste recycling, replacing coal burning with hydro power stations, integrated, low-carbon transport infrastructure and city greening schemes (although the new trees I could see had been bit back by the heavy snowfall of the recent icy cold winter).

I was in Toronto to represent the UK in the latest round of international discussions to produce a template for sustainable, smart and resilient cities. All cities should want to be ‘smart’. Indeed, London and Birmingham are working towards this direction, with the Mayor of London having sent a message of support to the conference. Toronto styles itself as a ‘Smart City’ but we are only now beginning to understand what a huge task that is.

Sustainable development is an unavoidable necessity for most cities (in which 80% of the world’s population will soon live) and yet, as an aim it asks so many questions. We need structures for delineating what sustainability looks like and we need measures to evaluate progress. If we can do this for cities we can most certainly affect the corporate level and assess the contribution of businesses and public organisations.

So in a rather smart and gleaming Toronto office tower, we put the finishing touches on an international framework, with considerable input from the UK, France and China. We also published the first attempt at a list of measures and indicators in a document called ISO 37120. Toronto hosts the Global Cities Indicators Facility (GCIF) which enables cities to compare themselves and benchmark their relative success. The emerging international framework will give this process more rigour and comprehensive coverage. We hope that more cities will then take up the challenge.

It’s tempting to think that as countries search for growth, green initiatives slip down the agenda; however, cities like Toronto, Yokohama, Copenhagen, Toledo and Rio, not to mention London, show that both can go hand in hand. The diligent behind-the-scenes work of numerous groups, committees, individuals and companies is building a cumulative stock of creative ways forward, from which we can learn. green24 is, of course, one way of increasing that awareness and sharing experiences and information.

Article by David Jackman

Friday, 2 May 2014

Sentimental, Yet Sustainable - Taking “Reusing” to A Whole New Level with Upcycling

Every year, consumers in North America generate 12 million tonnes of textile waste, with households averaging approximately 30kg of waste each year. The U.K. sees similar issues, with 1.2 tonnes of clothing ending up in British landfills alone. These figures are set to increase, with studies now showing that consumers have begun buying more clothes, up to four times as many as they did in the 1980s. As trends become more short-lived and more people become fashion-conscious, more clothes end up in dumpsters.

Recognizing this, various organizations have developed ways to utilise the millions of tonnes of textiles wasted across the globe. One such organisation is Oxfam, whose joint efforts with British retailer Marks & Spencer have resulted in the conservation of 11 million items that would have otherwise been sent to landfills around the country. Clothes donated to Oxfam are resold, with all proceeds going towards providing livelihood programs to mothers in third-world countries.

For the sentimental that can’t bear to part with old clothes, donating them might not be the most ideal course of action. But these clothes, whether they’re your children’s baby clothes or your prom dress from high school, can still be given a new lease on life by upcycling.

Upcycling has taken off across the world, and now thousands of web pages have popped up, all dedicated to the art of creating new items out of old clothes. If you’re not sure how to start, here are some of the simpler projects you may want to look into.

Project I: Old Clothes into New Clothes
People who like to work with their hands can certainly let their creativity shine with various upcycling projects. Old T-shirts can be sewn with loose fabric to create dresses, and daddy’s old shirts can be altered a bit to create nightshirts for the kids. Harder materials such as denim and leather can be used to create everything from flip-flops to handbags.

Project II: Old Clothes into Household Items
Repurposing old clothes to create potholders and quilts is a no-brainer, but how about creating a lampshade from old ties? A tent or a bed for the family pet with old shirts? You could use old sweaters to create instant gift-wrapping for your wine bottles so you never have to waste fancy paper again. You could even use old jeans to create tables and flower pots!

Project III: New Clothes from Old Materials
A more common theme of upcycling involves creating clothing from various household materials. Civic Duty shoes made out of old FedEx envelopes are on the rise, but clothes made out of various wrappers have always been popular. Nowadays, everything from paper to aluminium cans and even garbage bags have been used to create haute couture. After all, it’s only the right thing to do.


Top 5 Tips:
  • Manage your resources and reduce the number of clothing items you purchase per year. Get as much use out of your clothes as possible.
  • Go through your closet and fish out the clothes you never wear; separate them into the things you’d like to keep and the things you don’t mind parting with.
  • Donate what you can to foundations that specialise in recycling old fabrics. Remember, even though 100% of textiles are recyclable, over 85% still end up in landfills as scraps. Research a foundation before donating to them to see how they treat donations and where proceeds go.
  • Look at everything with a fresh eye. Instead of immediately using old shirts as rags, look into using them to create everything from cat tents to curtains.
  • Separate your items according to fabric. Tougher fabrics such as denim and leather can be used to create items such as tables and flip-flops; softer fabrics like cotton and silk may be better off being used to create new items of clothing.

Article by Sookie Lioncourt - Follow her @SookieLioncourt

Saturday, 12 April 2014

We can adapt to the effects of climate change

In the last few days, one of the most important statements in years was made about global environmental health. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the key body providing and commenting on climate change data, supported by nearly all countries in the world, and it has just issued a report which was finalised in Yokohama, Japan. This is the second report in a series of four; the next two are due later this year.

The main message of the report is that we can adapt to the effects of climate change. This marks a significant change in focus which, until now, has been on methods of slowing or preventing climate change. This is not a message of defeatism but rather one of realism within a much broader strategy that still includes mitigation.

In the same week, the ‘grandfather of green’ and author of The Gaia Hypothesis, Dr James Lovelock, suggested that, as nearly 80 percent of the world’s population lives in cities, this is perhaps the best thing we can do to adapt. Living together and in close proximity to others allows us to be more efficient in sharing our energy use, cutting our travel to work, facing natural hazards and alleviating stress on natural environments. In explaining this, he draws a likeness to termite mounds that recycle air and energy and allow huge insect populations to survive harsh conditions.

Lovelock cites Singapore as an example of a human termite mound. This is believable because it is where I am writing this blog, in a hotel that has the largest atrium in Asia and operates very much in the same way. In fact, it looks and is shaped like a hollow termite mound! Indeed, here is a city state that captures and recycles almost all the water that lands on it, controls pollution, recycles, and conserves land.

The IPCC report is designed to identify upcoming risks, such as the increase in vector-borne diseases, rural poverty and species disruption. It also catalogues excellent advances in Africa and Australasia; this includes planning for change. Finally, this report also shows us the immense amount of work that is being done to manage the environment and give us a reasonable chance of holding Gaia together!

David Jackman

Monday, 17 March 2014

Green news roundup

There is a lot going on in the ‘green’ space right now. Here are some insights:

A recently published report by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) highlights the vast amount of water used by traditional power stations to generate power, i.e., three Olympic-sized swimming pools being consumed every minute. Energy production accounts for 44 percent of the EU’s total water use. For more information please see the following website:  http://www.ewea.org

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has produced a specification, known technically as PAS 2030, to set out requirements that installers have to follow in installing new energy efficiency measures within the ‘Green Deal scheme’.  To check that your installer complies with these requirements, consult the the following website: www.gov.uk/green-deal-energy-saving-measures/overview

The offshore wind energy industry could provide £6.7 billion per year to the UK economy as well as providing 150,000 jobs by 2020, according to a new report published recently. The following webside provides further information: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/analysis/2334094/report-offshore-wind-industry-promises-150-000-jobs-boost

I recently came across the ‘eco congregation’ scheme, which started in Portugal and encourages churches to turn ‘green’. This can be achieved by changing some of the following things; how ancient church buildings are heated and insulated, how congregations travel to church, and how they recycle and come together to support the community schemes more widely. My own local church held a recycling day this week, which enabled members to drop off old clothes, mobile phones etc. To find out more about eco congregations, please view the following website: http://www.ecocongregation.org

Volkswagen is aiming to triple battery life in the 2015 Golf, using Lithium-air batteries. Check out the following website to find out more: http://www.greencarreports.com/news

Negotiators are meeting in Bonn, Germany, this week to make progress on establishing a global climate agreement by 2015. Follow the Agreement on Climate Transformation 2015 (ACT 2015) on the following site: http://www.wri.org/our-work/project/act-2015

I am continuing work on international standards (ISO series) for sustainable and resilient communities and Smart Cities, which will help planners and local authorities to engage with entire communities in order to address what really matters in the local areas. This will come on stream in 2015; however, consultation documents should be available this summer.

Finally, the British Standards Institution (BSI) has just released a free leaflet for any community wanting to be more sustainable. It comes in the form of a guide that contains a user-friendly plan for any group thinking about developing basic sustainable living. As one of the main authors, I am hoping this short leaflet will be distributed widely in the UK in order to spark new schemes as well as shift views. Sustainability is not just a company responsibility or an individual lifestyle choice; it is, however, often best addressed as a village, town or neighbourhood. Please visit the following website to find out more:  http://shop.bsigroup.com

Article by David Jackman 

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ten tips for saving water

The kitchen is the area in the home where we use around 10% of the total household water for cooking, cleaning, washing, and drinking. Of all water used in the home, about 15-20% is used on the laundry, and worst of all, our bathroom habits use nearly 40%!

It is, however, easy to conserve water in the home by making a few simple changes to your daily routines. Just follow the tips below and make changes in your home today.

  1. Take short showers, instead of bathing
  2. Use your water meter to check for hidden water leaks
  3. Install water-saving shower heads and aerators
  4. Reduce the amount of water flushed down the toilet
  5. Ensure your washing machine and dishwasher are washing full loads only
  6. Wash your car with a bucket and water instead of a hosepipe
  7. Rinse your razor in the sink
  8. Don't leave the water running for washing and rinsing when doing dishes by hand
  9. Turn off the water after you wet your toothbrush
  10. Insulate your geyser and water pipes 

For more green facts, visit green24.com