Tuesday, 20 December 2011

I'm Dreaming of a... Green Christmas! (See what I did there?)

Only 4 days till Christmas! And in light of this merrily festive season, I thought I would write a post about the growing carbon footprint of this predominantly consumerised holiday. Driving with the masses to the shopping centre, buying presents and food produced god knows where, wrapping all your presents in heaps of paper, having the TV on all day watching the Queen's Speech (or Doctor Who in my case), driving to see your fam-


Hey what do you mean 'Bah Humbug'?! Oh alright... I'll keep things holly and jolly. But just in case you were interested in how Christmas carbon footprints have changed over the years, Best Foot Forward have made this Christmas Carol Infographic: The Carbon Footprint of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come.

Infographic Developed by Best Foot Forward. More information can be found on their website

But anyway, back to the merry side of Christmas! I just received a card with this picture on the front. I think, for me, this is as appropriate as it gets. And I'm proud that people feel the need to get me these cards. It shows that my green colours are shining out. It's also quite comical!

Having said that, Santa really is very un-green. I mean, my gosh, have you seen how much energy goes into his yearly traditions?! According to this very accurate study undertaken by Ethical Ocean, Santa releases up to 69.4 million metric tonnes of CO2 in ONE DAY! And approximately 97% of that is held within the life cycle of toys. This is simply unacceptable!

Graph taken from Ethical Ocean's infographic: Santa's Carbon Footprint.

From production to packaging and disposal, toys are by far the single most devastating contributors to climate change. So-called 'good' children around the world are leading to the untimely demise of this Earth. Not only that though, but the reindeer Santa uses to fly across the world are horrific methane producers. And, of course, there's Santa's polluting factory in the North Pole, which emits around 983,000 metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

I think, having gained a better idea of Santa's inefficient and polluting methods, it is safe to say that - for the greener good - Christmas should just be cancelled. Or at the very least, he should get operations ISO 14001 certified.

Nooooooo don't worry kids this is all completely made up. Santa is nothing but goodness. Don't you know he uses magic to make all the toys in a special room where he lives; he has a few elf helpers, but that's got nothing to do with child labour. And his reindeer are way too awesome to ever let out any methane - except Dasher, I hear he suffers from IBS.

On a more serious note though... (I know, I know, bah humbug - but I wouldn't have this blog if I never put any green messages out), have a think about your impact this Christmas. Wrapping is obviously a big issue but it goes a lot further than that (and that's easy to recycle anyway). Christmas is so consumption-driven these days and that's when things get the least environmentally-friendly. And remember it's not about the presents... Haha, OK it's not ONLY about the presents, it's about sharing the good times, stuffing your face with (locally-produced and organic) food, and realising that you're half way out of the dark and wintery months.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Triangle: A Case of Logical, Effective and Inspiring Eco Housing.

Anybody been watching 4oD's British Property Scandal series? I haven't watched all of them, but I've been keeping up with Kevin McCloud's Grand Design. It's all about HAB (Happiness - Architecture - Beauty) and their most recent development in Swindon: The Triangle.

I first came across this project about this time last year when Kevin McCloud came to University to present his views on eco-housing and architecture. From the point of view of a sustainability geek (as I am proud to announce that I am), HAB and The Triangle have proven to be an exciting and inspiring movement in the housing sector. So that's why it was great to be able to get a better sense of what this initiative stands for, and the troubles it has gone through to achieve it's aims.

I think one of the most exciting things about The Triangle and Kevin McCloud's objectives is that they actually aim to achieve all three elements of sustainability. I mean, there are a huge number of eco-housing projects growing around the country, but these are often only available to those with limitless funds. Likewise, 'eco-projects' tend to focus on the design of the house or the technologies used, but completely ignore the more social issues of communities and neighbourhoods. So it is refreshing to finally find a development which is not only environmentally-sound, but which also puts emphasis on community spirit while at the same time affordable.

A few brief facts about The Triangle:

Environmentally - the houses are build around simple 'eco' designs and technologies. High walls are used to provide a spacious atmosphere and huge windows make the rooms seem light and expansive. Hempcrete is used as an insulator and natural stack ventilation keeps the houses cool during the summer months. All in all, simple technologies provide a low carbon environment at minimal costs.

Economically - The Triangle comprises of a range of 2, 3, 4-bedroom houses and apartments, and these are available in the most affordable way possible. While some inhabitants are on Rent-to-Homebuy schemes, others were previously homeless or were on a housing lists. The idea is that, as good ol' McCloud puts it himself in the show, "even for a £160,000, you can live in a contemporary, beautifully-designed 3-bed eco home that feel bigger and lighter."

Socially - the houses are built around a communal green and residents share an area of land to grow vegetables. A neighbourhood agreement is set out and there are voluntary trips and workshops (for example, to learn how to grow lettuce!). And all of this is to help regain a sense of community, to make sure that kids can play safely outside on the green and to help people feel that they live not in a house, but in a neighbourhood. In fact, I think that's one of the most exciting things about this project. I don't even know my neighbour's last name! I speak to them occasionally, but it's always very brief and I would never feel that I could ask them for help in any situation.

Having watched the programme on 4oD, I would say that it is (overall) a success! That's not to say there weren't any problems (notably, a lack of storage space "for spare curtains" as one resident complained... who on earth keeps spare curtains?!), but these seem to be issues of design and a sign that things perhaps weren't too well thought out at the initial stages. Nonetheless, these are fixable. And indeed, they were fixed, leaving behind an innovative and friendly place to live. Not only that, but it is also a step away from what McCloud terms the 'bog standard'. Why do all houses in the UK look the same? (And I'm talking particularly about the more modern housing estates here). Bleak. Boring. Depressing. And at the end of the day, ridiculously energy intensive.

There is no doubt that change is needed in the housing sector, and The Triangle has proven that developers don't need to stick to the same dreary blue prints. So here's to Kevin McCloud for having shown that 'eco' is not simply for those who can afford to stick solar panels on their roofs. Eco-housing is inspiring. In it's most successful form, it is friendly and communal. It is the logical step forward.

HAB has got three more projects under way. If you want to find out more about them or about The Triangle, you can find out more at: http://www.haboakus.co.uk. Or do it the easy way, and watch Kevin's Grand Design on 4oD!

Ahhh Kevin McCloud... what a legend.

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Five Stages of Dealing with Job Rejection

Like the 5 stages of mourning... but with more anger.

Stage 1: Getting the e-mail.

You haven't read it yet, you just know that they have made their decision. Hope mixes with fear as you read the first line... but a quick glance over the e-mail and the sight of just one word brings you agony: sorry. You know 4 Weddings and A Funeral, the first scene where Hugh Grant is late in getting up for the wedding... yeah that's right Hugh: F*ck F*ckiddy F*ck F*ck.

Stage 2: Rage

Pretty much summed up with: 'WHYYYYYYYYYYY?!' You wasted my valuable time! You gave me hope and then you just drop me! Whyyyyyyyyy!

Stage 3: The 'Well-It's-Their-Bloody-Loss' phase.

It's like denial, but with a touch of self comfort.

Stage 4: Depression 

Also quite easily summed up with 'WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?!' but then followed by self-doubt. Suddenly, you see yourself having to live on the streets, playing the guitar to earn a bit of money, or worse... you will be 30 and STILL living with your parents. Oh GOD NO!!

Stage 5: Acceptance (with a bit of resentment)

Fine! I'll find something better... eventually... hopefully. And then I'll rock that job. And then... people will be coming to me and asking if I can work for them!

Like Dory from Finding Nemo... Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!