Tag Archives: green

6 Steps to a Green Economy

If the leaders of the most influential countries and the CEOs of the biggest corporations, plus other key players working for large NGOs came to me and said, ”So Tegan, what do you propose?”, this is what I’d say.

STEP 1. TAKE STOCK

The foundation of a green economy is truly efficient use of resources. For this to be possible, we need to know how much of everything we have. Ideally gather as much data as possible on the state of all four types of capital: natural capital, produced capital, human capital and financial capital. If this isn’t possible, then it should be the priority to gather data on just natural capital, which is already admittedly a mammoth task. For this information to be fully maximised it needs to be freely available for everyone. This means all data should be available in an online database open to all but only updated by qualified scientists. The database should disclose up-to-date statistics on all known reserves of minerals, ores and fossil fuels. Also the areas of temperate, coniferous and tropical forests should be provided, as well as professional estimates of freshwater mass, the biodiversity of all regions, habitat biodiversity, results on the composition of the atmosphere, estimates of the populations of species and their rate of growth or decline. Levels of pollutants should also be measured and recorded on this database, as should average temperature levels. The more detailed it is, the better because precision is key when planning efficient environmental management.

 

STEP 2. ASIGN VALUE.

Values are crucial because they lead the way for choices and actions. Here I am going to assume that we value human life and wellbeing. But that is not entirely sufficient. The key to survival on planet Earth may be competition, but the key to thrival is cooperation. If we are going to evolve and live in mutual cooperation or synergy with our fellow Earthlings then we must begin to assign all living things an inherent value. This means we acknowledge that other species have the right to life – as in, even if they aren’t obviously useful to us this doesn’t mean they can be exterminated. Systems ecology shows that all living things in fact are useful to us, but this ethical process must assign them value in their own right – even if this were not the case. For this process to be completed, large scale education in ecology and ecosystem services must be undertaken so that valuing the natural non-human world becomes second nature. Or first nature, if you think about it.

 

STEP 3. GIVE RIGHTS.

Now that we have assigned other species the right to life, it becomes obvious that all humans also deserve this right. Further, they also deserve a good level of well-being and life satisfaction. The declaration of human rights is a start, but actually implementing it is the next step. Developing and Undeveloped countries should be assisted by richer nations along the path of sustainable development. All people should be able to access food, clean water, and sanitation. They should also have a home and an appropriate education. They should have land and community rights that companies cannot override, however large they are. It has long been said that we have enough food for everybody, if only it was shared sensibly and not wasted. People should also have the right to forms of contraception. Rich and powerful companies, governments and other groups do actually have the power to solve world hunger and desperate poverty if they so choose. This step makes it imperative that they do so. We cannot have a green economy or hope to be a civilised race if we let this tragedy continue.

 

STEP 4. PRIORITISE.

What with providing basic human rights to everyone and protecting endangered species and sensitive ecosystems, you might think this will all be very costly and perhaps not very good for the economy. This step ensures that this doesn’t matter because the economy is about to be rebooted. It is ridiculous to prioritise anything above the entwined duo of humanity and our home planet. Combined, what could be more important than those two things? Yet currently ‘the economy’ holds that lofty position. I’m sorry if you’re emotionally attached to the status quo, but this cannot continue. In the sustainable future, the green economy is just one third of this trio:

 

GNP measures unhelpful but nonetheless economic things like pollution and prison convictions. Similarly, it doesn’t measure many important things like subjective well-being. In a sustainable future the most common way of measuring progress will be the Happy Planet Index. This Index assumes that the role of the economy is to turn natural resources into human well-being. It follows that whichever system produces the most well-being with the fewest resources is the most efficient.

 

So, the priority of money as the ultimate end will be phased out and the new priority of creating as much human well-being as possible while having the smallest ecological footprint possible will be the new thing. In the green economy, money will still exist but only as a means of exchange – a means to an end. It absolutely will not be more important than people and planet.

 

STEP 5. TAX POLLUTION.

We can’t expect this to just happen magically. The above note about using money as a means to an end is crucial here because money can be used by governments as a powerful tool to guide the economy into a green future. The first thing to do is to introduce heavy taxes on all forms of pollution. Oil slicks, landfilling, carbon emissions, water pollution and all other forms of pollution will incur high taxes. They will be high enough to cover the cost of clean-up plus an extra percentage on top. (This will go towards green subsidies, detailed below). The aim of this is obviously to make pollution financially expensive and unviable, so industrious businesses find creative ways to avoid polluting. If they don’t, they will lose considerable amounts of money and be forced to put their prices up – but this will disadvantage them in the market place. Failing to pay pollution taxes should be strongly punished, with a criminal conviction being placed on the CEO of the company. This will of course harbour the growth of clean-up enterprises which will cash in on this new policy, while filling a vital function.

 

STEP 6. SUBSIDISE.

Taxes alone won’t be enough to green the economy. It is also necessary to instantly withdraw subsidies from harmful enterprises like fossil fuel based energy companies and pesticide monopolies. In their place, this money plus the money incurred from pollution taxes (after clean-up is paid for) should go to subsidise the cornerstones of the green economy:

  • Renewable Energy
  • Recycling
  • Organic Agriculture

In addition to these, large subsidies should also go into electric (renewable powered) public transportation and education. A large proportion of government funding should also be extracted from military funding and used to fund large scale research into systems ecology, renewable energy and clean-technology.

 

Sound like a plan?

 

Funnily enough, I’ve just finished writing this and it now makes more sense to me that these steps be followed in the opposite order – from 6 to 1. What do you think? 

Erratic Recycling Isn’t Impressive

Photo credit: D. Hurst / Alamy/Alamy

What’s up with all this erratic recycling?

I don’t mean on an individual level, I mean in terms of what is provided. My mum’s street takes almost everything weekly  and so does mine, which is great. But my boyfriend’s house (which is in the same town) doesn’t take paper, and my friend’s (also in this town) takes paper and etc but not food waste. My dad’s flat in Cheltenham recently didn’t have a collection at all and they had to take stuff to the local dump (which did recycle). What is this? I mean if it’s up to local councils to sort out then I can see how it would differ between districts – and towns at a push – but why would my own town have different schemes depending on the street?

Recycling may not make the entire materials economy sustainable, but it takes more steps down that path than most things, that’s for sure. It reduces the amount of waste going to landfill at one end (reducing methane emissions and land-use and saving money) and reduces the pressure for virgin resources at the other end of the production cycle. (reducing habitat destruction plus pollution and waste from extraction and again, saving money). And what’s more, it’s relatively easy to get the average Joe to jump on-board. Once the council gives you a couple of boxes and sets the mixed rubbish collection to every fortnight, it doesn’t take a spark of brilliance, a commitment of the purse or even a care for the world to put your paper and bottles and stuff in the recycling box. It’s easy. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s just throwing a piece of trash into a different container. Even people who don’t care about the ‘environment’ (as if that’s some faraway place made of compassion and bunny rabbits) will recycle if that’s the most effective way to get rid of their rubbish each week. And that’s just the kind of solution we need, isn’t it? Things that are hugely effective and easy to implement on a wide scale. I’m afraid waiting until we can convert the entire world’s population to a ‘green’ way of thinking will just be too slow… In order to avoid environmental collapse we need to make the green way the easy way.

So, local councils, what are you thinking?! You have this power to control the recycling rate of your district and you squander it on a patchy service that is great in parts and shoddy in others? This just isn’t good enough. And don’t tell me it’s ”better than nothing” because I know that. But we haven’t got time for ”better than nothing” – we need ”as good as humanely possible”.

I want to be able to send a scrap of paper or apple core of whatever on it’s way to reincarnation whosoever house I’m in. It’s 2012 now, let’s up the game a little.

It’s worth a try for recycled paper!

My mum told me something recently that really made my day. Basically, she had been having a conversation with an old friend over email about Polly Higgins and her attempts to make ecocide a crime. My mother’s friend was commenting on how Polly’s books are printed on FSC certified paper… Now I wouldn’t blame you for mentally being all like ‘’well that’s good’’ – but his point was that FSC is apparently a stamp of crumbling and now dubious standards and post-consumer waste recycled paper would be more appropriate. I wasn’t aware of this but he says FSC’s standards have slipped so much that they now allow lots of unsustainable forestry practices and might even allow new plantations on ground recently cleared of rainforest to be certified. I’m really not clear on this at all and need to do some proper research before I can comment more on the topic.

However, my mum sent an email to Polly querying this and suggesting she use recycled paper for her publishing – whilst letting her know how much she admires her work and how inspiring she finds it. Her friend was cynical about Polly not wanting to do anything about it, but this is what made me happy… Her secretary emailed back promptly, thanking my mum for ‘’flagging up the issue’’ and saying that they’ve sourced where to get recycled paper printing and will be using it in the future, starting with they’re next print-run! In my mind this openness to improvement in green standards really shows their true ethical colours. My respect for Polly, which was already big, has grown. Immensely encouraging.

So my message to you today it… It’s worth a try! You never know how open people will be if you bring something up with them in a respectful way and point to a viable alternative. Of course, Polly Higgins is somebody who spends her time working on her own portion of the green agenda so it’s not at all surprising my mum got a positive reaction. You probably won’t get such a good response from Tesco if you send them a letter asking them to change one of their hundreds of unsustainable policies, but hey… This has inspired me and filled up my hope meter in terms of people’s reasonableness. Especially with smaller establishments, who’s to say some nice talking couldn’t swing things around? Nice talking, though. If you’re rude or disrespectful you just get people’s back up and cause extra division. Be polite, treat people like they’re intelligent and decent equals that aren’t so different from you (even if they aren’t and are) and you’ll get a hell of a better reaction. So get sending those emails! It’s worth a try.

Green Dreams and Rio+20

The International Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20 and the 2012 Earth Summit, is taking place in Brazil this week. There’s already been preparatory meetings and the actual conference is from the 20th to the 22nd of June. I’ve been wondering how it’s all going but even though I’ve been scouring both the official UN website and the unofficial Earth Summit website, I’m struggling to get a clear idea of how they’re progressing. Hopefully once it’s actually started there’ll be proper accessible news updates I can read.

However while I was looking around I found that as part of the preparations for the Conference, this partner website called My Green Dream has been set up. It’s encouraging people around the world to share their ‘green dream’ in a short video and together get a more lucid understanding of what future we collectively want. It’s an admirable project and I love the fact that people are getting this idea of taking stock and asking ‘so where do we want to go from here?’… Next we just need to resources and motivation to actually get there…

Take a look at the website, it’s inspiring and has a beautiful background picture. If you’ve got a minute, you could even get involved and post your own Dream.

Image from green-dream.co.uk

Being Green on a Budget

Heya. In this post I’m going to give some tips for people who want to lower their ecological footprint but are on low incomes and simply don’t have extra cash to splash on being green. So if you can’t invest in insulation or solar panels and can’t fork out for organic, fairtrade and or whatever, don’t worry – there’s plenty of ways you can be green on a small budget!

FOOD

  • Seek out your local market. This way local farmers can sell you their produce for a much cheaper price than what you’d see in the shops because the middle man of the shop is cut out. You can get fresh organic fruit and vegetables that’ll boost your health and your local economy while being very cheap – seasonal things will often be cheaper than a supermarket!
  • Use your local food-waste collection service or if you like gardening, even make your own compost heap! Cost is very minimal as you can just nail together pieces of scrap wood to make two compartments.
  • Growing food in your garden is something that you can make as cheap or expensive as you like really. It’ll cost less if you grow from seeds rather than baby plants, research on the internet or in library books, buy manure from a local farm rather than a garden centre and just be inventive… Also check out Land Share if you don’t have a garden. Allotments don’t cost that much but the waiting lists are usually about as long as it takes to worm a cat.
  • Don’t waste food! Obvious, but it’s crazy how much most people do it. Plan your meals, try new combinations and use leftovers in meals the next day. This will clearly save money and waste really is such a problem as it releases CH4 (methane) while in landfill – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than CO2.

TRANSPORT & HOLIDAYS

  • I would say use public transport rather than a car but in many places it’s just so ridiculously expensive… Always book train fares as far in advance as possible as it makes a huge difference. Like half the price kind of difference. (Check out Trainline). Other than that, try and car-share with people to cut carbon and offer lifts to others if you are driving. (Check Liftshare) Lastly, where are you going? Can you actually just walk? If it’s 2 miles away or less it’s perfectly reasonable to walk it. Or ride a bike, for a speedier alternative.
  • When going on holiday, try and refrain from flying. Planes emit a huge amount of CO2. I was once told that a plane just launching into the sky emits as much carbon as most cars do in a whole year. I can’t say if that’s exactly accurate but it’s certainly very high. So take a holiday somewhere in your own country, or even take to the sea if you’re feeling the wander-lust. I personally think until a greener aviation fuel is developed, flying should be reserved for emergencies.

SHOPPING

  • Just don’t buy it if you don’t adore it or really need it. The best way to be green on a low budget is simply to buy as little as possible. Every item uses up energy and resources to produce and distribute and the super-cheap price is not a true reflection of all the ignored costs. So just think hard before every purchase.
  • Buy second hand things! I buy almost all of my clothes second hand. It’s so so so much cheaper and it doubles the lifespan of items and reduces the demand for new stuff to be made. Scour local charity shops, seek out flea markets and jumble sales and get click happy over ebay.

CLOTHES

  • Hold a Swish. I think these are a fantastic idea. You get together with your friends, all bring some clothes you no longer want and throw them in a pile. You try lots of things on and take home whatever you like. It’s so simple and so much fun.
  • Learn to mend your clothes. Getting thrifty with your needle and thread can turn that cardigan from kicking-around-waiting-to-be-got-rid-of-clutter to yay-my favourite-cardigan-has-buttons-again-hooray! in minutes.

HOME

  • Put a sheet of tinfoil behind your radiators to help them radiate the heat away from the wall and into the room. Saves carbon and money in one fell swoop..
  • Don’t waste water! I’m always shocked at how much people waste this precious resource. All the time I see people getting a glass of water, taking one sip and throwing the rest away or wandering around the hallway leisurely brushing their teeth while litre after litre of sweet H2O hurtles down the sink. It’s more a habit than anything but do try and break it because the water purification process is pretty energy intensive. Collect excess water in a watering can and quench your garden’s thirst without any tap-turning. Another good idea is to put your water on a meter – if you’re charged for how much you use rather than a flat rate you’ll have a financial incentive to use less.
  • When feeling chilly, go to your wardrobe and put on another layer rather than turning the heating up a notch. It sounds silly but you’ll be surprised how often people do the latter without even thinking about it. You could even go and cuddle someone to keep warm!

Hope this little list helped – I’ll be sure to post more ideas when I think of them. Do you have a tip you’d like to share that’s friendly to both purse and planet? If so then hit up the comment section right away!

xx

Why must “green” clothes be different?

Eco fashion has come a long way. I quite want to make a timeline, and some day I will, but for now I’ll just say that I remember when all it meant was oatmeal coloured sack-dresses made out of hemp. Now there’s all sorts of high-end shenanigans involving vegetarian silk, elegant poses and lots of $$$. Celebrities like to rock up to red-carpet events and wax lyrical about their ethical dresses.  Topshop and New Look even sell organic cotton ranges. Most environmentally and socially friendly clothes are still a fair amount more expensive than their conventional counterparts, which means I don’t really bother with them and buy most of my clothes second hand. But there’s no use denying there’s gallons of progress afoot.

So what, then, am I complaining about? It’s this. They look different.

Ethically produced clothes don’t just differ in material and production method, they differ in style too. And maybe, for you, this is all part of the charm. “It’s not just a run-of-the-mill jacket, it’s an eco jacket! Look, you can tell!” I’m not convinced. I think making all these great garments in hippie, ethnic, shabby chic, indie or just “different” styles is unfair on the environment. What about the millions of people who want to dress fashionably? May they not reduce their carbon footprint without looking like a different person? Don’t they deserve the chance to endorse fair working wages AND YET not become a hippie?

Basically I think there’s no reason while the same mainstream trends can’t be produced ethically. I do’t even like the phrase “eco fashion”. “Eco” isn’t a trend or a look, it should just be normal practise. But as long as it distinguishes itself in this way, it will only reach a niche market. Fashion is a powerful force. People follow it. It’s much easier to work with it than against it.

All this is on my mind because in my town a new “eco fashion” shop has just opened and I went inside to take a look. Their clothes are actually very nice. It was a little expensive but not unreasonable. You can get a lovely soft stripy jumper for £30. Pretty good. And they’re style was cool, I liked it. The fact that it wasn’t trendy New Look-ey stuff didn’t bother me because I personally don’t like that stuff. But it does both me in the more general sense that I’ve just been discussing. All fashion needs to get progressively greener, regardless of what it looks like. Skaters, housewives, gothic teenagers, fashionable girly girls and business men should all have the equal opportunity to choose more environmentally friendly ways of dressing. Diversify!

This would have been the best you could do a few year's ago.

And now this. You wouldn't know by looking that it's 100% organic cotton, made by people with a fair wage in a factory run by wind power.

The above tee-shirt, by Ascension, is an example of what I’m saying we should have more of. Perfectly “normal” looking clothes that just happen to have great green credentials.

Kent hosts largest offshore wind farm in the world

The Thanet Offshore Wind Farm on the Eastern most point of Kent, is the largest such project in the whole world. It is comprised of 100 wind turbines, generating 300 MW of clean electricity. This is estimated to be enough to power 200,000 homes per year. Quite something!

The project was begun in 2008, and construction finished last year. Now Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for Kent and the South East, has secured £150 million  from the European Investment Bank to help fund the wind farm.

Apparently this large-scale project has helped the UK to achieve the EU’s target of 15% of electricity being generated by renewable’s by 2020. Although of course it’s brilliant that we’ve hit this target, it strikes me that it was not high enough if it could be reached this easily with 9 years to spare. 15% is after all not that much. I like to hope we’ll have reached at least double that by 2020, personally.

However this is nonetheless fantastic news. The company responsible for the farm, Vattenfall, is not a predominately green company. They are a corporate energy company generating with nuclear, gas and coal as well as wind, hydroelectric and biomass. I know you won’t be expecting me to celebrate the combustion of scarce and dirty fossil fuels, but this fact does at least show that renewable power is now an economically sound option. An option that is sensibly taken by run-of-the-mill companies just searching for a profit margin, not trying to save the world while accidentally going bankrupt.

We’re getting there, if a bit too slowly.

~

Credits

http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/green-mep-welcomes-funding-for-off-shore-kent-wind-farm.html

http://www.vattenfall.co.uk/en/thanet-offshore-wind-farm.htm

Image is from Google Images and does not depict the wind farm in question.