Every Little Helps – June 2012

Every Little HelpsAfter predicting that drought would turn to flood (see my previous article), I’m certain that making little changes really can make a difference. Butt installed, we’ve enough free water to keep plants and fish happy. Unfortunately, its going to be a record hay-fever season as a result …

I read in 2009 that 15 of the world’s largest cargo ships made as much sulphur dioxide (a source of acid rain) as all the world’s 760 million cars … but the same statistic was applied this week to cruise ships. Who writes this stuff and do they check it? Deciding how to make a difference is hard enough, without misinformation and “greenwashing”.

With all the hype of the Olympics it was good to hear – on our school trip to the London site – that environmental concerns for the development had been carefully thought out and measured. A report from says that although there were many really good intentions, there will be mixed success at achieving their sustainability goals. I particularly appreciated their disappointment the Olympic torch couldn’t be made “low carbon”.

Let’s concentrate on their achievements – after all, nobody’s perfect. Lots of the materials used in construction, much of the energy to run the games, loads of the water in and on the stadia will meet sustainability targets. Perhaps most of all, though, was the extent that sustainability was considered important: more than for any other large-scale development in the UK, if not the world.

Finally, once the excitement is over, the legacy considerations kick in: re-using as much as possible of the buildings (the basketball building is moving to the next Games), waste (70% re-cycled) and even people (outplacement of the contractors). Perhaps this could become a realistic model of how to plan such developments in future.

In contrast, it saddened me to hear that suggested strengthening of planning requirements for insulation of existing properties (which will save householders money even in the medium term) was greeted as a “planning tax” by the media. It’s about investing in our future, not about paying to “be green”. We don’t fully recognise the costs of clean water, cheap power and “acceptable levels” of pollution: if we did, we’d all be clamouring to do more to help.

Good information and foresight are essential parts of making the right choices. Choose your sources with care.

guardian/shipping-pollution – pdf


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