Thursday, 15 December 2011

Season's greetings

‘Tis the season to be jolly’….or as they say in politically correct Singapore, where I am now, the ‘gifting season’. But is there a lot to be merry about? Well, the Durban package has been secured against the odds after a marathon session. Even the big three carbon emitters, US, India and China, have signed up to a form of treaty by 2015 (to be in place by 2020 at the latest). And for the ‘keen’ countries such as the UK and the EU, the Kyoto protocols are rolling over with some substantial investment cash available too.

Obviously the South African foreign minister, H.E. Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, COP 17/CMP7 Conference President, has diplomatic skills beyond anyone in the Euro zone conference! It is a great achievement to keep the show on the road and hold all nations together. But as many campaign groups, including Save the Children and Greenpeace said afterwards, it could be seen as a crime that the main proposals are so delayed. So, is it a season to be full of cheer? Well, it is a reality that developing countries are unlikely to give up their desire to reach similar levels of prosperity as ‘the West’without a fight. We will probably have to get to the brink and look over the edge before everyone gets fully committed. But there is progress and this may slow down warming enough to make it a soft descent not a crash landing!

Durban is an important step in our global green path, especially as so many expected failures. It keeps the door open between stakeholders, and it keeps the conversation going. Actions can still happen, international collaborations can still emerge; you never know how the journey will progress. It also keeps everyday citizens feeling like there is hope, and that they have something of an involvement. Let’s see what happens, countries have the chance to be leaders, drafters have the chance to produce elegant and popular policies and stakeholders have a chance to remain engaged.

Perhaps the real Christmas message is the continued commitment of individuals, families, companies and communities. So the gifts we choose to buy matter. How we celebrate, how we travel and what we do with the detritus of celebrations, matters. The holiday season gives us something very precious in our hurried lives – time; time to think about the future, the state of the world and our hopes and fears.

David Jackman

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The ire of islands

With COP17 drawing to a close this week, we need to ask what agreements have been reached to avoid the disastrous future impacts of climate change. Global warming will affect nations in different ways, with island states being hardest hit. These nations emit less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet because of their geographic locations, they are have the greatest risk of experiencing the effects of rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Climate change is expected to result in a variety of environmental, social, and economic effects on island states, including:
·         Threats to natural habitat for some of the most biologically diverse areas of the world.
·         Loss of habitable and agricultural land and loss of livelihoods.
·         Coastal erosion.
·         Destruction of coral reefs.
·         Increased intensity and frequency of tropical storms and other natural disasters.
·         Decreased food and water security.
·         Adverse impacts on human health.
·         Loss of sovereignty and cultural identity.

While each island state has laid out plans to adapt to rising sea levels, some nations are better equipped to cope with climate change than others. But the ultimate question we should be asking is why these nations have to make plans without the assistance of the nations that produce the most emissions? Many island countries have openly criticised industrial nations for failing to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions, as the plight of rising sea levels on these states was highlighted as early as 1989.

So, why has there been no major action, and what will COP17 achieve in the long-run? Will the future bring relief for states like the Maldives, Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands or will these states be in deep water?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Changing fortunes?

This month may not have been a good one for ‘green’ causes. The Duke of Edinburgh described wind farms as utterly useless, and thereby gave focus to a great deal of dissent about the ‘growing army of monster structures marching over the landscape’. Growing disillusionment is emerging, for example, in The Economist, about the prospects for Rio + 20. As politicians focus on domestic and financial needs, there is more talk about growth than sustainability, and much vaunted infrastructure projects, including airports and larger roads. The visibility of a carbon tax, pioneered in Australia, is receding. ‘Cost’ and ‘cutting’ are the buzzwords, economic forecasts cry out for austerity.

So, does this mean that the tide is turning?

Is ‘green’ a luxury we can’t afford? Actually I don’t think so. There will always be a group of climate change deniers, probably until the sea boils, but they don’t necessarily represent broader public opinion. The understanding of environmental capacity has sunk deep into the psyche of most of us. The questions now could come of value and cost. A few years ago this seemed to be sufficient prosperity to subsidise research and development of green technologies. Thank goodness. But now we have to make tough choices: we can’t have it every way. Sustainability has to fight his corner – but this is good because the arguments become stronger and solutions more realistic. green24 exists to help and inform this vital debate in every quarter of the economy and society.

The important questions are questions about shared values and a changing vision of what prosperity and wealth looks like on a global scale. These are questions of purpose, not technology. John Ruskin, that famous Victorian reformer, who, incidentally, lived a few miles from my home, concluded that ‘there was no wealth but life’ in his critique of Adam Smith entitled ‘Unto This Last. It is worth a read, and he is very relevant to today’s situation. On a very human scale, environmental management and sustainability cannot simply be a cost. Ruskin saw that and practically experimented in ways of bringing creativity together with care for the environment, way before anybody talked about organic farming.

We need to think very carefully about what we see as wealth, and cost and profit. Cost as function of supply and demand will be hugely affected by the way developing countries respond. Here there are promising signs, in Brazil, in India and to some extent in China too. There is a balancing act to be struck and cost is not the right word to use.

David Jackman

Thursday, 24 November 2011

COP17: Dynamic or disconnected?

Between 1990 and 2009, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased by 40%. During this time, there was the Earth Summit in Rio, the UN Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, which proved to do very little in stemming the increasing GHG’s in our atmosphere. Worst of all, is that emissions are escalating every day, yet some of the governments of the world are reluctant to implement significant measures for change. This is not a very strong foundation to base the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, better known as COP17, on.

The City of Durban in South Africa will be the official host for the COP17 event, with officials from almost every country planning on attending. A question that we should all be asking is if this conference is merely a gesture to show climate-change-worriers that those most responsible for GHG emissions are trying to find solutions. Another question should be based on why we have not found an answer to emissions reduction in over 20 years, since the Rio Earth Summit. Or why some countries are pleading to increase GHG emissions, when the environment can barely handle current atmospheric concentrations.

Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut answers to any of these questions, or the many more queries we can make regarding our governments’ inability to implement change. What is certain though is that the environment in which we live is being heavily impacted by extreme weather events which lead to droughts, floods and storms caused by global warming. Will the delegates at COP17 manage to pull a rabbit out of the hat, or are we all just waiting for more magic using smoke and mirrors?

Friday, 18 November 2011

The killing fields

On Monday 14 November, Hong Kong customs officials discovered 33 rhinoceros horns stashed in a container that left Cape Town harbour marked “plastic scrap”. Now, for those that don’t know about the rhino poaching epidemic that is sweeping across Africa and Asia, let’s put this bust into perspective. Last year alone, some 333 rhino’s were killed in South Africa. This figure doesn't include the rest of southern or East Africa, where there are fewer rhino’s roaming the plains. In 2011, more than one rhino has been killed every day so far this year. The recent bust in Hong Kong represents 10% of the poached rhinos this year.

The problem is set to continue, as two species – the Western Black and the Javan rhino were recently declared extinct. The reason for their demise is that some Asian states have claimed that rhino horn offers a cure for a variety of ailments, including cancer. Medical studies have shown that the horns contain no medicinal qualities, but the senseless killing of these iconic species continues.

What can we do to stop the poaching?
We need to offer support to conservation agencies, lobby government to impose heavy sentences and fines on poachers and traffickers, and call on Asian nations to outlaw the sale and use of rhino horn. Most importantly, we need to educate those that may not realise the plight of these majestic creatures. Speak to friends and families and spread the word. It is only by killing the demand, that we’ll be able to quell the killing of one of Africa’s most prized species. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Are organics overpriced?

Going green is often regarded as being costly. Undoubtedly, viewed at a certain level, it can be. The Climate Change Bill in the UK is supposedly one of the most expensive pieces of legislation in history. While this may not be of Eurozone bailout proportions, it reflects a fundamental restructuring of an economy. I noted that during a press conference at the recent Commonwealth conference that Australian Prime Minister Gillard was quizzed on her country’s proposed carbon tax. Journalists were keen to know from other leaders whether Australia was out of step from the international community, and frankly, being a mug.

As an individual or as a corporate, the decisions can seem to be equally fundamental. Changing energy arrangements or re-tendering for suppliers and partners is a massive task. The change is viewed as a problem, as it is so often expressed in the form of a cost, which is inevitably even more of a barrier in difficult times.

In my mind, being green is essentially a strategic decision. And it only makes sense in these terms. Each environmentally-sensitive decision should not be seen as a short-term switch to deliver a quick fix, as this will inevitably be an additional cost. The key is looking ahead when a spending decision is being made anyway. At that point, it is quite acceptable to consider a range of possibilities and then introduce a number of green options. Considering the cost-benefit implications of any strategic decision is good practice, the question is, do all companies and organisations, as well as individuals, have the necessary information about green options and the tools to evaluate them correctly? If the precise price comparisons are available, then a green decision may not be any more expensive and hopefully will stand out as delivering the most certain long-term benefits and positive outcomes.

This is where the green24 site comes in. It provides in an easy-to-use way, both a range of information about the options available and templates for measuring costs on a fair basis. We always welcome your feedback on how these tools work, and of course, examples of inventive and imaginative green strategic decisions.

David Jackman

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Keeping it local

The world is developing faster than natural systems can evolve, as human’s harvest, plough, bulldoze, chop down, pull out and build on. So, it is no wonder that indigenous vegetation types around the world are now under severe pressure, with some plant species facing eminent extinction.

Reducing pressure is one thing, but we need to promote indigenous plants in our everyday lives. To learn more, the green24 team headed out to an indigenous plant rehabilitation and re-vegetation centre. This project uses the local community to grow native plant species, which are later planted in the wild to develop indigenous systems. Through education drives and indigenous garden promotion, communities surrounding endangered vegetation types can play their part in ensuring the continued survival of endemic plant biomes.

You too can play a role in promoting environmental wellbeing, by planting indigenous species and letting your garden get a little bit wild. Native species are often better adapted to the local climate, thereby requiring less fussing over, and can prove to be significantly more water-wise. Indigenous species also benefit the birds, bees, butterflies and other species that utilise plants for food, shelter or other vital functions.

So, make sure that you buy native species and plant wisely, creating sanctuaries for local wildlife. If everyone in the city planted just a small patch of indigenous garden, we could create green oases within the concrete jungles we call home.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Earning his stripes – can a farm in Africa save the tiger from extinction?

Tigers in Asia face many human-related threats. As more and more people encroach on the areas where tigers live, there are increasing conflicts between man and beast, as tigers take livestock and kill humans that venture too far from their commodities. Humans fight back with guns and poison, often killing more than they anticipated. 

Added to this is the growing demand for tiger body parts in the Asian medicinal markets. Almost every part of a tiger is a sought after in China and other countries that still practice traditional medicine. Because of the numerous human threats, it is estimated that less than 3000 tigers remain in the wild in Asia.

So, what are the Asian states doing to protect this iconic species? The answer saddens conservationists around the world, as very little is being done to conserve the species or the habitat in which it lives. It often comes down to financial decisions, which in these recessionary times are not easy to make. Luckily, there is a place where the tiger can still roam wild, and not fear persecution from man. But this place is not in India, China or even Asia. It’s in Africa.

John Varty earned a reputation as conservation maverick many decades ago. His practices go against everything we’re taught about conserving large animals, yet his success rate is often unrivalled. John (or JV as he is affectionately known) decided that someone needed to save the largest cat on the planet, and created ‘Tiger Canyons’, a wildlife refuge in the Karoo, South Africa. Here, tigers run wild, fending for themselves and living off the land – just like they would in Asia, just with an African twist. 

I had the privilege of visiting this spectacular property and witness firsthand the wonderful work that JV is doing for these animals. There are currently 14 tigers on the property, and there are plans in the pipeline to extend the fences and the population of striped cats on site. With the success rate JV has had, I can see why there is a need to expand!

It is not hard to see why JV fell in love with these majestic creatures, and one can only wonder why the Asian states do not invest more in creating safe havens for these essential predators. Through JV’s vision, tigers could be brought back from the brink of extinction, by applying his principles and frameworks to tiger conservations around the world.

Who knows, you may soon find a wild tiger captive breeding site in an area near you!

Gregg Brill
Senior researcher & writer at green24

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Culture and conservation confusion – people and parks in urban centres

Cities around the world are expanding at a rapid rate, as more and more people flock from urban areas in search of employment, better opportunities and a new life. Although many leave their cultural identity behind, many more bring their traditional beliefs and practices with them. Often, these practices rely on plants and animals which are found in natural areas. Given that cities have few natural areas, the impact on the plants and animals in these green spaces is on the increase as well.

These spaces provide recreational areas for wealthier urbanites, and a natural resource base for those who rely on these products during hard times. Medicinal plants, animal products and a variety of shellfish and fin-fish are heavily impacted in these spaces, and are facing population decline globally.

So how do we limit the impacts and reduce the effects that our growing city populations are having on these green spaces?

The most important strategy is to educate the users of these spaces, whether it is the dog walkers or outdoorsmen, or those harvesting medicinal plants or other natural products. Cities also need to provide additional services to poorer communities, through job creation, food security and social upliftment. It is only through reducing the need for people to negatively impact on the environment that we will create more sustainable urban parks.

Friday, 30 September 2011

The plc’s people and planet strategy – all about ArBolivia

Over the past year, we have been striving towards reducing the carbon footprint of our parent company red24 plc, by reducing the impacts our company has on the planet. For the emissions we could not eliminate entirely, we opted to offset through ArBolivia, a reforestation project based in the Bolivian Amazon, which benefits both the farmers that conserve the forest and the environment too.

ArBolivia’s tree planting project is complemented by sustainable agricultural management training to enable farmers to secure a livelihood without compromising their environment.
Despite the project's expected potential for carbon absorption, carbon credits have merely been used to help finance ArBolivia's large overhead, while the programme remains focused on improving farmers’ livelihoods and preventing further deforestation.

Commercial plantation forestry in developing countries encourages environmental awareness, helps to preserve biodiversity and improves the livelihoods of the local population. Unlike most other commercial plantations, it uses a wide range of predominantly indigenous tree species and shares the benefits of the timber equally with local farmers.

The farmer supported by the funds from red24’s carbon offsetting programme is planting Calophyllum brasiliense, known locally as Palo-Maria trees or the Alexandrian laurel. The reforested area currently covers 1.28 ha in the Yapacani municipality in the Ichilo province which is in the largest of Bolivia’s departments, Santa Cruz. The GPS coordinates of the forest patch supported by red24 plc are 17°21’48.68”S 63°56’03.87”W.

By focusing on the dual benefits derived by both people and the planet, red24 plc is proud to be associated with the ArBolivia project.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Save the rhino parade – giving a helping hand to our horny friends

On Thursday 22 September, the green24 team attended a World Rhino Day event, to publicise the plight of rhino poaching in Asia and Africa. Current statistics suggest that a rhino is poached every 22 hours in South Africa, and that at the current rate of killing, we will witness the extinction of this animal in our lifetime.

The reason for this poaching is to fuel the Asian markets that sell rhino horn as a medicinal aid for a variety of illnesses. It has been scientifically proven that rhino horn has no medicinal qualities, but high-powered politicians and traditional medicine practitioners still promote the use and trade of this resource in China, Vietnam and a variety of other Asian states.

The rhino is not the only animal being brought to the brink of extinction because of the poaching of their parts for the traditional medicine trade in Asia. Tigers, bears, sharks, pangolins and countless other species are all being heavily targeted to feed the insatiable demand for these products.

If we don’t take a stand now and use our voices to educate and empower those that may not know about either the poaching plight or the non-medicinal qualities of most of the animal products traded, then we will see the extinction of hundreds of species of animals in our lifetime!

A take-home message from the event asked: “Will our kids get to see a rhino in the wild?” What a sobering thought considering that we have reduced their numbers from millions, to a few thousand in the last 100 years. And all in the name of greed and ignorance.

Check out Save the Rhino, Rhino Conservation, or Stop Rhino Poaching for more information, and play your part in stopping the poaching of rhinos and other precious animals.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Ask the Expert: What is the most eco-friendly way to barbeque?

Many of us will find any excuse to barbeque (BBQ). Whether it’s a glorious day outside or pouring with rain, there is nothing that will stop us from enjoying smoky-flavoured steaks or chargrilled chops. But this national pastime comes with a considerable carbon footprint, so how do we make our fireside feast eco-savvy?

When it comes to a backyard BBQ, nothing beats good old fashioned wood as fuel for the fire. Wood is a renewable, carbon neutral material, because the carbon dioxide released when it burns equals what the tree has captured during its lifetime. The most important thing to do here is track down sustainable-sourced firewood. For a guarantee, look for the logo of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC certification system ensures that the ecological integrity of the forest is maintained.

Before you light up, check with your local council or on this interactive map to see whether you are allowed to have a smoky BBQ. There might be a chance that you live in a smoke-control area and therefore may be denied the pleasure.

Another great option is using waste wood, which you can source through a recycling project such as

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Is organic food worth 10% more?

From the mountainsides and summer pastures around our home, the sheep are being gathered in. From my office window I can see the sheep dogs working hard and the farmers hollering and waving their arms to usher the animals down narrow paths to their lowland pens. The lambs will be sorted from their mothers, and shortly, the less robust, less fortunate ‘wethers’ (males) will be sent off to the auction mart. The ewes will return to the fell for another year.

And so the annual cycle continues. It’s hard to think of something more organic. No chemicals are used (well, except for the possible dipping and dousing against ticks); there are no additives, no barns without daylight, no cruelty from man, just lots of rain and grass.

I am not sure whether the lambs are sold as organic or not, but if they are, should they be at a higher price? So much food labelled 'green' or organic is sold at a premium, is this the farmers, or the supermarkets, taking advantage by charging an extra 10% or more?

Surely, in many cases the costs of rearing animals or growing crops is reasonably similar nowadays? Non organic producers, of course, often have the costs of extra equipment, fertilizers and other chemical enhancers to bear. Are we being duped into paying for a cosy, comfortable brand - a lifestyle endorsement? I'd like to see some more figures in the public domain.

I, for one, would not shirk from coughing up a few extra pence for genuinely better conditions and a cleaner product, but I don't want to pay a supplier for an image, or to cover the costs of an expensive accreditation scheme for that matter.

We can have a debate about whether or not 'organic' is better for your health or not but I am pretty sure it is better for the environment and livestock.

We need to know what we are paying for as a basic component of consumer protection, but also so that we can make informed choices. Who knows, consumers might even pay more if they could see the facts!

David Jackman

Monday, 19 September 2011

A new generation of beach boys (and girls)

On the third Saturday of September each year, volunteers around the world take part in the world’s biggest coastal cleanup, known as International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day. The event has been held internationally each year for over 20 years, when people head to the beaches and begin removing debris and rubbish from shorelines, waterways and oceans. Since then, the ICC has included inland lakes, rivers, streams and underwater sites, with over half a million people in more than 100 countries participating every year. In honour of this event, members of the green24 team donned our rubber gloves, sunscreen and sunhats, and headed for the sand and surf.

One of the major concerns regarding rubbish on the beach and in waterways is that the debris is often dumped further inland and washed down into the rivers, ponds or oceans. Statistics show that almost 60% of debris collected during ICC Day was from land sources.

Each year there is a major increase in the number of marine and aquatic animals injured, entangled or killed from debris found in the oceans. Turtles mistake floating plastic bags for food and thousands of seals, whales, dolphins, sharks and birds die from entanglement in fishing lines and other debris.

The aim of the cleanup is:
·         To remove debris from the water.
·         To collect valuable information about the debris.
·         To heighten public awareness of the causes of litter and debris.
·         To make a positive change and to promote water pollution prevention efforts worldwide.

In the six hours we spent walking up and down our local stretch of sand, we managed to collect over 80 bags of rubbish, which we separated into recyclables and other waste. After a long day in the sun, there is no better feeling than knowing that you have done your bit for the environment, while getting a healthy dose of vitamin E.

Friday, 26 August 2011

To bee or not to bee?

I have had a fear of bees since childhood. That buzzing sound could make me a clear a room in four seconds flat. On the 17th of August I ventured outside of my comfort zone, to visit a man about bees. No, not a psychologist or hypnotherapist, but an apiarist. A man so passionate about bees, that he calls them his pets.

Worker bees are disappearing around the globe, and no one knows why. The phenomenon is called colony collapse disorder (CCD), the cause of which remains a mystery to science. Some suggest that pesticides are causing it, while others go so far as to consider radio waves, radiation from cell phones, or electromagnetic fluctuations. But the truth is, no one knows why the little guys in black and yellow jerseys are dying at an alarming rate.

Spending time with an apiarist is not going to be possible for everyone, so here are some of the top tips he suggested. When thinking of bees, think of you’re ABC’s as well. A stands for apiary, where people make homes for bees on farms, allotments or in their back yards. B is for behaviour change, meaning that we should respect bees, and not kill them with insect repellent or a swatter. And lastly, Create a bee-friendly garden, by planting pollen-rich plants and not using insecticide.

We may consider bees to be insignificant bugs that frantically buzz around our gardens, but without them, humanity cannot survive! Bees are an integral part of our food system, pollinating almost every flowering crop known to man. So consider their plight the next time you’re thinking of squishing one that is banging against a window, and instead, let the little guy go to live another day.

Gregg Brill
Senior researcher & writer at green24

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Sustainability and population growth: A contradiction?

There are many global issues that need addressing, but because they are so closely interlinked, solving them is that much more difficult. One issue, however, stands out from the rest, and will act as a massive roadblock on the path to a sustainable future if not considered thoroughly. This is the issue of continued population growth. At the moment, the world’s population sits somewhere close to 7 billion, and it is estimated to rise to between 7.5 and 10.5 million by the year 2050.

Now, I’m not saying that population growth is the cause of our sustainability issues, although it is partially to blame for many of the measurable environmental impacts. Instead, it is merely a symptom with many deep rooted causes. Population growth is a huge hindering factor to sustainability, because it means we are constantly trying to find sustainable solutions to problems that are continuously growing in scale and complexity. But why then is it so often ignored? As Sir David Attenborough so eloquently puts it, “Why is population growth, which affects every department, no one's responsibility?”

There are many ways to integrate population growth concerns into the way we live and solve problems, but where do we begin this difficult transformation? Well firstly, we need to include the subject more actively in sustainability conversation. Once it is officially and publically considered as a major contributing factor and a serious concern, we can start laying the framework for future action.

There is a great global collaboration needed in order for this to happen, and it isn’t going to be easy to convince the world to stop, think and act on the fact that our species may be reaching a critical tipping point. But no matter how difficult it will be, one thing is for sure: We cannot hope to keep up with demand, consumption and resource requirements in a finite system if we are constantly increasing the percentage by which we require these resources every year. Change is coming whether we like it or not, so let’s become more resilient by embracing the change together. It all starts with a little education.

Nicholas Wiid
Junior researcher & writer at green24

Monday, 22 August 2011

Green holidays

Many of us are thinking about holidays right now. Holidays that we are looking forward to, holidays that we have recently enjoyed, or are currently enjoying!

There has been a noticeable increase in recent years in various forms of eco-tourism, responsible travel and green holidays. My son has just returned from seven weeks building elephant fences in Southern India as part of his gap year. But it’s not just students; many in employment are taking career breaks or just extended holidays to do something useful.

There are a wide range of short summer breaks on offer too, especially in developing countries, based on living with local communities or where the environmental footprint has been limited. Some of these are very exciting in their imagination and authenticity. You can really get to know or an area by veering off the beaten path, rather than just passing through and sticking to the tourist highlights. Holidays like this probably add more directly to the local economy than to the balance sheets of international tour companies. 

At the next level, there are many tour operators that offer green facilities or features such as offsetting your flights or recycling greywater in your hotel. Most will have seen the scheme for guests choosing to reduce their laundry burden by not asking for a daily change at towels and sheets. This in itself substantially reduces environmental impact in places where water is scarce.

If it’s just a nod towards green issues, such as offering fair trade tea and coffee in your room, or a more substantial contribution to sustainability, such as encouraging arrival by public transport, schemes seem to be enthusiastically supported by visitors. In our location, in the Lake District, many visitors are quite happy to contribute to a fix the fells fund to repair footpath damage through a small fee levied on their hotel bills. This year there is also a popular Fresh Air Is Free campaign to encourage visitors out of their cars and on to public transport.

So whether its big or small gesture, take a few minutes and see how you might be able to green your holiday this summer.

We can help you do it, why not visit our site,

David Jackman

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Discussion session with Dr Jane Goodall

I was lucky enough to be invited to a group discussion between Dr Jane Goodall and a variety of students and young professionals, who have been involved in interesting sustainability projects. Jane is a world famous primatologist, environmentalist and humanitarian, and founder of the Jane Goodall institute, an international wildlife and environment conservation organisation.

The meeting took place in Cape Town, South Africa, kick starting the Cape Town leg of Jane’s Roots and Shoots program. Roots and shoots is a youth program that connects thousands of youth of all ages, providing a platform that they can use to bring about positive social and environmental change in their communities.

The discussion revolved around Jane’s experiences with communities and animals, and certain themes that are important to begin a sustainable future were identified by the group.

  • Education – A big challenge in ensuring a sustainable future is education.  Educating kids from a young age is important.
  • Women and young mothers – Proper support for women and young mothers, especially regarding pregnancy and the number of children that can be comfortably raised, is a part of the cure to some of the underlying causes of this issue.
  • Listening – Coming up with solutions to a closely related socially and environmentally sensitive situation can be tricky. Listening to what the communities and individuals have to say before any action is taken is crucial in developing the best approach.
  • The role of the youth – Kids and young adults will play an extremely important role in fighting for a sustainable future, and Roots and Shoots is a great way to share ideas and experiences.
It’s a pity it was such a brief encounter, because she has so much valuable experience to share, but overall it was a fascinating discussion with an incredible woman.

Nicholas Wiid
Junior researcher & writer at green24

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Bluebuck Youth Sustainability Summit

Recently I attended the BlueBuck Youth Sustainability Summit at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. The BlueBuck Network is a platform where different universities and independent green projects can share ideas, resources and experiences, the organisation also acts as an international sustainability representative for the Southern African youth. The main goal of the conference was to establish the connections and contacts for the network to take into the future.

Two key themes were identified at the summit, themes that would carry initiatives like this forward and ultimately contribute to their success.

Collaboration is key
The need for collaboration was one of the main reasons why the network was initiated in the first place, and it was highlighted as key to the success of any environmental initiative. We are faced with a daunting task trying to build a sustainable future, so sharing knowledge and working together is the easiest and most logical way to move forward.

The role of social media
With a greater number of eyes having access to more information, the accountability and transparency of those in the spotlight can only improve, and sustainability will become a large focus with all of this public attention. Social media plays an important role in the transformation to a greener society, because you’re able to share ideas, experiences and information about sustainability.

All in all, it was an inspirational weekend and a great source of motivation, reminding me that there are so many individuals and groups with positive energy for change.

To see how we are using social media to spread our message, visit our Twitter page.  

Nicholas Wiid
Junior researcher & writer for green24

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Playing for the good

The carbon lottery is one of the most innovative offsetting schemes the world has seen, and I recently took part in a webinar on this relatively new program to learn more about it. Basically, for a £2 ticket, you can help tackle climate change and stand a chance of winning a bucket load of cash and prizes.

How it works
You choose your numbers online, before calculating your carbon footprint. You are then told how many lottery tickets you can buy to offset your personal emissions. Each ticket is worth 100kg of CO2, which means that the average UK citizen would have to buy two tickets a week to live a carbon neutral lifestyle. Over half of the ticket price goes to providing the prize pool to pay out the Lottery prizes and the remainder goes into the cost of sourcing, assessing, negotiating and purchasing the best community-based offset credits across the globe.

How your business can get involved
You could start a lottery pool at the office, where staff each put in a certain amount per week or month. You could choose a set of numbers as a group, which you will pick every time you play. And if the pool wins, you share the prize equally. It’s a fun way for your business to get involved in helping the environment.

Remember that everyone should put in exactly the same amount. No one should have a greater share just because they had more money in their wallet that day. This should be as uncomplicated as possible, which is why getting it in writing is important. There are many lottery pool agreements on the internet to choose from, here’s a basic example

The Carbon Lottery is a brilliant, simple and rewarding way to make a difference. It brings with it the potential to create awareness, as well as the possibility of winning cash and prizes, win-win! Let’s hope it’s a success, and is rolled out in other countries as well.

To find out more, visit the Carbon Lottery’s website, or follow them on Twitter.

You can also watch this introductory video, which will tell you everything you need to know. 

Candice Reichlin
Web Content Manager at green24

What is single most important green issue for young people to learn about and understand?

One of the greatest issues facing young people today is apathy towards making a difference to the environment. Many believe that they can’t instil change by themselves, and so, they do nothing. This problem escalates, until we reach the situation where no one does anything. This makes it an even harder task for those who decide to live more sustainably, or try and right the wrongs of others.

So, one of the most important green issues for the youth to learn about and understand, is that every positive action they undertake for the environment, makes a difference. Because ultimately, if one person makes a change today and someone sees that and follows that person’s lead, the process continues until other environmental crises become more and more manageable, and can even be averted.

Sustainability starts with one person, and grows outwards!

Tagging Great White’s for science

I was fortunate enough to be invited onto a research vessel this month (July 2011) for a tagging exercise for Great White sharks. This project formed part of an ongoing study to map the movements and migration patterns of these magnificent animals. Braving rough seas and a known disposition for sea-sickness, I donned my slicks and started chumming the waters. It didn't take long for a three-and-a-half metre monster to rise from the deep.

It took 6 hours to properly tag one Great White, and make sure that everything was working perfectly. The tagging procedure is fairly painless for the animal, and involved a long pole, with a tracking device attached to a barb at the end. There are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account before jabbing the dorsal fin, which include distance from boat to shark, parallel angle of shark to boat, height of dorsal fin above water, etc. All very scientific!

This data will be shared with fellow marine biologists around the world to better promote the understanding of these misunderstood animals. They are not blood-hungry man-eaters, but rather animals at the top of the food chain that are being hunted relentlessly. It is only through comprehending the complex behaviours and biology of these species, that we will be able to inform people about the importance of them in marine ecosystems.    

Gregg Brill
Senior researcher & writer at green24

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Is canned tuna a responsible seafood choice?

Many of us love the simplicity of canned tuna, either as a quick lunch at work or a simple dinner. This product is protein-rich, low in fat and relatively inexpensive, which makes it an affordable, healthy meal option. But some tuna species are becoming highly endangered because of the increasing demand for fresh fish. But for many, it’s unclear whether canned tuna fits into the endangered category or not.

The short answer is that all tuna populations are in trouble.  

Species and sustainability
There are seven tuna species that are caught and consumed: Albacore, Bigeye, Skipjack, Yellowfin, and three species of bluefin: Northern bluefin, Pacific bluefin, and Southern bluefin. Bluefins are the most valued, which makes it unlikely to be used for canning. These and other large species are used in the restaurant industry for steaks, sushi and other seafood dishes, their populations being heavily impacted because of this.

So, with bluefins destined for the restaurants, a number of other tuna species are used in canning. But even though these species have less impacted populations, there are issues centering on where and how they are caught. 

A major concern is that the tuna industry uses destructive fishing techniques (no matter what type of tuna is being fished), which severely impact on the environment and other marine species, like turtles, sharks, seabirds and dolphins. Many of these species often end up as by-catch (unwanted catch) and either get tossed overboard or used as bait.

The tuna industry has adopted measures to try and limit the amount of by-catch, and the impacts on other marine mammals, through dolphin-safe or dolphin-friendly certification. Check for products that carry this labelling, as they are more likely to take other marine species into consideration.

Label liability
Labelling on tuna products can be misleading because often the labels don’t mention the type of tuna used or where it comes from. Unless these details are specified on the can, it is difficult to judge how sustainable a product is. If your products do mention the type of tuna used, opt for skipjack tuna, as it has healthier populations, and contains less mercury.

Are canned goods all that good?
There is no need to stop eating canned tuna, but rather be mindful of the impact this fishery has on the marine environment. Make sure to look for certified products and opt for species that come from more sustainable fisheries.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Where can I find reliable information about CO2 captured per year by trees of various species?

A great deal of data has been done on the CO2 capture rate of individual tree species. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to compare this information across species, for a number of reasons:
  1. Individual tree species have different efficiency ratios due to their physiology. This means that some trees are better equipped in absorbing carbon from the air than others. This said, can we compare a giant redwood and a banana tree? They may have similar efficiency rates, but there biomass (i.e. the area with which they can capture carbon), growth rates etc are not comparable.
  2. Same species are found in different environmental conditions. You may find that one species e.g. bitter orange, found in different environmental conditions are more suited for carbon capture, depending on levels of sunshine, CO2 concentrations, rainfall, soil conditions, etc.
  3.  Number of species will make a difference. Even though you can compare individual tree species against one another, it is difficult to compare scales of density. For example, even though a blue gum may be more efficient at capturing atmospheric carbon than a pine species, is it possible compare the effects of a blue gum stand of 500 trees, versus an arboreal forest of 100 000 pine trees?

Current research (Europe and USA)
The US Department of Forestry has listed several tree species as the most effective in terms of carbon sequestration (in boreal forests). Species include: Common Horse-chestnut, Black Walnut, American Sweetgum, Ponderosa Pine, Red Pine, White Pine, London Plane, Hispaniolan Pine, Douglas Fir, Scarlet Oak, Red Oak, Virginia Live Oak and Bald Cypress.

Researchers at the University of Sevilla further tested tree species and found that the Aleppo Pine is able to capture an average of 48000 CO2 kg per year, while the Stone Pine can absorb 27 000 CO2 kg per year.

Forests with high species diversity in tropical locations seem to have the highest levels of carbon sequestration efficiency. Check out this article on world forests acting as carbon sinks.

Other good resources regarding this question can be found at:

Monday, 18 July 2011

Financial services and going green

The financial services industry is not always the first sector you think about when thinking about sustainability. But, as a major employer across the globe, and a very influential sector, it can play an important role in promoting green issues and developing its own capabilities in this area.

So, how can financial services be green? Firstly, it can get the green basics right:

  1. Recycling paper and reducing the printing of emails.
  2. Banks could look at their reports and accounts, as these are often extremely long.
  3. Greening air miles by offsetting and using video conferencing when possible.
  4. Though they may not be the biggest consumers, financial firms can also reduce their water, energy and material usage.
    Financial services can also play a big role in the greening of our planet through their ability to raise awareness with the wider community. This important issue was discussed when I gave the keynote on 7th July to the UK's Financial Services Research Forum at the Association of British Insurers on 'the Big Society' to a packed room from firms across the sector. This is something green24 can help with, if banks and insurers include a green angle on as many offerings as possible, they are passing on the green message to a huge group of consumers.

    Not only can banks and insurers pass on green messaging to their customers, but they can incorporate this philosophy in everything, from lending decisions to investment products. Green funds and pensions have grown, especially among the youth.

    Given these opportunities, all financial firms have a responsibility to review what they are offering. Often, financial advisers neglect to ask about a customer's values as part of their 'know your customer' due diligence, and it can sometimes be surprising how positively clients react when offered green alternatives. Nowadays, choosing a green investment doesn't mean taking a lower return.

    The real return is the long term commitment of banks and other institutions, rather than short term fashion, as we have seen with some forays into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for mainly good PR reasons. It’s changing the levels of expectation and setting new benchmarks in sustainability, passing ideas and standards from business to business, that shift the horizon of what is acceptable and normal internationally.  

    Financial services can be a little conservative and risk averse, but here is an area where the sector can take the lead and even be adventurous! Commitment is not necessarily a risk or costly, and can bring long term benefits to all. Ask us how it’s done!

    David Jackman