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Comeback Central June 24, 2009

Posted by letitiahughes in environment.
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We always hear about celebs making a much-awaited comeback – Take That, Spice Girls – you name it – but isn’t it better when we hear of environmental comebacks? It is great to actually see good news environmental stories rather than the normal doom and gloom.

For example, we heard recently that great bustard chicks have hatched for the first time in Britain in almost two centuries, since 1832. At least three chicks from two nests are being watched over by their mothers at a secret location on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire. The great bustard, Otis tarda, was hunted to extinction in Britain, although it used to be commonly found in the Yorkshire Wolds, Lincolnshire, East Anglia and Salisbury Plain.

But it is not just about the birds, it is also about the bees. We all know about the importance of the bee for the fine working of ecoystems, but there is one bee of special importance.

The short-haired bumblebee was exported from the UK to New Zealand on the first refrigerated lamb boats in the late 19th Century to pollinate clover crops. Although it thrived in New Zealand, it was last seen in the UK in 1988. Now Natural England and several other conservation groups have launched a scheme to bring the species home. As many as 100 of the bees will initially be collected in New Zealand and a captive breeding plan established, with the aim of eventually releasing them at Dungeness, Kent, where they were last seen. They will be flown back on planes in cool boxes, and will not be disturbed as they will be in hibernation during transit.

This return of the bees is really important as the bee is a “keystone species” for pollinating around 80% of important crops.

It would be great to hear what other good news sustainability stories people may have?

The Green Budget April 22, 2009

Posted by letitiahughes in environment.
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Well the much anticipated budget has finally arrived. It was all hyped up to be about all things environmental, but although there were some good points, I don’t think it quite lived up to the billing. Key green ideas were CCS technology and combined heat and power. There was a lot of support for renewable energy, especially for off shore wind.

Overall, I do have to agree with John Sauven from Greenpeace who said that there was some positive announcements in the budget but a lack of ambition. He said that: “Ministers tell us climate change is the great challenge of our time, but the money found for renewables and energy efficiency is only marginally more than Mr Darling found earlier this year for RBS bonuses”.

So what about some of the detail? I think that Carbon Capture and storage should really be explored, but again agree with Sauven that there needs to be strong regulations preventing the energy companies building regular coal plants with CCS experiments on the side.

Electric cars are another key part of the budget. It is really important that these cars are charged from renewable energy, like off shore wind, rather than coal power if we want to maximise the energy savings.

Combined heat and power plants’ (CHP) exemption from the Climate Change Levy was another good idea in the budget, that has the potential to provide huge benefits. Sauven said that: “Half of our energy needs and nearly half of our emissions come from heat use, so this extension of an exemption for CHP is sound policy. Normal power stations waste two-thirds of the energy put into them in the form of wasted heat, so anything that kick-starts heat capture at power plants would dramatically decrease emissions and improve energy security.”

Friends of the Earth have been  more negative in their response to the budget. They said that Alistair Darling has squandered a huge opportunity to create a low-carbon economy and create thousands of green jobs by investing in renewable energy and cutting energy waste on the scale required.

 I think there is no need to be negative. We just need to aim now to really take hold of these good green initiatives and run with them. We need to show what can be done, and maximise the opportunities. The carbon budget is all very well and good, but we need to make sure that we actually hit the target.   This will ensure that we remain a world leader on climate change.

Gordon’s Green Plans April 9, 2009

Posted by letitiahughes in environment, Uncategorized.
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I was interested to hear this week about Gordon Brown’s green plans for the budget.

He has said that  green innovations would be a major part of the government’s plans for recovery being unveiled in the budget later this month. An interesting if not unexpected development, echoed from Obama’s pledges in America.

It is true that green technology offers huge opportunities for job creation – Nicholas Stern mentioned this in a New Scientist article a while ago – as well as improving quality of life and providing environmental benefit. I agree with this, but think that this green revolution should be have happening no matter what, not as a rescue solution in the economic downturn.

In particular, Brown wants Britain to become a market leader across the world for electric and hybrid cars, with the option to recharge vehicles at the roadside. I would be interested here to see what their plans are in more detail, but I think it is a good idea in principle.

It’s not easy being green March 25, 2009

Posted by letitiahughes in environment.
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I belong to a green office, by that I mean we are committed to reducing our environmental footprint through focusing on our resource efficiency, waste management and environmental purchasing.  It works well in the office as we are all about the little things that we can do, creating simple opportunities for people to change their behaviour in a way that is beneficial for the environment.

For example, we are committed to multi material recycling – recycling all paper, cardboard, cans, plastic bottles, batteries and glass, and we are always exploring new reprocessing avenues for anything that we cannot currently recycle. We are also committed to developing ‘best practice’ in all green printing, and encouraging all employees to save electricity wherever they can.

 

As part of the Green Team within our office, I participated in an interesting event recently at Richmond Council, looking at how local companies can ‘green’ their activities, both in terms of their own offices and their products and services. I shared stories of what we are already doing, and got some good ideas of what more we could be doing.

 

Good tips included the freebie green posters to decorate the office, which are available on Carbon Trust  – our office are now using these. The usefulness of real time metering, allowing staff to interact with their own energy use in the office, was also highlighted. Longer term, it was suggested that green responsibility should be included in job descriptions.

We are always looking to ensure that we are a sustainable office and I will keep you updated on any further green activities.