Author Archives: enform

An Insight Into Organic Farming in the UK

e by Mathias_Beckmann CC0

Guest Post by John Hannen*

Despite the growth rate of organic farming, this type of agriculture only accounts for 1% of crops on Earth. With so much land available, would it be beneficial to take the necessary steps to become an organic farmer?

What is organic farming?

Organic farming is simply a type of crop and livestock production which can help productivity in communities that are part of an agro-ecosystem. Livestock, people, plants, and soil organisms are all covered within this holistic system, with the primary aim to develop enterprises that are both sustainable and harmonious with the environment.

What makes this type of farming different?

  • Any genetically modified crop or ingredient is banned.
  • The routine use of antibiotics, drugs and wormers is banned.
  • Artificial chemical fertilisers are prohibited. Instead, organic farmers are encouraged to develop soil which is healthy and fertile by growing and rotating a variety of crops, making use of clover to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and adding organic matter — compost, for instance.
  • There are severe restrictions on pesticides, with organic farmers instead looking to wildlife to provide a helping hand for controlling disease and pests.

The current state of organic farming in the UK

There are a lot of benefits when it comes to organic farming, and the Soil Association has backed this up.

When it comes to wildlife on organic farms, it has increased an average of 50% and there is 30% more species when comparing with traditional farming practices. These figures make for particularly good reading when you consider that the percentage of British wildlife has dropped by 50% since 1970.

Pesticide usage is likely to decrease if all farms in England and Wales were to turn to organic solutions. More than 17,800 tonnes of pesticides were used throughout British farms during 2015 and 43% of British food was found to contain pesticide residues by government testing during the same year.

What does organic farming look like in Britain currently? According to the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs’ Organic Farming Statistics 2016 report, the nation had a total area of 508,000 hectares of land which was farmed organically in 2016. In the same year, the total number of organic producers and processors stood at 6,363 — up 5.1% from 2015.

Crops grown organically on farms range from cereals and vegetables. When it comes to cereals, barley had the largest total organic area at 12,900 hectares, followed by oats (11,600 hectares) and then wheat (10,900 hectares). When breaking down other arable crops, fodder, forage and silage had the highest total organic area at 5,400 hectares. The next most popular was maize, oilseeds and protein crops at 1,700 hectares, followed by sugar beet with a total organic area of 100 hectares.

Poultry is the most commonly used type of livestock that is farmed naturally in Britain. This number is significantly more than the 840,800 sheep, 296,400 cattle and 31,500 pigs that make up the next three most popular types of livestock currently farmed organically across the nation.

The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) report isn’t all good news. While making up a substantial space, the total area of land which is farmed organically across the UK dropped between 2015 and 2016 and has also declined by 32% since its peak in 2008. All three of the main crop types grown organically have seen declines since the latter years of the 2000s too, while the number of producers is down by 35% since 2007.

The relationship between the world’s population and organic farming

According to John Regnold and Jonathan Wachter, regardless of negative figures released, there is plenty of potential in organic farming, as it’s still a relatively untapped resource. The pair reached this conclusion in a study titled Organic Agriculture in the 21st Century, which was published in Nature Plants and involved the review of 40 years of science and hundreds of scientific studies.

It’s been found in their analysis that yields can be produced on an organic farming setting which will help the planet and be profitable. Organic farming was also linked with delivering more nutritious foods containing less, or even no, pesticide residues than those produced by conventional means.

Professor Reganold pointed out to The Guardian: “Overall, organic farms tend to have better soil quality and reduce soil erosion compared to their conventional counterparts. Organic agriculture generally creates less soil and water pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions, and is more energy efficient. Organic agriculture is also associated with greater biodiversity of plants, animals, insects and microbes, as well as genetic diversity.

“Despite lower yields, organic agriculture is more profitable (by 22–35%) for farmers because consumers are willing to pay more. These higher prices essentially compensate farmers for preserving the quality of their land.”

Although the research did also highlight that organic farming systems produced yields which were on average 10% to 20% less than conventional means of agriculture.

Becoming an organic farmer

It’s not too hard to transition to an organic farmer. Before you begin producing, preparing, storing, importing, or selling organic products; the first step you will need to take is to register with an organic control body.

Although, to become an organic farmer you need to fill out an application form in which an inspection will be carried out to see if your farm is eligible. The entire procedure can take two years to complete — at the end of which, you’ll receive a certificate from an organic control body (CB) to prove you’re registered and have passed an inspection. You will be breaking the law if you claim that a food product is organic, if it hasn’t been inspected and certified by a CB.

Your verification of being an organic farmer will only last one year, to renew you will need to welcome another inspection to make sure standards are being withheld.

To find out more about becoming an organic farmer, start by clicking here. You might even be eligible for funding to make the organic transition.

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

Author Bio

John Hannen is from farm insurance providers, Lycetts.

Sources:

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/24/7611.full

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/09-077.htm

https://www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/organic-farming/

https://www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/whyorganic/

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/614552/organics-statsnotice-18may17.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/aug/14/organic-farming-agriculture-world-hunger

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/organic-farming-how-to-get-certification-and-apply-for-funding

Impressive New Tech Innovations for Green Building

Guest post by Ann Carr*

Both green building and energy saving initiatives are huge drivers in the fight against global warming, and every year new innovations burst onto the commercial market promising to save natural resources and ensure home owners spend less money on utilities. Here we list some of the latest technology that could help UK homes achieve Zero Net Energy status.

Sense home energy monitor

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For some time now we’ve been able to measure the total energy output from our homes – but how about a device which can tell you exactly which individual appliance is using what – and in real time? In other words – a tracker which can pinpoint the appliances you need to get rid off right away, replace, or at least learn to lessen their use. That’ll be the Sense Home Energy monitor then. This clever piece of kit can monitor current and voltage at one million times per second.

 Remote Dodecahedron from Nanoleaf

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This Bluetooth-enabled remote control for up to 12 different activities in your home (one for each side) is activated with the flick of a wrist – just turn to the side you want to trigger eg lighting, heating or TV etc. The beauty is that instead of having 12 different apps to operate the technology, you can do it all with this one easy-to-use product which, because it’s different colours light up when it gives you feedback, the Remote Dodecahedrom looks cool too. It weighs just 0.13 kilograms and was due to be released February 2018.

 Zero Net Energy buildings

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Buildings which produce more energy than they use were big in 2017. This year they’re going to be huge. And it’s a trend we predict will grow with each passing year – In the UK all new built homes will be Zero Net Energy by  2030, and  according to the UK Green Building Council, all existing buildings will need to be Zero Net Energy by 2050.

A fine example of a Zero Net Energy rated home is the D10 Aktivhaus by Werner Sobek (pictured above). Not only does this 914 square foot home have enough clean energy for itself and two electric cars, but can also power next door. The remote-powered smart energy system also learns its owner’s habits and adapts accordingly. The photovoltaic roof produces 8,300 kilowatt-hours of solar energy every year.

Retrax solar solutions

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And on the subject of solar (roofing is the biggest segment in exterior green building products, after all), you can now take your solar panels with you when you move. It’s all thanks to Aquarius Brands and their portable Retrax Solar system. This comes as a package of prewired panels which can simply be set-up and switched on within half an hour of them arriving. They’re equally as easy to uninstall and take on your way. With innovations like this, it’s no wonder solar is predicted to grow 13.5 per cent annually to 2020.

The Haiku Designer Series LED light

 

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How about an LED light fixture that’s so smart it knows when to dim itself or get a bit brighter as the light begins to fade? This Haiku Series LED intelligent lighting can even help you get to sleep. Schedule it to its dimmest setting (there are 16 different settings) and it’ll fool your body into thinking it’s effectively night time. As a result you’ll release the chemical melatonin – the one which helps us nod off.

SelectCycler house ventilation system

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Hard to believe right now, but there may come a time in the UK this summer when we desperately need cooling down in our homes. If so, the programmable Panasonic’s SelectCycler is just the thing since it’s designed to ventilate the entire home – simply and at little expense. That’s because it detects where the air is coming from and enables it to flow throughout the home (rather than blasting out cool air exhaust-style) like traditional ventilation systems.

Bosch Greentherm 9900i SER

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There’s nothing thankless about this tankless heater from one of the world’s leading electrical manufacturers. The Greentherm 9000 Series unit is incredibly efficient, has a smart glass front and integrated Wi-Fi allowing it to be controlled remotely via a mobile app.

Tankless units like this heat the water via combustion as it flows through the heat exchanger. Hot water is achieved via hot gases which then cool down outside. The hotter the gases, the less energy used to heat the water and the more efficient the boiler is.

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

Author Bio

Ann Carr is a representative of Anwyl Homes, a UK house builder based in Flintshire, North Wales. For more information see: www.anwylhomes.co.uk.

 

How To Encourage Wildlife Into A Suburban Garden

Image by Antranias CC0

Image by Antranias CC0

Guest post by Ruth Bradshaw*

Encouraging wildlife into a suburban garden can be tricky, especially when space is at a premium. Here’s are some simple things you can do to make your garden more appealing to wildlife.

Keep out the toxins!

Harmful ingredients can be found in weed killers, pesticides and slug pellets as well other shop bought ‘garden remedies’ Read the label if you aren’t sure!

  • Use crushed eggshells to deter the slugs from your seedlings and small or extra tasty plants.
  • Spray plants with a diluted natural homemade insect repellent instead of chemically laden readily available pesticides. Here is a simple recipe: dilute 1/100 tea tree, rosemary and citronella in water.
  • Regularly check plants for caterpillars and other bugs, pick them off by hand.

Create sheltered ‘wilder’ areas

Wild areas are a chance for native plants to grow, leaves to gather and for little nooks and crannies to naturally form where insects love to live.

  • Stack up old timber, encourage leaves to gather around it and create a space that insects and small mammals can forage in and shelter from the elements.
  • You could even add a bee or insect hotel to your borders.
  • Put up a nesting box for birds to rear their young.

en-form insights: Colchester Zoo has an excellent How To if you want to make your own Insect Hotel.

Hang bird feeders in the trees

If you have cats then please don’t do this! Your aim is to support the local bird population, not to expose it to danger.

  • Fat balls and stuffed coconuts are great through the winter and seed feeders and bird tables are great for the rest of the year round.
  • Consider putting in a pond or small bird bath. It is fun to watch the wildlife and if you are lucky enough to get tadpoles, to watch them grow.

Plant for the local wildlife

It is important to plant for local wildlife so choose native plants that suit your soil and local climate.

  • Choose flowers and scented plants for the insects to come and feed on, especially the bees.
  • Plant a tree or grow a hedge for wildlife to shelter in.

Support local wildlife initiatives

Sign up to a local conservation initiative near you or support one of the national initiatives such as RSPB who have some great tips on their website here. Whatever you do, no matter how tiny your outdoor space you really can have and make a difference to our native wildlife so do go out there and get wild!

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

Author Bio

Ruth Bradshaw  is the owner of complimentary therapy business Talk To All Animals, based in Colchester. She is super passionate about making a difference to animal and human relationships and quality of life, and has been an advocate for animals since she was a small child. Ruth is interested in environmental and bio-diversity issues, and likes to do her bit from recycling to using a compost bin in the garden; however small a difference – she is making one.

You can find Ruth on: Website: TalkToAllAnimals.com Instagram: @RuthyDoolittle Facebook: @RuthyDoolittle

 

How Does The UK Compare To The Rest Of The World For Recycling?

Recycling In Egypt Image by imordaf CC0

Recycling In Egypt Image by imordaf CC0

Guest post by Dean Willshee*

After last year’s disappointing recycling statistics were released, showing that the UK’s recycling rate had actually fallen between the 2014/15 period and the 2015/16 period, it is important to put it into perspective. The period of 2000 to 2017 has been one of significant growth for UK recycling rates. The UK is the 16th in the world in terms of recycling, with a recycling rate of 43.5%.

Comparison with other European countries

The UK has seen one of the largest increases in recycling rates over the period of 2004 to 2014 out of all of the European countries. In 2004, we were recycling 23% of all of our waste and in 2014 this had almost doubled to 44%. The country that saw the biggest increase was Lithunia, which saw its recycling rate increase from 2% in 2004 to 30% in 2014.

The best performing country in Europe and the world as a whole is Germany which, in 2015 recycled 66.1% of its entire waste, a very impressive feat and one that the UK should be aiming for.

Comparison with the rest of the world

The UK comes 16th in terms of world recycling rates, but incredibly, Wales by itself is 3rd, sitting behind only Singapore and Germany. Outside of Europe, the country with the highest recycling rate is Singapore, which recycles 60.6% of its waste. Several major world powers are much further down the list, with the US in 25th place – a recycling rate of 34.6%. Russia, China and India do not appear in the top 25.

The publication of Waste Strategy 2000

This was the UK’s first big push for recycling. The targets set out in WS2000 were bold, but they offered the UK some concrete goals to aspire to. For example, there were aims to be recycling 40% of municipal waste by 2005 (the actual figure for 2005 was 26.7%), 45% by 2010 (the actual figure was 40.2%), 67% by 2015 (actual figure: 43.5%).

The WS2000 was a direct result of EU recycling directives. The 1999 Landfill Directive demanded a reduction in the amount of waste being dumped in landfills from 11.2 million tonnes in 2010 to 7.46 million.

If you split up the UK, the progress that Wales has made is absolutely stunning. By itself, Wales is recycling 62% of its waste and is considering setting a new 80% target. Scotland is slightly higher than the UK, with 44.2%, whereas England’s is 42.4% and Northern Ireland’s is 41.8%. The incredible progress made by Wales is a direct result of the devolved government’s Towards Zero Waste policy in 2010.

The national league table

We might not be on top of the world, but this list shows which local authorities are doing their part to push the UK up the rankings. It shows the top 10 local authorities in the UK for waste recycling in 2015/16. Check where your local authority ranks.

Rank       Local Authority                   Recycling, Reuse and Composting Rates

1               South Oxfordshire District Council           66.6%

2               East Riding of Yorkshire Council                66.1%

3               Rochford District Council                            66%

4               Vale of White Horse District Council         64.8%

5               Surrey Heath Borough Council                  62.1%

6               West Oxfordshire District Council             60.8%

7               Stratford-on-Avon District Council             60.4%

8               Trafford MBC                                                 60.4%

9               Three Rivers District Council                        59.4%

10            Stockport MBC                                               59.4%

Conclusions

As you can see, the UK certainly has room for improvement when it comes to recycling, but the improvement over the last ten to fifteen years is promising. Hopefully, the fall last year is merely an anomaly in a period of growth. Luckily, the rest of the UK has a nearby role model in Wales to look to if we require inspiration.

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

 

Author Bio

Dean Willshee runs Willshee’s Skip Hire, an eco-conscious company based in Burton. The company has a dedicated onsite recycling facility with a zero landfill policy which ensures that as much as possible can be put to new use.

 

Pros and Cons of the Top Off-Grid Energy Sources

Image by elljay CC0

Image by elljay CC0

 

Guest post by Emma Metson*

Off-grid energy sources are those that are not connected to the electricity grid. They’re also called stand-alone power systems which generate electricity using renewables. Perfect examples of renewables are hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, nearly a third of the UK’s electricity between April and June was generated from renewable sources. This was a new record compared to last year at around the same period.

Accenture’s research, on the other hand, predicted that 11% of Europe would become off-grid by 2035. It may not look like much, but that’s a huge progress and a milestone in itself. That is considering how much we’ve depended on coals and fossil fuel since the industrial revolution.

Of course, only time and innovations in technologies used to generate power from these sources will decide if the prediction will come true.

Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of the top, most popular off-grid energy sources offer.

Solar Power

Without a doubt, the energy that we get from the sun is one of the cleanest, most sustainable, and most renewable sources that we can ever find. This energy supply is so abundant that one hours worth of the sun’s energy can supply the whole requirement of the planet.

Unfortunately, we’re only able to harness .001% of this energy. A big part of the reason why this is the case is the cost that’s involved in installing solar panels, rendering it unreliable. However, these obstacles have already been surpassed in recent years.

If you’re looking to go off-grid through solar, you’d probably have to invest at least £5,000 if you have a household of at least three people. That’s a lot of money but consider this: in 2010, buying a solar system that can power the whole house would have cost you at least £15,000.

As you can see, we’re headed in the right direction to making solar more accessible.

Pros

  • It a great source of renewable energy.
  • Solar can significantly reduce utilities and in some cases, removes your dependence on mains as your power source.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Can be used for different applications.
  • Bound for further technological improvements which means you can expect more from solar power in the future.

Cons

  • The initial investment is still expensive.
  • The efficiency of solar panels is weather-dependent.
  • Solar panels need a lot of space.
  • Slightly associated with pollution especially during transportation and installation because of the greenhouse gases emitted.
  • Batteries used to store solar energy are also expensive.

Hydropower

Harnessing the gravitational force of flowing water and converting it to electricity — that’s what hydropower is all about. Electricity is produced using a downwards flow of water from higher ground.

Interestingly enough, hydropower was called ‘white coal’ due to the massive amount of energy it can produce on top of a seemingly infinite source. In fact, it is one of the oldest and cheapest methods of generating power.

The British Hydropower Association states that this energy source currently produces 17% of the world’s electricity. In addition to that, hydropower accounts for 90% of the world’s renewable energy sources.

But like anything else, hydropower has its pros and cons.

Pros

  • Clean and safe.
  • Cost-effective in the long run despite the high initial investment.
  • Flexible as hydro plants can be scaled up and down quickly depending on the energy demands.
  • Suited for industrial applications.
  • Contributes to the economic growth of remote areas

Cons

  • Contributes to methane emissions due to plants rotting in an anaerobic environment in flooded areas.
  • Ecosystem damage, specifically in wetlands. Since turbine gates are often opened intermittently, it affects the natural flow of water. This can have a significant impact on animals and plants living in the area
  • Risk of floods and droughts. Strong water currents may cause flooding and people living in the downstream area can be extremely vulnerable to this. Hydro plants risk cause droughts in the local area.
  • High upfront costs.

Wind Power

Britain has 40% of Europe’s wind resource — that’s enough to power the whole country several times over. Wind energy is clean, free, safe, and it’s something that will never get depleted.

Over the years, the technology has improved so much that both on and offshore wind power is now possible. Modern wind turbines are now able to efficiently and effectively convert wind power to electricity.

The benefits of wind power are obvious but here’s a more detailed breakdown of its pros and cons.

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Wind power can provide electricity to areas that are off-grid.
  • Technology is becoming more affordable.
  • Low maintenance and running costs.
  • Building wind turbines creates jobs.

Cons

  • The wind can sometimes be inconsistent. While it’s true that it will never run out, there’s always a chance that the wind will die down which affects or halts production.
  • Expensive installation
  • Noise pollution. Although wind energy is environmentally-friendly, a single wind turbine can be heard from hundreds of meters away. Combined with multiple turbines and the result is angry homeowners.
  • It’s a threat to wildlife like birds and bats.

Geothermal

Geothermal energy is the heat that’s generated and stored in the Earth. The most perfect and straightforward example of geothermal energy is hot springs. Nowadays this energy is being harnessed to produce electricity and provide warmth to homes.

Geothermal energy is naturally occurring in the UK. In fact, Southampton city council has been operating a geothermal power station since 1986. This provides heating for different places like the city hall, superstore, the port of Southampton, and the swimming centre.

Not only does it provide heat and electricity, but it also has cooling functions. That’s mainly because of the insulating properties of our planet. A good example is during summer where a geothermal system pulls heat from your house. It carries it to the ‘earth loop’ and deposits it to the cooler part of the earth.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly
  • It has heating and cooling functions.
  • It’s free and available almost anywhere.
  • It’s now more affordable.
  • Requires little to no maintenance

Cons

  • Although geothermal basins are widely spread, resources vary from region to region. The problem lies in the fact that this type of energy cannot be transported. This means that only those who are near the source can benefit from it.
  • Huge investments are needed to build exploration sites.
  • Can cause minor seismic activity. This happens when high-pressure water is injected into the ground to produce steam.
  • Time-consuming because a lot of research and explorations need to be done first to determine if an area is feasible.

Biomass

Biomass is organic material that comes from plants and animals. It contains stored energy that comes from the sun through photosynthesis. The chemical energy in biomass is released as heat when it is burned.

Here are some examples of biomass and their uses:

  • Animal manure and human sewage – can be converted to biogas and burned as fuel
  • Food, yard, and wood waste in the garbage – generate electricity in power plants through burning or converted to biogas in landfills.
  • Wood and wood processing wastes – burned to produce electricity and is used to heat buildings as well.
  • Crops and waste materials – burned as fuel or converted to liquid biofuels.

Pros

  • Cost effective as most materials are from leftovers from wood.
  • The carbon dioxide that’s emitted during the burning process is equivalent to the amount absorbed when growing trees.
  • It supports local economies.
  • Easy to store and produces small amounts of ash.

Cons

  • Wood pellet boilers are expensive.
  • The boilers require frequent maintenance.
  • Storage of biomass fuel needs to be considered carefully. It needs to remain dry. Otherwise, it will not burn efficiently.

Conclusion

Off-grid energy sources are indeed starting to take over in popularity from coals and fossil fuels. It will only be a matter of time before people can become truly free from grid power lines.

There is still a lot of progression to be made in renewable energy, but if what we’ve already achieved is anything to go by, we’re getting closer to greener sources.

Until then, all of us need to look at how we’re consuming energy, and ways we can lessen our environmental footprint in our homes and day to day life by using energy efficiently and wisely.

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

Author Bio

Emma is a part-time property developer who loves sharing how others can make their homes amazing and eco both inside and out on her blog Fixtures and Flowers. You can chat to Emma on Twitter.

Offshore Wind Farms Are Really Booming

Image by diego_torres CC0

Image by diego_torres CC0

Guest post by Sam Brown*

In terms of renewable energy sources, there are a number of options. While solar, biomass, and geothermal technologies are all viable approaches to cleaner energy provision, wind is leading the way in innovation and investment, thanks to new offshore wind farms.

While the investment in renewable energy sources has been declining, particularly due to budget cuts in recent years, wind power is bucking this trend. In 2016, investment in new offshore wind farms grew by a staggering 40%.

This huge investment is made all the more impressive within the current political environment, with the ongoing scepticism and debate around climate change. So why are offshore wind farms booming right now?

The advantages of wind power

Wind farms are an attractive proposition to investors for a number of key reasons. The major plus point for wind, of course, lies in its green credentials as an energy source. Harvesting wind is a clean and effective way of energy generation, making good use of a natural resource that is limitless.

In addition to this headline benefit, wind power has relatively low economic and maintenance costs, and offshore wind farms in particular, are unobtrusive. We have always known about these benefits, however, so why are we seeing a sudden rise in offshore wind farm investment?

As well as the clear positives associated with wind power, there have always been a handful of technological negatives, which have hindered the effectiveness of wind farms in the past. Due to the technology not quite being at a high enough level, setting up offshore wind farms has always been expensive, which inflates the cost of this particular energy source.

In addition to this, traditional fixed turbines can only be installed at a depth of up to 40 metres – meaning they are simply not suitable for many environments. Thanks to advancements in technology, however, this issue is being resolved.

Technological developments

Thanks to amazing new technology, the previous limitations of offshore wind farms are no longer applicable.

Innovative floating turbines use an underwater ballast along with mooring lines to stay upright, meaning wind farms can now be established further from the shore and in deeper water.

While fixed turbines have a limit of 40 metres, these new floating turbines can be deployed at depths of anywhere between 100 to 700 metres.

Alongside this development, manufacturers have also been able to make larger turbines, increasing the amount of energy able to be generated thanks to a higher capacity. The first of these new floating wind farms was successfully set up off the Scottish coastline earlier this year, providing energy for over 20,000 homes.

 

The success of this initial floating wind farm opens up numerous potential locations that were previously accessible for this type of energy.

New locations, new benefits

With a range of new locations opening up thanks to this technology, wind power suddenly has a host of new benefits to boot.

In addition to greater amounts of energy able to be produced, increased accessibility and availability are major plus points for new offshore wind farms. Placing the turbines offshore also helps to reduce any aesthetic impact of wind farms too.

While the costs of these floating wind farms are high at present due to the infancy of the technology, these are set to fall over time. Thanks to this innovation, alongside increased investment, offshore wind farms are really booming.

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

50 More Ways To Save Energy – Infographic

Intro by Guest Blogger: Maggie Baker*

Energy conservation efforts have made headlines over the last few years, but many people still don’t understand the importance of reducing energy consumption. Why should you make an effort to conserve energy at home? Here are some of the many benefits of living in an energy efficient home:

Lower Utility Bills

Utility companies charge customers based on the amount of energy that they consume during the month. Therefore, people who make an effort to reduce their energy use will spend less on utilities every month. How much can you save? Simply replacing traditional light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs in some of your home’s light fixtures can save you money, and if you sort out uncontrolled air leaks in your home, you’ll save even more!

Comfortable Living

Living in an energy efficient home is more comfortable than living in a home that wastes energy. Why? An energy efficient home that is properly insulated and does not have any air leaks, will be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The temperature will also be consistent throughout the house, so there won’t be any rooms that are cooler or hotter than others.

Better For the Environment

Homeowners that live in an energy efficient home are doing their part to protect the environment. Reducing energy consumption allows us to save the world’s dwindling supply of natural resources and cut down on pollution. Lowering greenhouse gas emissions plays a big role in fighting the effects of climate change, which is why it’s so important now more than ever before to embrace an energy efficient lifestyle.

Are you ready to start saving energy? Fortunately, saving energy doesn’t have to be complicated. There are many different simple changes and upgrades that you can make to start saving today. Take a look at this infographic provided by Homeselfe to learn how to get started:

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

 

50MoreWaystoSaveEnergy

A Guide to UK Solar Panel Grants

Image by Antranias CC0

Image by Antranias CC0

Guest post by Elena*

A quick glance around any neighbourhood in the UK will reveal many homes with solar panels in situ. They don’t work for every homeowner, but if your property has a south-facing roof, or even an east to west facing roof, you could save money on your energy bill and get paid for generating electricity. What’s not to like about that?

If the idea of installing solar panels appeals, here’s what you need to know about solar panel grants in the UK.

Solar Grants

Prior to 2010, the government handed out grants to householders who installed solar power systems. It was part of the low carbon buildings program, which proved very successful. However, these grants were replaced in April 2010 by a new system: a feed-in tariff.

Feed-In Tariffs

These days, the government no longer pays you to have solar panels, but the electricity companies do pay for you for the electricity you generate. Think of a feed-in tariff as an incentive scheme. Not only does the energy company pay you for any electricity you don’t use, but you are also paid for the electricity you do use. Even better, when you are using “free” electricity during the day, you are saving money on your energy bill. It’s a win-win situation.

en-form insights:

The downside is that government feed-in tariffs are no longer as generous as they once were. Solar panels are not as expensive to install, so feed-in tariffs were slashed by 64% in 2015. You can still save money by generating free electricity during the day, but you won’t be paid as much for your output. Homes with an EPC of E or less are not eligible for the full feed-in tariff payment.

Getting paid for the electricity you generate through solar panels used to be seen as a bit of a gold-mine by homeowners, which certainly isn’t the case any more. Nevertheless, so long as your solar panels generate a reasonable amount of electricity, you should enjoy a return on your investment.

Lock in a Good Price

It is worth noting that the feed-in tariff in place when you install your solar panels is locked in for the next 20 years. Right now, it is still cost effective for homeowners to install solar panels, but as time goes on, the government is likely to cut pay outs and, in time, eliminate them altogether.

There is a cap in place on annual feed-in tariff spending, so each quarter, the feed-in tariff is reduced. As time goes on, the potential for earning money from the feed-in tariffs will diminish, but the cost of installation will continue falling, too. Also, since any electricity you use during the day is free, you are always going to save money on your energy bills.

Solar Batteries

One method of making extra savings once the government abolishes a feed-in tariff for solar panels is to invest in a solar panel battery to store excess energy when your panels are not generating. Most homeowners don’t use all the electricity they generate, so it is sold back to the energy company. With a solar panel battery, you can use solar energy as your primary power source and save even more money.

en-form insights:

The installation of PV panels has dropped because of the FiT digression, and batteries are being viewed as they new money-maker. PV installers are asking several thousand pounds for a battery set, as such, it is unlikely to pay for itself for many years. The installers also get a kick back from the National Grid by aggregating all the batteries and controlling them at peak times saving the National Grid from having to pay for stand-by generation. Most householders are lucky if they get a share of this, we have heard that some may get about £60 a year from the battery installer who probably makes a lot more. Homeowners need to be wise when choosing how to invest in solar energy – there are good reasons for having batteries, particularly if there is a high frequency of black outs. When variable tariff electricity pricing comes in (when you pay more at peak times), that will be when batteries are really economically worthwhile.

It is worth doing the sums before you invest in solar panels, and it is probably worth seeking independent advice on such an investment. Homes need to be south-facing to generate sufficient energy and the further south you live, the more profitable solar panels become. Remember that a solar panel installation can also affect the value of your home, and not necessarily in a positive way. But, like all renewable energy, solar power is the future, and if you can’t afford to invest in solar, you could always opt for a free installation, which will still lower your energy bills.

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

About the author:

Elena works for maltasothebysrealty.com and is used to advising customers on the benefits of solar panels. In a country where the sun is always shining, solar energy is a smart investment and an excellent way to save money on your energy bills.

Top Tips for an Eco-Friendly Christmas

Image by StockSnap CC0

Image by StockSnap CC0

Guest post by Gemma Reeves*

Living an eco-friendly lifestyle does not stop at eating organic food or choosing organic and environmentally-friendly products, you can celebrate special occasions such as Christmas with an eco-friendly outlook  too.

Try these great tips:

1. Use eco-friendly decorations.

Ditch the commercial type of decorations you usually buy from department stores, and start crafting DIY (Do-It-Yourself) decorations.

For Christmas trees, you can either use a real, potted plant or create a minimalist Christmas tree with recycled paper, cardboard or from extra wood and materials that might just be lying around your house. Same thing goes with wreaths – you can create one from real plants and pine cones or with recycled paper.

Upcycle tip: You can even transform old, small toys and figurines into Christmas tree hanging decors using a cord and hook.

2. Prepare and plan a healthy feast.

If you are committed to celebrate an eco-friendly holiday, that means that you should also go for healthy, organic food. If you want to cook meat dishes, choose ethically reared organic-fed, and local if possible as products from intensive farming are known to have a negative effect on the environment.

3. Wrap your gifts with recycled products and materials.

Reusing is one of the best ways to reduce your impact on the environment. Make use of recycled paper and previous year’s wrappings to create presentable gift boxes. You can add some flare to your DIY gift wraps by adding seasonal natural features such as leaves and flowers fixed with some gardening twine.

4. Going on a shopping spree? Don’t forget your tote bag.

Whether you are shopping for gifts or for yourself, try to help save on plastics and boxes by bringing your own shopping bag (eco-friendly bags or tote bags) while you shop.

Did you know? 

“Research in Europe has shown that a paper bag must be used three times to compensate for the larger amount of carbon used in manufacturing and transporting it. 

Likewise a plastic “bag for life” must be used four times, and a cotton bag must be used 131 times.” BBC News

5. Take an Eco-Friendly Holiday

Opt out of the commercialism of Christmas altogether with an eco-friendly break. A staycation has a lower carbon footprint than hopping on a plane, however, if you are keen to expand your horizons, why not give locations such as Mexico or Cyprus a visit… known for  their use of natural resources and strong conservation programmes. You don’t just take in natural, scenic views of the place on these tours, but you also get to learn more about environmental habitats and the efforts involved to preserve them.

Make sure that you choose eco-friendly options when on your holiday too, such as taking public transport, cycling, and travelling by foot instead of taking a car. It may not cancel out your plane journey, but every little bit helps!

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.

For more tips on having a more environmentally friendly Christmas check out our 25 Top Tips for a Green Christmas.

Author Bio:

Gemma Reeves is a seasoned writer who enjoys creating helpful articles and interesting stories. She has worked with several clients across different industries such as advertising, online marketing, technology, healthcare, family matters, and more. She is also an aspiring entrepreneur who is engaged in assisting other aspiring entrepreneurs in finding the best office space for their business.

Check out her company here: FindMyWorkspace

How to Reduce Your Home’s Carbon Footprint

Guest post by Dylan Snyder*

Homeowners today have the ability to reduce their carbon footprint with a combination of simple changes, modern tech, and practical green tips. The US’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a carbon footprint as “The total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere each year by a person, family, building, organisation, or company.”

For homeowners across the globe, their carbon footprint is affected by things such as energy consumption, water usage, and even how much junk mail the household receives. To reduce a home’s carbon footprint, consider several green tips and tactics.

Reduce Energy Consumption from Heating Units

UK Power states that home heating is a large contributor to energy consumption and CO2 emissions, especially given the nature of the climate in the UK. Eliminating air leaks/drafts throughout a home is a good first step for reducing home energy consumption. Seal gaps around doors and windows to stop leaks. Increasing wall and loft insulation also keeps heat in and reduces energy use. UK Power also suggests placing aluminum sheets behind traditional radiators as an tried-and-true method to reflect heat back into the room.

For more tips on saving energy in your home check out these articles!

Switch to Eco-Friendly Light Bulbs

Ditch the old incandescent light bulbs and make the switch to CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) or LEDs (light emitting diodes. Both CFLs and LEDs use up between 25-percent and 80-percent less energy than incandescent lights. In addition, CFLs and LEDs last up to 25 times longer than incandescents.

Use Less Water

The average American family uses approximately 300 gallons of water daily, while in the UK, the average usage for a six person household is about 200 gallons daily. The best ways for homeowners to begin to use less water in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint are:

  • Switch off the taps when brushing teeth
  • Take shorter showers and remember showers use less water than filling the bathtub – unless you use a power shower
  • Opt for energy-efficient, water-saving appliances
  • Use the water-saver features/cycles on dishwashers and clothes washers
  • Switch out old shower heads for energy-saving models
  • Fix leaks

Global Stewards reports that 13.7-percent of all household water is wasted because of leaks. Stopping water leaks not only helps to reduce the  home’s carbon footprint, but it also helps prevent the development of mould.

For more tips on saving water in the home check out:

Ten Top Tips for Saving Water in the Kitchen
Ten Top Tips for Saving Water in the Bathroom
Top Ten Tips for Saving Water in the Garden

Eliminate Junk Mail

Junk mail is not only is annoying, but the energy used to produce each piece contributes to your home’s carbon footprint. Eliminate or at least reduce the household’s junk mail by removing your name(s) from direct mailing lists.

Invest in a Programmable Thermostat and Energy-Saving Appliances

Any products that are designed to save energy, are ideal for homeowners looking to reduce their carbon footprint. These include but are not limited to refrigerators, washing machines, microwaves, and dishwashers. A programmable thermostat is essential, helping to save money each month as well as energy when programmed properly. Actual settings to maximize energy savings will vary by home size and other factors like use of ceiling fans, amount of home insulation, and type and age of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

Recycle and Reuse

Recycling programs have been in place throughout the world for several decades. Items such as plastic, glass, cardboard, and multiple varieties of paper can be recycled and then used to create other products in an effort to reduce resource consumption. At home, set up easy-to-use recycling bins and then follow your area’s recycling protocols.

Reuse what you can, especially items like plastic carrier bags. Take it one step further and bring your own non-plastic bags for shopping. Avoid “toss-away” items like paper napkins and plates and opt for linens and real plates.

Every homeowner can begin to reduce their carbon footprint with a few simple steps. Every little bit helps – you’ll feel better at the end of the day, and as an added bonus, you may find yourself with some extra savings each month.

*Please note that the views are that of the author, not necessarily that of en-form.