Tag Archives: resources

Earth Overshoot Day and Not-For-Profit Enterprise

I wrote this post for the Post Growth Institute and it was originally published here.

In 2015, 13 August is Earth Overshoot Day. The day marks the estimated calendar date when humanity’s demand on the planet’s ecological services (which produce renewable resources and assimilate wastes) outstrips what the Earth can supply. This means that for the rest of the year, we are taking more than is regenerated, operating in Overshoot. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was August 19th. We first went into Overshoot in the late 1970s, and since then the day has crept ever earlier on the calendar. This means we are using the ecological resources of just over 1.5 Earths.

Meeting the challenge of providing for all humanity’s needs within the limits of what our Earth can provide will require a radical restructuring of the global economy. In this post I will discuss how a post-growth economy based around not-for-profit enterprise can help us get to One Planet Living. Continue reading

Video: The big picture behind the credit crunch, and what to do about it

Hey there.

Just want to share this 12-minute video I came across on Sustainable Man. It really succinctly explains how the economic crash of 2008 is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg, and how due to the depletion of key resources we’re in for a very tough time indeed. Don’t worry, around half way in it saves you from alarm and possible depression by turning to the more proactive question of “what can we do about it?” The solutions explored in the rest of the video are just a teeny tiny teaser of the awesome stuff people are working on all around the world, so be sure to do some more research. For ideas on what to punch into google you could check out my post The Big Bumper Book of Solutions

Share with your friends, especially people who don’t already know about this stuff, and start a conversation!

Also don’t you think the illustrations are brilliant?

 

 

Samso landscape with wind turbines. Not my image.

Renewable Island

Samso landscape with wind turbines. Not my image.

Samso landscape with wind turbines. Not my image.

Samso is a small Danish island with about 4,300 residents.
What’s remarkable about this place? It’s 100% powered by renewable energy.

That’s one hundred percent! What a fantastic achievement!

With a combination of off-shore and on-shore wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal pumps and locally grown biofuels, they’ve managed to secure full energy sufficiency from sustainable sources. They do use some fossil-fuel powered cars, but the whole island’s still carbon neutral because they sell excess wind energy to mainland Denmark, effectively offsetting their remaining emissions. They’re actually implementing electric cars as we speak, and they plan to be completely independent from fossil fuels by 2030. If that includes the carbon involved in agriculture and consumer goods, then it’s an ambitious goal – but definitely achievable.

Samso Energy Academy is a visitor attraction, education centre and conference suite where politicians, scientists and businesspeople can meet to discuss renewable energy.  I’m sure anyone that has the pleasure of visiting this centre would be bowled over by the success of the energy projects undertaken on the island.

They have a smart grid, connected to the mainland. Denmark itself is light years ahead of my country when it comes to renewables. Roughly 28% of their current energy is from renewable sources and they’re at the forefront of intelligent grid technologies. These smart grids have an interactive digitised system which allows the fluctuating supply characteristic of renewables to be balanced with the rising demand of our times. Denmark’s grid is connected to nearby countries so they can export when there is a surplus and import when production dips.

I’ve always thought localised energy systems are much more robust than centralised ones. I think this is especially true with renewables because wind, sun and wave energy production is most efficient with many small generation plants rather than a few massive ones. Also diversity between the many different forms of renewables energy is paramount to avoid shortages. But having localised energy generation does not have to mean you can’t also have a smart inter-regional and even international grid – think of it as a vast web with thousands of nodes, all connected but not relying on any centralised system.

I’m incredibly impressed by Samso. The projects were actually instigated by the residents, which makes it even more impressive than if it was the Danish government forcing clean energy on unsuspecting islanders! Here are people that are truly forward thinking, proactive and inspirational. Although the island only has a 4,300 residents, I see no reason why their successes couldn’t be scaled up for larger communities. We’ve all got a lot to learn here.

Here’s some more information about the island. This lovely image is created by www.infographs.org. I’m sorry it’s kind of too small, but I can’t figure out how to enlarge it any further.

For more information about how Denmark’s getting ahead of the energy game, check out State of Green.

My New Home – Eco Highs & Lows

I’ve recently moved to Brighton to start University. After two years of shared houses over which I had little control, I now have a flat with my boyfriend… This is great because we have the chance to make it our own personal bubble. Apart from aesthetics like poster placement and furniture juggling, a large part of this for me is making sure my new home is as environmentally responsible as possible. In this post I’ll talk you through where this has been easy, and where this goal has come up against barriers of various kinds.

Highs

  • Brighton has a fairly comprehensive recycling system so I can put paper, card, glass and tins outside my door for collection. Just down the road there’s large bins for clothes, shoes and even toys. Also recycling can go on even when out and about as they provide bins for paper, plastic bottles etc in town as well.
  • Politically, my new constituency is the only one in the UK to be run by the Green Party. Go Caroline Lucas!
  • Brighton University is the 3rd greenest in the country, apparently. I’m yet to get stuck into what stuff they have going on to live up to this title but today I joined their student led food co-op, which is a great start!
  • I’ve discovered to my joy that eco-friendly cleaning products are not actually that expensive. Never having to buy washing-up liquid or toilet cleaner before, I was set on buying the eco versions but was worried they’d be at break-the-bank prices and would severely cut into my funds… Not so. Each of these essential house-ey items cost me about £2. I can cope with that! Especially as they are concentrated and last for ages.
  • My flat came complete with a freezer, which has helped me avoid food waste considerably. If I make too much food but it’s one of those ‘awkward amounts’ that aren’t enough for another meal, I can just whack it in the freezer. I can already see a poor and hungover future me celebrating upon finding an icy portion of homemade soup!
  • We’re on a meter for electricity rather than a standard monthly bill, so we’re being encouraged to be as frugal and efficient with power as possible. Little habits that I’ve always tried to do for ethical reasons are suddenly being reinforced as important money-saving tactics. We never leave lights on, even for ten minutes. We turn off computers when we won’t use them again for half an hour, wheres before I would leave them on. We turn the hot water off as soon as the washing up’s done. It really works – it’s made me think how effective it’d be to make every house on a meter. I’d like to think I was doing stuff like this any way, but it’s crazy how much a financial insentive has really made me go the extra mile.

Lows

  • We thought this flat had a shower, but it turns out it doesn’t work. The landlord doesn’t want to pay for a new one to be installed at the moment so we’re using the bath… But it just seems like such a massive waste! After washing myself I have to leave the room as gallon upon gallon of still-almost-clean water rushes off to the same place as the definitely-not-clean-at-all toilet water… It’s such an inefficient system. Plus I find showers more convenient and refreshing anyway. If we owned the house we could get some kind of system installed to catch the grey water and re-use it, but renting just doesn’t allow you these options.
  • Despite the high quality of recycling with everything else, food waste isn’t collected here. I think this is a bit shocking and am trying to find time to write a letter to my local (Green!) MP about it. Needless to say, this is certainly not helping me to avoid food waste!
  • I wanted to go to Ecotricity for our electricity but I’m not sure if we can change our suppliers… Sorting out utility bills is an aspect of adult life that I have faced with no gusto whatsoever. They’re all boring, money-grabbing and confusing and I’ve only actually payed one bill so far. I will talk to my landlord about changing to a green supplier but I’m not holding my breath.

And that’s it for now, but I’ll be sure to keep you updated! What are some of the eco highs and lows of your own home?

Sweet, sweet rainwater

Wouldn't it be great if a multi-purpose, vital and increasingly scarce resource happened to fall on your house every other night...

In the world today, we have a water problem. Every living person needs clean water to drink. We also need water to bathe in, to wash our clothes, dinner plates and homes, and we need huge amounts of water in every industry, to grow food and produce every product we globally enjoy. But because there are so many more of us than there used to be, and because we’re more wasteful, there’s not enough fresh water to go round. 884 million people around the world already go thirsty everyday, and as if that isn’t a crisis enough, drinking water could soon become a scarce commodity for the Western world as well.

Luckily, we can easily lessen our water consumption. I recently read in Inspired Times that as much as 50% of our domestic tap water usage could be saved if we simply used rain water for toilets, washing machines and gardens. That’s such a huge gain for such a surprisingly small effort that I wanted to shout about it.

So, get a rainwater harvesting system as soon as possible. You can get all sorts of state-of-the-art systems which are brilliant. However, if the research and possible cost will hold you back, I’d highly recommend installing any type of basic drain-to-waterbutt set-up.

Keeping things simple...

When it rains, the water that falls on your roof will just be collected in water butts for you to use- for watering the garden or washing your car. More professional (but still simple and affordable) systems are available to link in to your water storage tanks and can be used by appliances inside your house. (E.g. for flushing the toilet and washing clothes).

I think our whole water system is ridiculous to be honest. Why use drinking water for everything? For most water uses rainwater would be totally adequate. Also flushing toilets are incredibly wasteful. I wish composting toilets were the norm everywhere. Even the natural processes of water recycling are disrupted by the fact we have concrete and drains everywhere. Fresh water is lost when it rains heavily inland and the excess water is directed to the sea by pipes…

I digress. What I mean to say is; whenever it rains, instead of thinking about how annoying it is, think about how much free water you can gather!

I Am a Herbivore

 I’m vegan.

The first question annoyingly asked by many upon hearing this is “oh my god, what do you eat?” I’ve finally decided that trying to list every foodstuff that I enjoy is pointlessly tiresome, and that “well, plants…” is a better answer.

For those wanting elaboration, I suggest listening to this song.

The second question is usually “why?” and this is more interesting and more long-winded. This blog post is an attempt at a concise and lucid answer.

Firstly, I feel that the conditions in which farm animals live (and die) are incredibly cruel, and I don’t wish to condone this practice in any way. Even with organic and free-range farming, the welfare standards are not high enough in my mind. It is just a case of bad rather than barbaric.

Secondly, the environmental impact of farming animals is shockingly high. The  industry is fuel, water and chemical intensive, and creates a large amount of pollution. It is also unsustainable for everyone on this planet to eat animal foods, as it takes up so much more land than a plant based diet. It may have been workable in other parts of history, but for the modern day it is not an efficient or fair use of land and resources.

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Once you’re used to being vegan it’s really not hard at all. I have been for about 5 years now and I find it perfectly easy. I don’t really see why people struggle so much. Plus it’s healthier, as long as you have some basic ideas about nutrition, which I do.

Anyway here’s an example of what I might eat in a typical day:

Breakfast: bananas on toast.
Lunch: minestrone soup with bread.
Dinner: vegan sausages, mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables.
Snacks: biscuits, fruit.
Drinks: water, juice, hot chocolate (with soya milk).

I don’t see any major self-sacrifice in that to be honest.

The only real advantage to eating meat, dairy etc is that you might like the taste of it. And that’s fair enough, but is it really worth it?

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Of course you don’t have to agree with me, this was just me explaining my reasoning. But take a moment to consider that although you are entitled to your own opinion, animals and the Earth are apparently, not.  They don’t get the choice.