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Solar power Santa Monica style

Posted by ericww on August 19, 2011

Saw this solar powered car park ticket machine, which was one of many examples of solar power in action in everyday situations in Santa Monica, CA. There’s also plenty of electric car charging points too. Hats off to the local authority!!


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A little Tuesday polar bear action…

Posted by ericww on January 25, 2011

Polar Bear (Sow And Cub), Arctic National Wild...

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JUST spotted this story on the BBC website… really amazing!… A polar bear swam continuously for over nine days, covering 687km (426 miles), a new study has revealed.  Scientists studying bears around the Beaufort sea, north of Alaska, claim this endurance feat could be a result of climate change.

Polar bears are known to swim between land and sea ice floes to hunt seals.  But the researchers say that increased sea ice melts push polar bears to swim greater distances, risking their own health and future generations.

If you want to read more, you’ll need to visit the source of this story here … sadly, my limited ‘editorial’ budget doesn’t cover such journalistic forays :-)

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Steely determination leads to first ever Climate Week

Posted by ericww on January 18, 2011

David and Victoria Beckham in Silverston Circu...

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Not before time, 2011 sees the first ever Climate Week and its associated Climate Week Awards.  The week itself runs from 21 to 27 March and the main driving force behind getting this event going is Kevin Steele.

Steele is a consummate and entrepreneurial social and environmental campaigner with an impressive track record and CV.  He was the first CEO of Enterprise Insight (now Enterprise UK), which brought together the Institute of Directors (IoD), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the Federation of Small Business (FSB) around one Board table, and spearheaded initiatives such as Make Your Mark and Global Entrepreneurship Week.  Other credits to his name include co-founding National Family Week and conceiving the Trade Justice Movement.

And, when it comes to reeling big brands and corporate partners into the equation, Steele is a tenacious deal maker.  Case in point for Climate Week is Tesco, which is the week’s headline partner (other supporting brands are: Aviva, EDF Energy, Kelloggs and RBS).

So what’s on offer?  Pleasingly, the Week has begun to embrace the idea of pulling ‘green’ topics into the consumer mainstream (see a multitude of Home Zero Home posts passim for various blathering on this approach to taking eco messages to the masses).

Among the first shots in Climate Week’s communications activity is research that identifies the iconic personalities who are most likely to inspire people to do greener things.

According to the research, undertaken by Millward Brown to mark the launch of the Climate Week Awards, David Beckham is more likely to inspire us to save the planet than green fan Leonardo DiCaprio.

The research found a strong correlation between familiarity and green influence, showing that celebrities who are not actively ‘green’, like Beckham, still have tremendous potential to wade in on environmental issues. This also explains why, amongst female celebrities, X Factor judge Cheryl Cole beat known environmentalist Gwyneth Paltrow to be the woman most likely to make people more eco-friendly.

The Climate Week Awards will celebrate inspiring achievements by the greenest businesses, communities and people in the UK. Everyone will have the chance to influence the way society combats climate change by running an event for Climate Week, entering for an award or voting for their own Climate Week Hero

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‘McBiodiesel’ fuel is good food for thought

Posted by ericww on January 10, 2011

Thank You

Image by elycefeliz via Flickr

IT’S easy when you think you know lots of stuff to sometimes look at things but not really see them, missing out on some useful and important details in the process.  And there’s a potentially good epitaph in that sentence for me, I reckon.

So, yesterday afternoon, I happened to be sitting in McDonald’s at Leicester Square with my other half, both of us munching on a quick pre-cinema snack of chicken McNuggets and fries, washed down with an orange juice (smooth, no juicy bits).

There I was looking around at the decor at various items on display – specifically some large floor to ceiling glass cabinets, filled with neatly stacked apples, oranges, sheafs of wheat in glass jars and boxes of eggs (the speckled ones that are clearly meant to look organic/free range).  Printed on the glass cabinets were a collection of words: “variety,” “quality” and “farm”.

Now, I admit to being a bit of a cynic and – for whatever reason – a bit anti-big brands sometimes, so my first position is to view this kind of stuff with some kind of disbelieving contempt.

But, I confess, Hilary (my wife) made me realise during conversation that this skewed view isn’t always right (perhaps rarely in fact).  I always broadly blame this viewpoint on having been a journalist in the early part of my career – but, actually, nobody ever taught me to think that way when I was learning the ropes as a cub reporter. And so, McDonald’s, I would like to apologise.

While looking around, I had looked at but not really seen a giant wall-mounted horizontal text display, that was continuously scrolling through a number of positive McDonald’s messages.  One in particular, Hilary suggested, would make a good article for this blog – following a conversation where I had said that I maybe might shut up shop with Home Zero Home (on reflection that was rash and definitely not an option).

The vital detail was McDonald’s fuel choice in its delivery vehicles.  Says McDonald’s:

“McDonald’s now converts its used cooking oil into biodiesel to power most of its fleet of delivery trucks. In order to do this we use a national waste oil collector throughout the country to collect and consolidate the used cooking oil from our restaurants. The oil is filtered and pre-processed prior to delivery to the biodiesel manufacturer. The manufacturer then converts the used cooking oil into biodiesel which fuels the McDonald’s delivery fleet.”

That’s to be applauded.  As is a further observation from the Mrs.  To get real change in areas such as environmental behaviours and practices, you need big brands to be involved otherwise it’s just not going to happen, or if it does it will take ages.  That’s a really good point which I think I may have looked at but perhaps not really seen.

Happy New Year everyone!

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The Thames is ‘worst’ river in England and Wales

Posted by ericww on November 17, 2010

A Rubbish Trap on the River Thames near the Mi...

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The Thames is the worst river in England and Wales according to a poll, despite major efforts to clean it up in recent years.

The Wye, which starts in mid Wales, winds over England’s border and back and runs into the Severn Estuary was voted the public’s favourite.

The survey was conducted by the Our Rivers campaign, which aims to celebrate the nations’ rivers and highlight threats to wildlife.

Check out this report from this morning’s BBC Breakfast… which reveals the awful fact that 39 million tonnes of untreated sewage flows into the River Thames each year… Thames voted worst river in England and Wales




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Launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week at Google HQ London

Posted by ericww on November 15, 2010

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Global Entrepreneurship Week kicks off bid to make this the UK’s most entrepreneurial decade

Posted by ericww on November 13, 2010

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 29JAN10 - David Cameron, Le...

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MORE than 1,000 organisations and 400 schools throughout the UK take on the challenge to make a job not just take a job, bust myths and strive to kick start the most entrepreneurial decade.

Global Entrepreneurship Week (15th – 21st November 2010) inspires young people and aspiring entrepreneurs to take the next step on their enterprise journey.

Every town and city in the UK will see organisations and schools hosting events to encourage and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs as people look to make a job not just take a job.

And there are a number of green-themed entrepreneurial events planned throughout the week, a selection of which can be viewed on the HZH special Global Entrepreneurship Week ‘Green’ Events Page

In more than 100 countries across the world, over 7.5 million people will take part with around 100,000 people attending 1,800 events in the UK. Global Entrepreneurship Week was founded by Enterprise UK in 2004, and taken globally in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation in 2008.

Prime Minister David Cameron said of the week:

‘Global Entrepreneurship Week is a fantastic opportunity for us to inspire the innovators and entrepreneurs in our country – and in the current economic climate that is incredibly important. The future of our economy depends on a new generation of entrepreneurs coming up with ideas, resolving to make them a reality and having the vision to create wealth and jobs.

Every success story starts with someone taking the brave step of striking out on their own, so the more we can encourage people to take that step the better. That’s why the government is doing everything possible to encourage entrepreneurs who are starting out – from simplifying taxes to providing access to mentors – and that’s why I wish Global Entrepreneurship Week every success’

In response to the Prime Minister’s call for the most entrepreneurial decade, Enterprise UK will challenge:

  • The Ambition Gap – 50% of the population want to start a business but only 5.8% are in the actual process of starting a business
  • The Demographic Gap- approximately 10% of entrepreneurs are under 35 and London has twice the levels of entrepreneurial activity as some other UK regions.
  • The Skills Gap – Enterprise education doubles your chances of business success but enterprise is still not a staple of the education system – in schools, colleges and universities

The Launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week will be at Google HQ in London hosted by Peter Jones, entrepreneur, Dragon and Chairman of Enterprise UK and Tom Bewick, CEO of Enterprise UK.

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Cornwall’s farmers to reap subsidies for ‘green’ electricity

Posted by ericww on October 20, 2010

THE UK’s first purpose-built solar farm has been given planning permission and the county’s farmers are celebrating.

Solar power

‘Green’ electricity in the form of solar power. Could this be the answer to Cornwall‘s farmers’ problems?

Cornwall’s farmers have more than the harvest festival to celebrate this autumn: the granting of planning permission for the UK’s first purpose-built solar farm and a £14m loan for an even larger solar farm next to Newquay airport. The landmark decisions by Cornwall council, which gave the loan, are predicted to trigger a surge of similar applications from farmers and landowners across the county over the next 18 months, with the council estimating a potential total investment of £1bn for the county.

You can read the full article published in The Guardian here

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What do you call a Skoda with a rechargeable battery? Answer: Octavia Green E Line

Posted by ericww on October 3, 2010

IT’S not a joke, Skoda is planning to launch a fleet of battery powered vehicles from 2011, based on its Octavia Estate.  The concept car was unveiled at the Paris Auto Show, which opened yesterday and runs until the 17th October. 

Skoda has taken advantage of the Octavia’s modular platform, that underpins cars ranging from the VW Golf to the Audi TT, to allow them to install the necessary batteries, electric control units and electric motor without compromising the passenger or luggage space available.

The motor provides a constant power of 60kW (80bhp) and can provide bursts up to 85kW (114bhp) when overtaking. Torque is pegged at 270Nm, allowing the Green E Line to sprint form 0-62mph in 12 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 84mph.

Using lithium ion batteries, the Octavia Green E Line has a range of 87 miles. The batteries weigh 315kg and are located under the rear seats and extend rearwards. However, rear seat and boot space remains the same as the conventionally powered car.

Skoda has added an information screen for the driver which provides continuous information including instant output, power consumption, battery charge and the remaining range.  The navigation display describes the energy flow too – for example it informs the driver that the electric engine is being supplied with electricity or, on the contrary, that it is generating electricity as the car decelerates or goes downhill.

Skoda has definitely come a long way in the past 15 years.  It used to be the target of a vast number of jokes, such as… What do you call a Skoda with the roof down? Answer: A skip.  But, as ever, the Czech Republic car manufacturer, now owned by the mighty Volkswagon, will probably have the last laugh, because now its green credentials are the main thing to smile about :-)

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Gaviotas: Colombia’s eco-village is a lesson for the world

Posted by ericww on October 1, 2010

A FEW weeks ago, HRH Prince Charles conducted a one-week tour of Britain’s finest examples of sustainable living and sustainability in action.  The tour was the focal point activity of the Prince’s START initiative, which aims to help people across the country lead more sustainable lives and to show what a more energy efficient, cleaner and healthier future could look like.

One of the stops on the tour was the former mill town of Todmorden in the Pennines.  Over the past few years, Todmorden has been hailed as Britain’s greenest town.  It’s a great example of how the community has come together and transformed local food production and translated wider global environmental issues into a meaningful agenda that is relevant to the community.

It’s great to shine a big spotlight on this kind of ground-up, community-based activity and there are definitely good green lessons for us all in the story of Todmorden.  And, thankfully, it’s not an isolated example of sustainable living.  There is now a growing movement gathering real traction that is inspiring more and more people and communities in Britain to do their own green thing.

But, while we celebrate positive action on our doorstep, it’s vital we look further afield to see what can be learnt from other countries.  Whereas Todmorden can justifiably lay claim to being Britain’s Greenest Town, the Colombian village of Gaviotas is a very worthy candidate for Green Capital of the World.  It’s a big shout if you’ve never heard of the place. And I only ‘discovered’ it myself recently thanks to a great Colombian friend of mine, Sebastian Franco.

In a nutshell, Gaviotas was founded in 1971 by a visionary eco-pioneer Paolo Lugari who assembled a group of engineers and scientists in an attempt to create a mode of sustainable living in one of the least hospitable political and geographical climates in South America.

Sustainable living is in the DNA of Gaviotas, which generates its own energy from a variety of renewable sources, has tackled local food production and distribution at prices the local community can afford, and has also successfully identified and tapped natural water resources.  Everything is part of, and contributing to, a big ecological plan; even the children’s roundabouts in playgrounds are used to generate power that in turn helps pump the town’s water supplies.

Fortunately, thanks to Google and Google Earth, Gaviotas is accessible to anyone interested in finding out more, and I hope this post prompts you to take a look!  It’s a fascinating story that has captured the attention of many, including the American author, professor and journalist Alan H. Weisman, who wrote about it first in 1995 and than again in 1999 in his book “Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World” (still in print and available on Amazon, published by Chelsea Green Publishing).

Gaviotas and Todmorden are of course not isolated examples of communities working together to tackle big global environmental challenges.  There are scores if not hundreds.  The common thread running through all the best examples, however, is the power of the  community itself.  To achieve real lasting impact, it is at a community level where the good work is achieved.  What a shame then that all these ‘dots’ of great action can’t be somehow joined up on a big, green global map, so that ideas can be shared and inspiration found?  Maybe we should encourage communities to identify and build links with their Eco-Twin Town?…

A long time ago in a previous job I was lucky enough to be involved in something called the Twin Town Awards, run by a now defunct Government quango called the Local Government Information Bureau (LGIB).  I was working for the Royal Mail at the time and my employer was the main sponsor of the annual event.  The Twin Town Awards celebrated the best examples of  communities in Britain that ‘twinned’ with their counterparts in other countries, built good links and had jointly done something worthy of recognition.  It gave a context to the road signs outside most towns and and cities in Britain such as: “Welcome to Northampton… Twinned with…Poitiers, France and Marberg Germany” etc.

It was a good scheme, designed in the post-war era, to foster good relations between nations and encourage education and community interaction.  Perhaps we could blow off the dust from something like this and encourage towns, villages and cities all over the world to identify and build links with their ecological ‘twin’ and in so doing spread and share the best practice that was happening in Gaviotas 40 year ago much more quickly.  Todmorden and Gaviotas would be an ideal first match.

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