Please visit me at Crafty Green Poet!

I very rarely post at this blog now. For regular updates, please visit me at: http://craftygreenpoet.blogspot.com where I blog about nature and the environment, literature on environmental themes and crafts made from upcycled materials. Plus lots of photos! That’s also where you’ll find me blogging for 30 Days Wild and blog memes such as Shadow Shot Sunday.

 

See you there! http://craftygreenpoet.blogspot.com

Making Information Work More Environmentally Friendly

This is a summary of a talk I gave today to the Information Officers Support Group meeting in Edinburgh.

This talk focuses on the environmental issues around information work, reducing our environmental impact and communicating environmental issues in our work.

Environmental issues are among the most pressing issues of our time and crucially we can do something about it and often save money at the same time.

Some things to note:

Environmental impact is about more than carbon footprint.
We need to balance environmental impact with other issues such as accessibility.
We need to look beneath the surface of our preconceptions about environmental impact (eg e-communications vs paper is more complicated than just wanting to save paper).

1. Areas where we can reduce the environmental impact of our work:

paper use (eg print on both sides, use paper printed on one side as scrap to make notes, use recycled paper, smaller print size for internal documents (if this suits everyone); don’t print out emails, use email and electronic systems to circulate documents rather than paper)
environmentally friendly paper, ink etc
energy efficiency of printers etc
repair rather than buy new wherever possible
printing companies and publishers – choose a company that offers environmentally aware printing and balance this with locality – local company means less travel and also supports local economy
travel – reduce and instead use video-conferencing, teleconferencing, skype. Travel by public transport where possible, car-share and use low carbon driving techniques when you need to drive
buy 2nd hand office furniture
waste disposal – recycle where possible. Can you re-use some of your wastes? Ask council about recycling items that are currently not possible to recycle
Encourage employees to walk, cycle or use public transport to get to work. Encourage working from home
refreshments – buy organic where possible, compost foot waste
office heating and lighting – move towards efficient systems
efficient use of office space

2. The role of the information officer in communicating on environmental issues in the organisation

highlight the environmental aspect of issues the organisation deals with,
championing environmental issues and environmentally friendly operations within the organisation, eg putting up posters and stickers reminding people about environmentally friendly behaviour (eg poster in kitchen about using only as much water as needed in kettle and composting food waste). Get your organisation involved with Big Energy Week and Green Office Week.
Need to get management on board.

3. Balance carbon footprint with accessibility of communications

Not everyone is able to / happy to use email or the internet and a lot of people can’t read long documents comfortably on screen. Therefore, in terms of communicating with supporters, these forms of communication need to be additional to paper communications, not (certainly in the short term) to replace them.
small print squashed close will save paper but is difficult to read
Plain English is language that is considered to be readable, it often involves using fewer, shorter words and so can save paper on long documents as well as being a good thing in itself.

4. Advantages and disadvantages of e-communications

Electronic sources can be just as effective than paper-based ones (eg: job promotions via online sources and social media, vs newspaper adverts) and can be used to save paper and save money.
Video conferencing and tele-conferencing can reduce the need to travel (so reducing carbon footprint) are more time effective (allowing you more time for other tasks) and reduce costs (once the conferencing equipment is in place).
Laptops are much more energy efficient than desk top computers.

There is a huge issue around embedded carbon (and conflict minerals) in computers and e-readers.

Taking e-readers as an example:

a) Measuring the carbon footprint

At the consumer end this is relatively easy, staistics vary but you need to read up to 100 books on an e-reader to reduce its carbon footprint to below that of buying new paperback books. So, if you read a lot you can reduce your carbon footprint by buying an e-reader as long as you don’t upgrade it too often. The paper books used in comparisons are usually new books made with paper from virgin pulp. Publishers are slowly moving towards using more recycled paper in their books, which reduces the environmental impact of new books. And if you read library books or buy second hand books then you are reusing books – which has a lower carbon footprint than using an e-reader.

b) Production methods

E-readers, computers and mobile phones contain coltan – a controversial mineral that is linked to environmental and social injustices including fuelling conflict in the Congo.

c) E-waste

Tonnes of computers, mobile phones and (in the near future, e-readers) are discarded every year, filling large landfill sites often in the developing world where thousands of people are employed to extract the valuable minerals with great hazards to their health. Yes this is recycling, but with unacceptable side effects.

5. The economics

Reducing the carbon footprint of information work can save money (though not always) as you will use less resources though some of those resources may be more expensive (for example you may reduce the amount of paper you use but sometimes recycled paper is more expensive).

6. What to do

Evaluate the carbon footprint of your information work
Highlight areas for improvement
Choose areas you can make a difference
Start with small and achievable goals

7. Resources

a) Websites
FoE Green Office guide including green office audit http://green-office.org.uk/audit.php?goingto=audit0
Resource Efficient Scotland http://www.resourceefficientscotland.com/
Energy Saving Trust Scotland http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland
WWF Best Practice website http://www.en.bestpractices.wwf.fi/en includes case studies of best environmental practice in a range of areas (including communication).
Wrap Business Resource Efficiency Hub http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/business-resource-efficiency-hub
Green Office Greening Guide http://www.thegreenoffice.com/index.php/go-green
Changeworks http://www.changeworks.org.uk/what-we-do helps voluntary, public and private sector organisations to reduce their carbon footprint and manage their recycling
Eco-libris can help reduce your carbon footprint if you work in publishing
http://www.ecolibris.net/how.asp
online carbon footprint calculators eg http://www.thegreenoffice.com/carboncalculator/calculator/ or https://carbonfund.org/business-calculator
Plain English Campaign http://www.plainenglish.co.uk

Everyclick http://www.everyclick.com ethical search engine raising money for charities
List of environmentally friendly search engines http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2008/08/20/list-of-green-and-eco-friendly-search-engines/

Big Energy Week http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/BESW2015
Green Office Week http://www.avery.co.uk/avery/en_gb/Projects-&-Ideas/Ideas-for-Work/GOW/Green-Office-Week-Home.htm

low carbon driving techniques http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/fuels-and-environment/drive-smart.html

b) Articles

Wikipedia definition of carbon footprint https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_footprint
The internet has a large carbon footprint http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/aug/12/carbon-footprint-internet
Green computer use http://www.iolo.com/resources/articles/eco-friendly-tips-for-your-computer/?AID=11236899&PID=3862109&utm_source=cj

c) Conflict Minerals

When Elephants Fight http://whenelephantsfightmovie.com/
Blood in the Mobile https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_in_the_Mobile

Fair Phone makes phones free from conflict minerals http://www.fairphone.com

Last chance to save Europe’s nature protection laws

wildflowers along the John Muir Walkway, Musselburgh

You may have noticed the Nature Alert campaign on social media. This is a vital campaign, run jointly by a large number of environmental organisations, to prevent the European Union (EU) from watering down the vital directives that protect our wildlife and countryside. We need these directives particularly these days when the UK government seems not to care for or understand anything about the environment (just yesterday for example, the UK government overturned the ban on neonicitinoids, the bee–killing pesticides).

The EU Birds Directive adopted in the 1970s, and the Habitats Directive adopted in the 1990s are currently subject to the European Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance programme (REFIT), which aims to simplify EU law and reduce costs.  European leaders are considering rolling back decades of progress by revising (read weakening) the Directives in the belief that weaker protection for wildlife would be good for business. In reality, this would be bad for business, and a disaster for wildlife.

Before this campaign, many people in the UK are unaware of these directives or Natura 2000, which is a great shame, it is at one and the same time the most important legislation protecting sites important for wildlife conservation in the UK and, arguably, the best thing about the European Union (EU).

Nature isn’t only valuable for its own sake, it’s vital in helping the world function – providing us with drinking water, irrigation and pollination for our food crops. Spending time in nature is increasingly being shown to be good for our physical and mental health. So nature is vital and neccessary and we should be strengthening the laws that protect it, not dismantling them.

Conservation organisations in the UK and across Europe are asking the general public to demonstrate their support for these vital pieces of legislation. You can find out more and sign up on the Woodland Trust website.

But remember, today is your last chance to make your voice heard!

Water of Leith at Colinton Dell, Edinburgh

More about Natura 2000

Natura 2000 is an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive. These areas include nature reserves and privately owned areas. The directives require member States to take measures designed to maintain or restore certain natural habitats and wild species at a favourable conservation status. The emphasis is on ensuring that the areas are managed in an ecologically sustainable manner.

Natura 2000 aims to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats. It is comprised of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated by Member States under the Habitats Directive, and also incorporates Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which they designate under the 1979 Birds Directive. SPAs requires Member States to take sufficient measures (legal minefield) to preserve sufficient diversity of habitats for all species of wild birds naturally occurring within the territories.

Natura 2000 also fulfils a European Community obligation under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

early bumblebee on knapweed

This post is crpss posted from Crafty Green poet and earlier versions appeared here and here.

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more. 

Save Cammo Fields

I’m no longer regularly posting to this blog, but this is important.

This green field is now likely to become housing…..

It is a sad day when Edinburgh City Council allows developers to put in a planning application for the fields at Cammo.

Cramond and Harthill Estate have applied to build 670 houses on an agricultural field at Cammo. A field that is home to yellowhammerstree sparrows, linnets, all of which are both red listed in the UK (ie of special conservation concern) and mentioned specifically in the seed eating birds section of the Edinburgh Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP)), reed buntings (which are amber listed in the UK, as being of moderate conservation concern and mentioned specifically in the seed eating birds section of the Edinburgh LBAP) skylarks (red listed in the UK, though not specifically mentioned in the Edinburgh LBAP and, in the winter fieldfares (which are red listed in the UK but not mentioned specifically in the Edinburgh LBAP).

Edinburgh City Council claims that it takes the LBAP into account when deciding which land to release for development. If that is the case, why are they even thinking of building on this field? Brownfield sites should be developed before greenbelt land is even considered for development. Also housing should be prioritised over for example new supermarkets and empty shops and commercial buildings could be redeveloped as housing in many instances.

In addition to the devastating impact on the local birdlife, any development of this field would:

lead to gridlock in the surrounding streets (where traffic is already at standstill for large parts of the day)
destroy the rural feel of the area
destroy the buffer zone between the built up area and Cammo Country Park, and
draw developers to thinking about developing the other fields in the area.

The application may be viewed at Planning and Building Standards, Waverley Court, 4 East Market Street, Edinburgh between 8.30am – 5pm Mondays – Thursdays, and 8.30 – 3.40 on Fridays. Or viewed electronically through the Planning online services .

Comments can be made on the application either:
a) in writing to the address above
b) online through the Planning online services using the application reference number 14/01776/PPP

Comments must be made by 29 May 2014. Please comment if you can, these fields should not be developed. If you already made comments at the pre-application stage, you will need to make comments to the council on this application if you wish them to take them into account.

Bougainvillea Dancing now available to download

I taught sciences in Malawi between 1990 – 1992 as a VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) volunteer. My first poetry pamphlet Bougainvillea Dancing, published 2002, raised money for charities working in Malawi. The original pamphlet is sold out now, but I was delighted that Chris Crittenden  reviewed it recently on Owl Who Laughs.

Most of the poems in Bougainvillea Dancing focussed on Africa, but many of them were unrelated to that continent. I’ve just put together an updated version of the pamphlet, removing all the poems unrelated to Africa and adding in more poems on African topics, plus a couple of prose pieces and some photos. This is now available as a pdf to download from Lulu or as a pdf to download from the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop. The book costs £5.

(If you don’t want to shop via Lulu or Etsy, you can buy the book directly from me, and either pay:

a) via Paypal

b) by cheque if you’re in the UK.

Please email me juliet.m.wilsonATgmailDOTcom for more details.

10% of proceeds from this publication will go to VSO for their work in Africa.

VSO’s programme in Malawi concentrates on HIV and AIDS, health and social wellbeing, secure livelihoods (food security) and education in seven rural and remote districts. The districts were chosen due to their excessive poverty levels, high prevalence of HIV and AIDS, and low involvement of other international charities.

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

This is my last post on this blog. I will continue to post regularly on Crafty Green Poet.

 

Green Books 3: Paper vs E-reader

It’s one of the hot topics for many people who love reading – to buy an e-reader or not.

I admit – I love books. Real books with paper pages. Plus I’m not a gadget person – I don’t even have a mobile phone. I can’t imagine using an e-reader but I do want to find out whether my old fashioned attitude is environmentally damaging or not!

Comparing the environmental impact of e-readers and books is tricky. Most companies aren’t exactly transparent about the environmental impact of their e-readers for a start!

Measuring the carbon footprint at the consumer end is relatively easy, though statistics I’ve read vary from 10 – 100 books being the number you need to read on an e-reader to reduce its carbon footprint to below that of new paperback books. So, if you read a lot it you can reduce your carbon footprint by buying an e-reader as long as you aren’t tempted to upgrade it too often.

But environmental impact is about much more than carbon footprint.

What about production methods? E-readers contain coltan – a controversial mineral that is linked to environmental and social injustices including fuelling conflict in the Congo.

What about e-waste? Tonnes of computers, mobile phones and (in the near future, e-readers) are discarded every year, filling large landfill sites often in the developing world where thousands of people are employed to extract the valuable minerals with great hazards to their health. Yes this is recycling, but with unacceptable side effects.

In most comparisons between e-readers and books, the paper books used for the comparison are new books made with paper from virgin pulp. Publishers are slowly moving towards using more recycled paper in their books, which reduces the environmental impact of new books. And if you read library books or buy second hand books then you are reusing books – a very environmentally friendly activity.

For more information:

Ecolibris has a good list of links on this topic and an article on how to green your e-book reading.

Centre for Alternative Technology’s analysis of the environmental impact of a new paperback book.

Wikipedia page on e-waste.

Information on the film Blood in the Mobile about the environmental and social impact of coltan mining.

(This series of posts is based on a similar series I wrote for Brighton Blogger in 2012).

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can read more.

Save Cammo Fields

A farmfield where skylarks sing 

or a load of houses?

If you care about Edinburgh’s Greenbelt, please take time to object to the plans (lower photo) that City of Edinburgh Council are thinking about considering for the field (top photo) that is currently home to several important bird species.

The City of Edinburgh Council claims to consider the Local Biological Diversity Action Plan (LBAP) when making planning decisions. If that is really true then why are they even thinking about building houses on this field which is home to 4 species of birds specifically mentioned in the LBAP (tree sparrow, yellowhammer, reed bunting and linnet) and to two other species (skylark and, in winter, fieldfare) that are red listed as being of being priority conservation need in the UK ? 

A pre-planning application exhibition is currently showing at Cramond Kirk Halls today and tomorrow. Please go along if you can and add your voice to the protest.This is still at the pre-planning application stage, we can still stop it, but everyone needs to add their voice.

Before we even think of building on biodiversity rich green spaces, we should build on brownfield sites and bring empty homes and other abandoned buildings back into use.  

If you can’t attend the exhibition, you can contact the developers directly. You can also write to your Edinburgh councillor (whichever area of the city you live in) and write to the Edinburgh Evening News and to other relevant publications. If you live in the Cammo area, you can join Cammo Residents Association in their fight against this inappropriate development (they’re on Facebook and Twitter too). .

I have written to the Edinburgh Evening News and to the members of City of Edinburgh’s Planning Committee. You can read the text of my letter and a list I compiled of the committee members email addresses.

As ever, bold text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.