Friday, June 29, 2007

Off on holiday for a week!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Printer Ink Stink

I've recently replaced the ink cartridges in my HP colour laser printer. If HP had their way, I would have changed them ages ago when the printer suddenly refused to print anything as one of the cartridges was 'low' in ink. After much swearing, I eventually found the override and, lo!, the ink cartridge went on for weeks before I saw a reduction in print quality. To give HP some credit, they do provide a recycling service for these great chunks of plastic with a freepost label inside the old container - they've now gone back from whence they came.

I used to use an Epson inkjet which was worse - if any of the 6 cartridges was low then it refused to print and I couldn't find an override. I had to purchase a cheap gizmo which would reset the chip in the cartridge and, once again, allow another hundred or so pages of printing.

I can't help thinking that both companies are using a cynical ploy to get us to buy more ink, which, compared to the price of the printer, is suspiciously expensive...


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

You can say what you like about Prince Charles...

...but he makes bloody good food.

I love the Duchy Originals jams and lemonade (sorry, lemon freshener), but the oaten biscuits are close to true heaven. Try 'em with a sliver of strong cheddar and a dollop of onion marmalade and... oooooh! OK so they're all bloody expensive, but, trust me, it's worth it and they're locally produced and organic to boot.

Unfortunately Sainsbury's don't agree, as they've just sacked poor Chuck as a supplier.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

London Black Out

Despite concerns that "the grid" would collapse, many of London's landmarks were black out yesterday as a statement on climate change (following a similar event in Sydney). See pictures from the Guardian here.


Friday, June 22, 2007

My Carbon Footprint

The UK Government's new Carbon Calculator is now up and running. I threw in my stats and got a grand total of 3.82 tonnes - compared with a national average of 4.48t - pretty good but helped by the fact that I haven't flown in over a year.

The calculator is very swish and easy to use, but the problem is what it doesn't count - food, clothing, other products, lifestyle outside the home, waste disposal etc, etc. I would guess that my actual carbon footprint is at least twice the above figure.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

New Carbon Calculator runs out of gas

The UK Government's new Carbon Calculator was launched yesterday, but seems to have been swamped by visitors. The site has been closed until more bandwidth can be found.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Carbon Footprints, Calculators and Labels

I've been waiting for DEFRA to launch their new carbon calculator, but it hasn't emerged yet - I should be able to write about it Friday. The big question is why do it when there are plenty of others around - check this one. The word is that the DEFRA model only covers half the carbon footprint of the average Brit anyway.

In the meantime I came across the Carbon Trust's new carbon-label this week. It is appearing on two products: Walker's Crisps (75g a pack) and Boots Shampoo (148g a bottle). While I can't imagine a punter standing in the aisle of Tesco's trying to decided between two packets of crisps on the basis of their footprint, it should put pressure on the manufacturers to reduce their footprint and make it easy for league tables of products to be drawn up.

While on this Carbon tip, the Guardian has declared that China has overtaken the US as the world's biggest polluter. Not per person it hasn't - the footprint per person is still a quarter of that in the US.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Paul Merton and China's Boom or Bust

It's not often you'll catch me watching the British TV channel Five, but comedian Paul Merton's travelogue on the more intriguing aspects of the huge country that is China was a real treat. The last episode on Shanghai was more traditional (no robot rickshaws or eating dog), but one sentence, uttered by a local millionaire during a game of golf stunned me. He said:

"If everyone in China read newspapers like the British do, there would be no trees left in the world".

"That can't be true" was my initial response, but there's no doubt that as China's economy booms, the world is going to have to support many millions more people at a level that we in the West have become accustomed to and may even consider 'modest'. I always feel that when this is discussed in the press there is a hint of "those pesky Chinese will destroy the world" about the reporting, but they've got just as much right to resources as we have.

On the other hand, the one time I have been to China, we passed village after village where every hut had a solar hot water system on the roof. With a number of 'eco-cities' being built, there is an opportunity for China to boom green.

Let's hope they do for all our sakes, but the flip side of this should be the West starting to ease our pressure on the planet to give the Chinese a little elbow room.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

EasyJet, Easy Conscience?

The UK's Grauniad is reporting today that low cost flight pioneer, EasyJet, is developing a new 'ecoJet' which it claims will have 50% less emissions per km than current 'planes. As I've said before, it would be great if a technofix could be found for flying as this appears to be the most intractable part of our carbon footprint. Click on the link to see the bizarre new style of engines which use just 75% of the fuel of conventional jets - the other 25% reduction will be from a lighter airframe and different operating conditions.

It would be easy to say "Nice idea, but it will never work", but those are (almost) the exact words of the then Head of Engineering at Cambridge University when a young Frank Whittle presented him with his initial plans for the first jet engine.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Solar Panel Latest

The only thing I don't like about my solar hot water system is there is no remote readout of the temperature of the water in the tank. We don't have a proper loft ladder, so going up to check the temperature is a real faff - until this weekend when I taped a webcam with a 5m USB extension lead to the LED. Now I can read it on my laptop from the top of the stairs.

With the grotty weather this week, the temperature was in the range 30-33°C, but on Monday the sun came out and it soared to 62°C - above the 60°C mark where the combi boiler drops out and the hot water is 100% solar. This reassures me that we did the right thing by installing the panel, despite the fact our house is in the wrong place and faces the wrong way.


Monday, June 11, 2007

New! Green Business Blog

This week my company, Terra Infirma, has launched its own Green Business Blog. As I'll be writing it, you'll see fewer work-related posts here, but I intend to keep to my 3 posts a week schedule for Eco-living. The posts on the Business Blog will be a bit longer and a little bit more formal in style, but, I hope, will be essential reading for anyone interested in greening their business.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Blair, Bush & Merkel...

The G8 yesterday agreed to start discussing a replacement for the Kyoto agreement which runs out in 2009 (although cynics would say it ran out of steam ages ago...). German Chacellor Angela Merkel's proposal for a 50% cut by 2050 has been down graded to an item which George Bush will 'seriously consider'.

But what really interested me was the body language. Bush was his usual swaggering, gnomic self, smirking as he spoke. But as Blair and Bush walked up to the cameras, I got them mixed up (we have a small telly). Blair has adopted Bush's swagger wholesale - imitation and flattery and all that. But when he wasn't with his master, the puffed out chest dropped, his brow furrowed and he stumbled under the press questioning. He also put his faith in the techno-fix - obviously not understanding the consumption part of the "sustainable production and consumption" equation.

Merkel looked like a woman putting a brave face on a disappointment (no surprise there...) but Sarkozy couldn't be bothered acting and showed his disdain for the US position openly.

The new talks will include the G8+5 nations - in other words India and China. I hope that the 50% will be applied on a per-head population basis rather than by country, otherwise there is no way these two nations will sign up.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Polar Bear Spotted in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Continuing the idea that the Polar Bear is now the symbol of global warming, this ice sculpture was created in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne yesterday as part of UN World Environment Day. Other exhibits included a dry stone wall, a climate change garden, a Honda Civic hybrid car, the Climate Dome, various renewables technologies and lots of more traditional stalls. A good show all round and it attracted a lot of interest from passers by. With the Green Festival in the city this weekend, there's a lot going on just at the moment.

If your hometown put on anything for WED, tell us all about it in the comments (you've all been a bit quiet recently).

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Slugs and Snails...

OK, I'm a bit of a lazy gardener, but I have spent a disproportionate amount of timefighting my pseudo-footed nemeses, the gastropods that munch through my herbaceous perennials every year. Obviously the pernicious little blue pellets are out. We've tried all the barrier methods - egg shells, vaseline and WD40 (the last two on pots), which seem to deter the beggars until they find some inventive (and surprisingly acrobatic) way through.

So for many years we've relied on the beer trap - including these rather nifty snail shaped traps from the National Trust (except they seem to have stopped making them and most of ours got smashed during the installation of our solar panel). However they do need topping up quite frequently so going on holiday becomes a real problem.

However this year we've had more joy using nematodes from Just Green. Nematodes are microscopic worms that use slugs as nurseries/food for their offspring. And they have worked really well, and one dose lasts for 6 weeks. They only do in slugs, but snails are easier to find and get chucked in the river.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Bushwhacking, renewed renewables and the biofuels debate rumbles on...

Massive amount of eco-living related stuff in the press today:

First off, GWB's pronouncement that the US will lead a new global agreement on climate change because (I presume) he's been so good at international affairs recently and his Government's record on climate change is so much better than that of the UN. Welcomed by other Governments, slammed by the Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth etc.

My Verdict: Better than nothing I suppose, but Bush's reliance on the techno-fix is unlikely to deliver the goods - unlike the proposals the UN are putting forward. But George knows best, doesn't he?

Secondly, here in the UK, the Governments Low Carbon Building Programme (which subsidises micro-renewables) is about to be relaunched after its recent suspension, according to the ENDS report. You will have to have planning permission before you apply and you will have to install within 3 or 4 months depending on the technology. There is no monthly cap so the mad rush on the 1st will go, but each household is limited to £2500 which will impact on solar PV.

My Verdict: I thought planning controls on microrenewables were about to be relaxed... joined up thinking... anyway, apart from that this seems like a good way forward.

Lastly, again from ENDS, WWF are calling for biofuels to only be produced on existing fallow land to avoid rainforest destruction.

My Verdict: Good call WWF - I believe biofuels can be part of the solution if we get the growing standards right, unlike George Monbiot who thinks they are worse than fossil fuels.

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