Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Free eco-show

If you want to know how easy greener living can be, consider a visit to UK AWARE 09 in Olympia, London on Friday 17 and Saturday 18 April. UK AWARE is the UK’s only green lifestyle exhibition for people who want to learn how to reduce their carbon emissions - and probably save some cash, too.

Exhibitors will be showcasing hundreds of products and services ranging from cars to computers, from fashion to food and from travel to advice services. An extensive range of free and interactive expert speaker panels will enlighten, engage and inspire visitors.

Additional features include a clothes swapping party, the Green Screen Cinema and a Chillout lounge. You can get the code for a free ticket from BeMoreEco.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Earth Hour retrospective

So, all over the World, lights were dimmed to demonstrate to our various governments that we want them to act, urgently and decisively, on climate change. It's pretty humbling when you consider it as an act of global consciousness. This video really brings that home.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Shame on Shell

Greenbang reports today that Royal Dutch Shell is pulling the plug on its renewable energy investments to focus on its core strengths of oil and gas. According to Reuters, Shell spent around $1.25 billion on green-energy investments between 1999 and 2006. Shell has around 550 megawatts of wind power capacity but last year withdrew from Europe to focus its wind energy generation activities in the US. All investment in hydrogen, solar and wind energy will now cease, with any future renewables investment limited to biofuels.

The decision will further provoke environmental groups who are already concerned over Shell's investments in energy- and water-intensive oil sands projects. The company is featured unfavourably in the new climate change movie, The Age of Stupid, which premiered last week. While Shell's advertising focuses on its involvement in renewable energy, only around 1 percent of its investments actually go to these energy sources.

Choose cans

Analysis by the Carbon Trust has confirmed that soft drinks in aluminium cans generate about half the amount of carbon emissions of the same drink supplied in a glass bottle. A lifecycle assessment project by Coca-Cola UK found that a canned drink generates about 170 grams of greenhouse gases, reduced to 85g if the can is later recycled.

The exercise showed the largest slice of the drinks' carbon footprint comes from packaging: anywhere from 30 percent to 70 percent, depending on the container.

The precise figures may vary from one manufacturer to another, depending on how much recycled content is in its packaging material, how the product is shipped, etc., but as a rule of thumb it's reasonable to assume that an aluminium can is more sustainable than a glass bottle. This report doesn't mention plastic bottles, though.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Pete Postlethwaite at the Not Stupid launch

Following the People's Premiere of The Age of Stupid, director Franny Armstrong and producer Lizzie Gillett launched the Not Stupid campaign. The aim is to convince the UK government - and hopefully those of other nations - to create a treaty at Copenhagen that will serve as the humanity's passport to salvation rather than its suicide pact. Pete Postlethwaite, who stars as the archivist who provides the movie's narrative strand, was unequivocal in his support of the campaign. Asked to make the first pledge of the campaign, he vowed to return his OBE if Copenhagen fails to gain commitment to significant and immediate decarbonisation measures.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Carbon Reduction Commitment User Guide issued

Defra has today released a user guide for the Carbon Reduction Commitment, which will operate from April 2010. The Carbon Reduction Commitment is designed to tackle CO2 emissions not already covered by Climate Change Agreements and the EU Emissions Trading System. It aims to help reduce the country’s carbon footprint to deliver the ambitious emissions reduction targets set in the Government’s Climate Change Act. It is a domestic cap-and-trade scheme for public and private sector organisations that use more that 6,000MWH of energy per year – equivalent to an energy bill of about £500k – and have half hourly metering.

Originally it was stated that only 5,000 or so organisations would be impacted, but this has now been revised to 20,000 – so many who considered themselves to be exempt could now fall into the programme when it begins in April 2010.Under the scheme, companies must purchase allowances depending on how much carbon they intend to emit – initially at a fixed price predicted to be £12 per tonne. Eventually the total number of allowances available to purchase will be capped, to provide a mechanism to drive down energy consumption, and the carbon price will float. Savings of £1bn in energy costs by 2020 are projected for the participants, but those who don’t curb their emissions will be hit by penalties including monetary fines and a poor ranking in the scheme’s league table. Those who top the league tables will receive financial incentives.

The Carbon Reduction Commitment will be phased in between 2010 and 2013 and although capping will not apply until allowance auctioning starts in 2013 it is widely accepted that adapting early to the legislation offers both financial and reputation benefits. You can opt-in to updates from Defra here.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Age of Stupid - The People's Premiere

The Age of Stupid is a new film about climate change and on Sunday 15th March it hits our screens with the World's first INclusive premiere. Unlike those stuffy carbon-heavy red-carpet affairs that stars fly to from all over the world, The Age Of Stupid will be screened in a solar powered tent in Leicester Square and linked via satellite with over 60 cinemas across the UK including The Eden Project. 16,000 people are expected to attend - making it officially the largest ever premiere. Pete Postlethwaite, who stars as the narrator of the film, will arrive by solar car and will be joined on the green carpet by a glittering array of British talent all lending their support to the film and the new climate campaign, Not Stupid, supported by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Stop Climate Chaos.

According to the official synopsis, The Age Of Stupid is a documentary-drama-animation hybrid from Director Franny Armstrong (McLibel, Drowned Out) and Oscar-winning Producer John Battsek (One Day In September, Live Forever, In the Shadow of the Moon). Pete Postlethwaite (In The Name of the Father, Brassed Off, The Usual Suspects) stars as an old man living in the devastated world of 2055 who watches 'archive' footage from 2008 and asks: Why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?

The movie focuses on six human stories:
- Alvin DuVernay, is a paleontogolist helping Shell find more oil off the coast of New Orleans. He also rescued more than 100 people after Hurricane Katrina, which, by 2055, is well known as one of the first “major climate change events”.
- Jeh Wadia in Mumbai aims to start-up a new low-cost airline and gets a million Indians flying.
- Layefa Malemi lives in absolute poverty in a small village in Nigeria from which Shell extracts tens of millions of dollars worth of oil every week. She dreams of becoming a doctor, but must fish in the oil-infested waters for four years to raise the funds.
- Jamila Bayyoud, aged 8, is an Iraqi refugee living on the streets of Jordan after her home was destroyed - and father killed - during the US-led invasion of 2003. She’s trying to help her elder brother make it across the border to safety.
- Piers Guy is a windfarm developer from Cornwall fighting the NIMBYs of Middle England.
- Fernand Pareau, an 82-year-old French mountain guide, has witnessed his beloved Alpine glaciers melt by 150 metres.

The climax of the evening will be the official launch of the Not Stupid campaign, when Pete Postlethwaite will start a giant countdown to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December. Copenhagen is being called “the most important meeting in human history”, where the successor to the Kyoto Treaty must be finalised. Not Stupid is an epic mission to turn 250 million viewers into climate activists, all focused on making sure the deal agreed at Copenhagen is both just and truly as strong as the science demands. More information on taking part from the official website.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Beautiful vintage jewellery reborn

As a follower of the "more stilettos than sandals" school of sustainability, I was delighted to discover the bespoke jewellery collection of Magpie Vintage. The principle is re-use - take jewellery from the first half of the 20th century, restore it and incorporate it into a contemporary design. The resulting pieces are absolutely breathtaking; I have just treated myself to a necklace very much like the one in the photo.

Don't be put off by the first impression of their website, which focuses primarily on bridal jewellery and accessories - most of their pieces would look equally at home worn with a little black dress for a formal occasion or with a white linen shirt for a casual event. The bespoke pieces aren't cheap, but they are totally unique and Magpie Vintage will even rework your own cherished pieces to give them a new lease of life.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Earth Hour - spread the word!

Just under two years ago in Sydney, Australia, a global movement was born. By switching off its lights for one hour to draw attention to the issue of climate crisis, Sydney created Earth Hour. Now adopted by the WWF, Earth Hour had grown by 2008 to include 370 cities and an estimated 50 million people Worldwide; in Australia, it is claimed that 58% of adults took part. Now support is being gathered for Earth Hour 2009, which in the UK will take place from 8.30 to 9.30 pm on Saturday 28th March.

Last year my household took part, having stumbled across it thanks to Google's black screen. It was easy, it was fun, and we're planning to do it again. The WWF wants to encourage as many individuals and businesses as possible to join in and already over 680 cities from 75 countries have signed up, including my home town of Reading.

There's loads of good stuff on WWF's website, including an inspiring video and a toolkit. All you have to do is switch off your lights for an hour - but businesses that close for the weekend can make an even bigger statement by switching off from Friday to Monday. A quick look at the photos here will demonstrate just how beneficial that could be.