Posts tagged ‘carbon footprint’

March 20, 2013

Energy Points

Kilowatts, kilojoules, litres, gallons, Celsius and Fahrenheit – have you ever got confused on how much energy you actually save by living greener? Do you understand what these metrics mean at all or are they just numbers with no real meanings?

An already well-established ‘universal calculation’ is carbon footprinting – offered by many organisations. The basis is adding up the carbon-dioxide emissions from various activities, including those by eating meat, driving a car, travelling or just turning the heating up at home. This calculation also helps companies to see their ‘footprint’ in their environment, and so help them at making sustainable decisions.

A new company now wants to make an even simpler and easier system that should be more understandable for everyone.

Energy Points is a software company offering various products, mainly for companies, to be able to track and compare their savings in various areas (water, electricity, vehicles, renewable energy installations, waste, fuel) by introducing just one metric: Energy Points, which is the amount of energy embodied in a gallon of gasoline, equalling 3.9 litres. This unit is more graspable to most of us who owns and uses a car regularly, making us related better to the sustainable lifestyle.

Besides general areas of life, like driving, eating or heating, Energy Points could also stand for how much energy is needed for pumping, desalinating or treating water, as well as how much is necessary for treating waste or for the life cycle analysis of an item. Exact location and the method of generation are also taken into account.

The company then offers a whole platform and detailed analytics using these Energy Points to enable organisations to make comparable decisions regarding investments or even organisational changes.

There are also other energy and impact measuring methods. The Energy Saving Warehouse offers the LeSTO Energy Saving Survey, which can help anyone at home or in the office at becoming more energy efficient. For this one only has to fill out a detailed survey on the site and then improve the lifestyle.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse 

August 10, 2012

The End of Plastic Bags?

Like many other cities, Los Angeles has now banned single-use plastic bags and so became the largest US city to do so. Bags will have to be phased out in twelve months, while paper bags can remain but will not be free of charge.

Plastic bags pose a serious threat to wildlife as they can mistake it for food – for instance turtles can eat them instead of jelly fish, which can lead to serious health problems or even death. And there is now the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is mainly made up of the remains of plastic bags. From an economic point of view, it costs a lot of money to remove them from our streets or from sewage systems – where they can cause significant problems. Also, most plastic bags cannot be recycled, and they are made of non-renewable petroleum, while they only disintegrate into smaller pieces but can never be destroyed totally.

According to a spokesperson within the industry however plastic bags are ‘sustainable’ and ‘low energy’, the problem is their irresponsible use. The recent ban in Los Angeles was debated by other market players claiming that it would cause job cuts at factories.

Plastic bags are already banned in many places – including China, California or parts of Texas, while others charge tax on them. In many of these regions paper bags are used, which are on the other hand widely made of recycled materials and can be themselves recycled after usage. These paper bags may even hold more than an average plastic bag.

Plastic bags seem to have been phased out in more and more cities and countries, but where it hasn’t been done yet, we can phase them out of our life ourselves – by taking our own, preferably textile, bags shopping or avoiding extra packaging.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

April 17, 2012

Living in a Container

As the world’s population has now reached seven billion, space for housing is becoming scarce, and the amount of household junk collected by us is increasing, some innovative architects decided the combine the good with the useful.

According to some figures there are more than thirty million unused containers piled up in ports all around the world as shipping companies or the owners don’t have the money to send them back to their origin. These containers however are great for accommodation – according to some creative experts.

‘Container housing’ can be a solution for disaster-striken areas, as these ‘boxes’ resist strong winds and can be a safe shelter. One of the flagship initiatives in this area is the SEED
Project, by researchers of the Clemson University.

Some architects want to make containers more attractive for trendsetters and have come up with unique and stylish designs.

These containers have many advantages: besides being durable they are also ‘scalable’, cheap and easy to move.

In the Ukraine and in Kyrgyzstan there are already whole shopping malls developed from shipping containers, which could also serve as ideal offices spaces.

Travelodge, for example, used 86 containers to build a hotel in Uxbridge, London, which
looks just like a normal hotel made of bricks. 

The construction process was faster than normal
and very cost-effective. Also, thanks to the interior decoration guests may not even notice that
they are staying in a container.

Re-cycling unused containers is a great way to save space and waste, and who wouldn’t want
to live in some of these contemporary ‘flats’?

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: Verbus Systems

March 7, 2012

Lost a Shoe? Print it Yourself at Home!

The 21st century is the ‘age of stuff’. All of us are piling up ‘things’ at home and every minute we are encouraged to buy even more. If we can’t resist the urge to collect more and more, a new technology can now help at least in reducing our ecological footprint: 3D printing.

3D printing is essentially layers of specific materials – mainly plastic -, printed on top of each other with a special device, enabling the creation of virtually any kind of object. For years it has been used for developing prototypes, for example by architects, but now it’s becoming more mainstream. One of the world’s largest consumer printer manufacturers, HP has already launched 3D printers, and MIT’s researchers have been conducting trials by printing food and working clocks with every little detail included.

A key market player today is MakerBot Industries, offering 3D printers for personal use, including the latest Replicator, and the Thing-O-Magic models. These can print shoes, jewellery, toys, everyday items for the kitchen or the bathroom or anything you can think of. It’s also very handy if small parts or components break or go missing, which would be very expensive or even impossible to replace.

Schematics and blueprints are already freely available for everyone to download, thanks to a whole community that has been developed around MakerBot, sharing the designs of toys or art pieces. [6]

3D printing also offers several environmental benefits. It could reduce or virtually eliminate local and inter-continental shipping and packaging costs. Also, MakerBot’s community is already working on further developments, for instance how to re-cycle or use leftover plastic in order to reduce waste. It has even been claimed that 3D printing can stop over-production as only items that are actually needed are ‘manufactured’ avoiding stock remaining in warehouses.

3D printing thus could really change our shopping habits and our life in the very near future.

 

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: MakerBot

 

August 11, 2011

Pet Footprints

There are more and more carbon footprint calculation services available for anyone, but these only count the emissions from our lifestyle, travelling and eating. There are however more sources of carbon emissions, even where we wouldn’t think about it. Such are our pets, which can have a significantly high carbon footprint.

According to a recent book, Time to Eat the Dog?: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, these animals may have a significant impact on the climate.  Due to mainly their meat consumption, keeping a middle-sized dog is estimated to be equal to drive 6000 miles with a Toyota Land Cruiser, while a cat’s carbon emissions are similar to that of a Volkswagen Golf.  Two hamsters may create similar amount of carbon emissions as a plasma TV, while “less harmful” animals are rabbits, chicken, goldfish or a canary.

These figures are more significant when you consider that according to some studies there are more than eight million dogs and eight million cats in the UK as pets, the two most popular types. Taking this into account, future owners may want to think twice about the next ‘housemate’.

The book meanwhile also suggests several answers for addressing the issue. These include the sharing of favourite animals or catching rats for pet food instead of those bought in shops, besides choosing animals with less impact. These could be for example rabbits, which can be also eaten or chickens that provide eggs.

Ultimately however it may be easier to reduce human consumption and thus emissions by changing our own human habits and let the dog have his bone.

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

 

July 24, 2011

Gamble Green!

While a Scottish couple has just won Europe’s largest ever jackpot of GBP 161 million at the Euromillions, a lesser known lottery scheme has been emerging alongside: The Carbon Lottery.

What is the Carbon Lottery and how does it work?

The Carbon Lottery is just like any other lottery game, where players have to pick six numbers out of 49 for winning the weekly jackpot of EUR 4 million (GBP 3.5 million). Participants should select the numbers online at http://www.thecarbonlottery.com, for only GBP 2 – just like playing for the Euromillions. There is however an add-on.

Why is it green?

Each ‘lottery ticket’ offsets 100 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, thus lowering one’s carbon footprint.

More than half of the price of the tickets goes to the prize pool but a significant ratio is used to buy carbon offset credits by the Voluntary Offset Fund (operating in the frame of the Carbon Lottery scheme) linked to each ticket. This means that while hoping to become a multi-millionaire, green-minded players also lower global carbon dioxide emissions and support various projects all over the world, amongst others a wind farm in Turkey, a geothermal development in Guatemala or a biogas facility in Thailand.

As a helpful tool for assessing one’s carbon footprint, each country has a listed average emission, and players only have to select where they are from to know how many carbon lottery tickets it is equal to. For those who want a more accurate measure, a detailed calculator is also available counting based on their personal living, travelling and eating habits.

The Carbon Lottery was launched in April 2011 and currently only operates in the UK with the draw broadcast on the website and YouTube from Malta. After a successful initial period it may be extended to other European countries.

At the time of writing the Carbon Lottery has offset 2109 tonnes of carbon dioxide – the same as the annual emissions of two hundred average people living in the UK.

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

July 16, 2011

How can individuals and businesses lower their carbon footprint through the voluntary carbon market

Carbon offsetting is a controversial topic with many supporters and opponents, but the basic system is much more complex than it sounds.

Criticism mainly originates in this complexity, as it is rather a bazaar with the various ‘mechanisms’, ‘standards’ and ‘markets’ (which can vary from continent to continent or from project to project) than a marketplace for carbon emissions. If the underlying principles are understood however, individuals and also businesses can easily use these systems for lowering their carbon footprint.

What is the voluntary carbon market and how does it work?

The carbon offset market covers two main trading areas, the ‘compliance’ and the ‘voluntary’ carbon markets.

The so-called ‘compliance market’ is the arena for compulsory offsetting by companies and governments for meeting their pre-set targets.

The ‘voluntary carbon market’ meanwhile allows firms and individuals to lower their carbon footprints, while engaging in supporting carbon offset projects all over the world.

These specific projects create ‘voluntary carbon emission reduction units’ (VERs), which are equal to one tonne of CO2 that has not been emitted. On the contrary to the compliance market, the price of these units here can vary significantly, and may be even different for the same project at various providers, due to the lack of regulations.

What are the motivations of business and individuals to participating in the voluntary carbon offsetting trade?

Companies usually enter the voluntary market with the aim to make their operations carbon neutral, which objective is often linked to their corporate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme. They then provide their assistance to projects that can decrease the worldwide carbon emissions and can promote their ‘carbon-neutrality’ and commitment through marketing activities or customer promotions, like loyalty programmes or games.

Businesses tend to buy the units either for retirement or for re-sale to third parties, including their customers.

Individuals generally become involved due to the feeling of guilt, as they want to reduce their carbon footprint, while supporting projects decreasing global carbon emissions.

How important is the voluntary carbon market?

The voluntary carbon offset market is small compared to the global emissions trading market but in 2010 it has grown by 34 per cent compared to 2009, achieving a trading volume of 131.2 MtCO2e.

Most projects are now located in North America, followed by Latin America and Asia, while purchasing parties not only include for-profit businesses but also NGOs and individuals.

Key areas are forestry and renewable energy programmes, including also wind, hydro, or biomass projects. [1]

Where are these units available?

Shopping for ‘voluntary emission reduction units’ is relatively easy. It is possible directly from project developers, brokers who aggregate several projects, while they are also available through customer promotions by companies who purchased them with the aim of re-sale.

References
[1] “Introduction to the Emissions Markets”, Barclays Capital

[2] “Back to the Future: State of the Voluntary Carbon Markets, 2011”, Ecosystem Marketplace, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2011

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

 

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