The Shell Eco-marathon is a competition for self-built fuel efficient machines, built by students, to travel a set distance using the least amount fuel or electric energy possible. The cars must be powered by petrol/diesel, biofuels (like ethanol and FAME), gas-to-liquid, hydrogen fuel cells or electric batteries.
At the 2013 event, the most successful vehicles travelled nearly 3,000km from one litre of petrol or a single kilowatt-hour of electricity.
The vehicles are designed to be ultra efficient with streamlined shapes and all uneccessary weight removed.
Governments and private investors alike are starting to examine the potential of environmentally friendly forms of energy
production, on a mass scale. One such solution is offered by tidal energy, which falls into two categories: energy
generated either by harnessing the power of tidal currents, or utilising the differential between high tide and low tide.
Tidal Stream Systems
Tidal stream systems are an example of first category. Often they resemble underwater wind turbines and in effect function in the same way, except tidal currents turn the turbines rather than wind. Whilst the installation of Tidal Stream Systems are a considerable civil engineering undertaking they are considered to have less of an environmental impact than the other alternative.
Tidal Barrages consist of a kind dam built across a tidal estuary. As the tide comes in, water is allowed to flow in to the reservoir created by the dam, but at high tide a gate is closed, and as the tide falls again the water within the reservoir is trapped. At low tide, another gate is opened allowing the water to flow out of the reservoir through turbines. Barrage tidal energy power stations a huge civil engineering projects, requiring vast amounts of energy and resources to construct, and with a lasting impact on the local environment, and yet, once in place they have the potential to go on generating cheap and carbon neutral energy for generations.
A great deal has been done recently to clean up the chemical industry and yet the sheer volume of harmful chemicals that we are flushing away threatens our environment. One step we can take is to use only washing powders which don't use phosphates. Phosphates clog up rivers and lakes and are harmful to water life such as fish and water life.
When setting your washing machine choose the lowest possible temperature for all but the most stubborn stain.
Use the correct dosage for your washing machine.
Here are a selection of 'green' cleaning products currently on the market:
FEATURES: No petrochemical-based ingredients; no artificial colours or preservatives; 100% natural fragrance; product not tested on animals; 100% biodegradable ingredients; suitable for septic tanks; all packaging and components can be recycled where facilities exist.
INGREDIENTS: Less than 5% plant-derived non-ionic surfactants; also contains natural fragrance, natural preservative, natural d-limonene.
APPRAISAL: Good all rounder
Tesco Naturally Clean
£1.49, 1 litre
FEATURES: Claims 98% biodegradable; ingredients made from plant extracts; product and ingredients not tested on animals; no phosphates; no bleach.
INGREDIENTS: Non-ionic surfactants, anionic surfactants, soap, amphoteric surfactants, perfumes, limonene, sodium citrate, methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone.
APPRAISAL: Good all rounder
Ecover Ecological Squirteco
FEATURES: Fast and complete biodegrability; minimum impact on aquatic life; against animal testing (approved by Vegan Society).
INGREDIENTS: Up to 30% water, 5-15% plant-based alcohol, less than 5% anionic and non-ionic plant-based surfactants, floral perfume.
APPRAISAL: More expensive but still a good all rounder
85p, 1 litre
FEATURES: Only UK own-brand cleaner to be certified to the performance and environmental criteria set down by the European Ecolabel and Swedish Falcon Good Environmental Choice label. Minimum impact on aquatic life and the main packaging materials are recyclable where possible and, when they are not, they are made from recycled materials.
INGREDIENTS: 5-15% anionic surfactants, less than 5% soap. Also contains: perfumes, benzisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone.
APPRAISAL: Good all rounder
FEATURES: Biodegradable formula; naturally derived cleanser; 100% recycled plastic bottle. (Stockists include John Lewis and Waitrose.)
INGREDIENTS: Corn- and coconut-derived surfactants, soda ash, potassium hydrate, biodegradable surfactant, fragrance oil blend, colour, purified water.
APPRAISAL: Nice smell but not as effective
Marks & Spencer Naturally Derived
FEATURES: Gone to amazing lengths to find ingredients that are really effective, without the need for any petrochemicals, artificial colours or preservatives not found in nature; approved by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection; bottle made from 30% recycled plastic; uses a fusion of bergamot oil and South African lemons with a fresh hint of ginger root.
INGREDIENTS: 5-15% soap, less than 5% non-ionic surfactants, also contains limonene, linalool
APPRAISAL: Poor performance
Natural House Surface Spa
FEATURES: Made with 83% Soil Association-certified organic ingredients; approved by the Vegan Society; contains quillaja extract, a naturally occurring soap sustainably harvested from the bark of a tree from South America, and coco glucoside, a gentle degreasing agent made from coconuts and tea tree extract; made entirely in England. (Stockists include John Lewis and Waitrose.)
INGREDIENTS: Aqua, organic wine vinegar, coco glucoside, organic grain alcohol, potassium sorbate, natural quillaja bark extract, organic witch-hazel hydrosol, organic tea tree essential oil, natural rosmarinic acid (extracted from herbs of the Labiatae family including sage, rosemary and oregano), ethanol, natural hop extract.
APPRAISAL: strong smell of vinegar
It is estimated that 29% of carbon dioxide emissions are a direct result of transport. And yet, a quarter of all journeys are less than 2 miles. Why not walk or cycle?
It helps the environment
We all get healthier, are in better shape, and look better!
We all get a little bit wealthier
Everyone's a winner! Ask your employer if they are part of the governments 'cycle to work' scheme - wherein you may buy a bike, tax free, saving as much as 33% on the price.
We all love to shop, but here is a quick guide to how we can shop to our hearts content with a clear conscience:
Buy local produce. This reduces the energy used to transport the goods to the shelf and resulting emissions.
Eat seasonally. Even local produce can be harmful to the environment if lots of energy was used to cultivate the crop, for example, to heat a greenhouse in Scotland in the middle of winter.
Get food delivered. This may sound illogical at first, and it's true that the lorry or van used to deliver your produce will produce 5 times more carbon dioxide than your car. However, the aforementioned lorry or van can carry on average the equivalent amount of shopping to 1000 journeys in a regular car!(see below for details)
Make fewer trips in the car. This one sounds obvious, but it is still estimated that a quarter of all car journeys are less than 2 miles. Try walking.
Make use of an organic box scheme (see below for details), as they will usually make every effort to ensure they are as environmentally sound as possible. Although do quiz them about their green credentials before signing up.
The overwhelming evidence shows us that consumers are not ready to cut air travel out of their lives altogether (yet!), so here is some practical advice to help reduce the damage resulting from our love affair with jet setting:
If you are going to fly consider carbon offsetting
For shorter distance journeys, consider using the train. When calculating the time of your journey always remember to factor in time taken getting to the airport, checking in and reclaiming luggage, and do not forget to figure in parking costs and transfers when calculating overall costs. It may turn out that the train is not much slower and costlier than flying after all.
The new terminus at St Pancreas cuts journey times to Paris and Brussels by 20 minutes and makes possible direct journeys from outside of London to the Europe.
At Green Innovation we excited by recent developments in the field of airship or 'blimp(!)' travel. Watch this space for details.
For more information visit the UN's new eco travel site, at Green Passport
Research into hydrogen fuel continues apace and Boeing revealed that it's protoype hydrogen powered plane carried out a successful test flight.
This is thought to be the first manned plane to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells, converting it through a chemical reaction into electricity and water. The process creates no carbon pollution making it infinitely greener than conventional combustion engines.
Other recent developments in Green air travel have included:
Electra, a single-seater battery-powered experimental plane developed in France
Virgin flew a Boeing 747 part-fuelled by biodiesel from London to Amsterdam.
Boeing's 787 is to be built of carbon fibre, meaning that it is lighter and will use 20 per cent less fuel than similar airliners.
Critics point out that even with recent advances in green technology, the air industry is still one of the worst and most avoidable polluters of the environment, and the sector is growing much faster than green technology can mitigate its impact. And as Boeing themselves admitt hydrogen cells are unlikely to ever create enough power for a large passenger airliner.
Airbus, manufacturer of the A380 superjumbo, has pledged to produce greener planes before 2020. In additin to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the A380 also generates 20% less carbon dioxide per journey than aircraft did 10 years ago, but increases in oil prices are requiring planes that burn fuel at an even lower rate. Aviation companies are currently looking at fuel cell and carbon capture technologies, but carrying 300, or more, passengers with these engines is currently impossible.
Also under consideration is the more efficient "blended wing" design, which converts an airplane into a giant wing.
Bringing a single aluminium can back into use, requires only 5% of the energy used to create it in the first place. It is estimated that 25% of household rubbish is recycled, the equivalent of taking 35 million cars off the road. In some high achieving countries like Austria and Germany the figure is more like 50%. This is the equivalent of 7 million cars. This adds up to a single fact - recycling is one of the single most effective things that every household can do to help guard against global warming.
Motoring does not have a good name in green circles, and yet there are useful steps that we all can take to reduce the impact of our cars and vehicles on the environment.
Ensure tyres are properly inflated, especially before long journeys
Switch off engines when stuck in stationary traffic or traffic jams
Downsize your car or choose a car with a smaller engine (if you have not done so already)
Buy a hybrid or electric car such as the Toyota Prius.
Tokyo Motor Show
The theme of the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show was low-emission greener motoring. A number of exciting new innovations in eco friendly vehicles were on show, including:
Honda Low Emission Mobility Devices
Nissan Land Glider
Nissan Leaf - leading, environmentally friendly, affordable, family car
Toyota FT-EV II electric car
Plug-in Toyota Prius
Visit Toyota Prius for more information about the Toyota Prius
Visit Toyota Highlander for more information about the Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Most large car manufacturers now produce a model of electric car, and the technology is improving all the time. The performance and range of electric cars has increased tothe extent where they are becoming a viable alternative to petrol cars. However, electric cars are only as eco friendly as the electricity that powers them. If that electricity was generated at a coal fired power station, the benefit to the environment is minimal. However, if the electricity was generated by sustainable technology, i.e. solar, wind or tidal, then the electric car is a truly eco friendly mode of transport.
There are a number of fully electric cars available including the Tesla P1 Roadster.It does 0 to 60 mph in 4 seconds, reaching speeds of around 125mph. An average charge takes 3.5 hours providing enough power to travel 220 miles. Unfortunately this sort of performance is seldom matched by other electric cars, which usually lack acceleration and a fast top speed. Another downside of electric cars is that their batteries have a tendency to explode on impact.
Hydrogen cars are powered by hydrogen fuel cells. The cell is topped up with liquid hydrogen, which mixes with oxygen from the air to produce electricity and steam.
There are a number of technological hurdles to overcome if hydrogen vehicles are to become commonly used. For example, at present, the most common methods of creating hydrogen require electricity, much of which is currently generated using fossil fuels. Another drawback with hydrogen is that its density is very low, so hydrogen fuel tanks would have to be very big if the car was to have the same range of a conventional petrol car.
Low Emission Diesel
The big car manufacturers primary response to high fuel prices and environmental concerns has been the development of low emission diesel engines. Vehicles fitted with these engines are more fuel efficient than conventional petrol driven vehicles, and less polluting. See low emission diesel cars for more information.
Some motorists have taken matters into their own hands and are producing their own biodiesel fuel from waste cooking oil and the like. See recycled biodiesel for more information.
Kitchen waste (left over food, for example) produces methane - a particularly potent greenhouse gas. Composting exposes these materials to oxygen, preventing the release of methane, and producing a useful, nutrient rich by-product, which can be added to your beds. Most councils now supply composting bins, or better still, invest in a wormery. A compost heap can built for relatively little expense.
It is estimated that normal domestic homes are responsible for 27% of total carbon dioxide emissions, with each house producing 6 tonnes of CO2 a year.
1.7 tonnes of which is from electricity
4.3 tonnes is from our consumption of gas
One strategy to address these figures is to use less energy, improving our household insulation and recycling. Another complimentary strategy is that of micro power generation, whereby each household sustainably generates their portion, or all, of their own electric and power supply to provide heat or light, and ideally, generates a surplus which they can sell back to the national power suppliers.
There are a number of ways in which households can achieve this:
If the average UK family swapped 3 normal 100watt traditional bulbs for 20watt energy saving bulbs they would prevent 120kg of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Each bulb would save its owner £9 per year or £100 over its lifetime.
The accumulative effect of cost savings like this, taken in concert with other savings suggested elsewhere in this site could really add up to a quite substantial amount.
5% or 300kg of a households average carbon dioxide emissions are a result of gadgets like set top boxes, mobile phone chargers being left on standby. Why not turn them off? In the UK, an average family would save over £37 per year: enough for a slap up pizza dinner!
Increasingly manufacturers are designing these devices with eco friendly functions, and leaving out unnecessary environmentally unfriendly functions such as the dreaded standby.
More than 6 million electrical items are binned every year in the UK, and it is estimated that over half could be repaired. Obviously, a reconditioned appliance requires less energy to bring it back into use, than to rebuild from scratch. Dixon’s Group shops, PC world and Currys Digital will all accept old returned products when customers buy new ones.
Old boilers (15 years old or more) ideally should be replaced with new energy efficient GAS CONDENSING BOILERS. These can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12% (0.7 tonnes) annual average emissions, and can also reduce your heating bills by a third!
An energy efficient condensing boiler recovers the maximum possible waste heat which is normally vented through the flue of a conventional (non-condensing) boiler. The most efficient condensing boilers convert more than 90% of their fuel into heat, as opposed to 78% for conventional types.
When buying a new boiler
1. Ensure that your home is fully insulated.
2. Get at least three quotes. One of the best ways to find a reliable installer is to ask friends, relatives and colleagues for a personal recommendation. Your installer should always be fully qualified and registered with CORGI ( Council of Registered Gas Installers).
3. Check the Competent Persons Schemes Listings. These were introduced by the government to allow individuals and businesses to self-certify their work as compliant with UK Building Regulations.
4. Consult the Energy Saving Trust Database to find a energy efficient boiler that matches your requirements.
5. Check your heating controls
Many households may reduce their fuel bills and CO2 emissions by setting their heating controls correctly, such as ensuring that the heating is not on at times when the house is empty. Try turning down your thermostat just by a single degree or two. You may not even notice the difference in temperature, but may make a noticeable saving on your bill. A programmable room thermostat or Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) will allow you to adjust the level of heating in different rooms, so that you may decide to turn down the level of heating a room that is rarely used.
6. Consider Biomass Boilers
Biomass boilers are now more widely available, and can be installed to be used domestically, as well as more traditional sectors such as commercial industry, leisure industry and community projects. Most Biomass boilers can be used with different wood fuels ranging from logs to wood chips and wood pellets.
Most wood fuelled Biomass boilers are carbon-neutral as wood is a carbon-neutral fuel. Although it releases carbon dioxide when it is burnt, the amount given off is the same as was stored by the tree when it was growing. If the tree were left to rot in the forest it would produce the same amount of carbon emissions as are released by burning it.
The majority of firewood used for biomass boiler fuel comes from sustainable sources, so for every tree cut down another is planted, and the carbon released from the felled tree will be absorbed by another tree.
There are an increasing number of companies that specialise in the supply and installation of Biomass boilers, such as Border Eco Systems Biomass Boilers based in the Scottish Borders.
There is now an excellent variety of eco friendly materials available to insulate your home. In doing so you are able to cut your carbon footprint dramatically as you require less fossil fuels to heat your house, apartment or premises.
7 Realistic ways to improve your home's thermal performance :
1 Cavity wall and Loft Insulation
This is perhaps the most cost-effective ways to reduce your home's carbon footprint. Basic improvements start at as little as £100. Grants are often available to help you with the costs. To see if you qualify, contact the Energy Saving Trust (0800 512012, energysavingtrust.org.uk). Your energy supplier (British Gas, EDF etc) is obliged to help you with energy saving measures such as insulation, putting you in contact with an installer at a subsidised price.
2 Pressure Test
A pressure test is the best way to locate all the drafts and air leaks in your home. They work by sealing your doors and then air is pumped into your home, increasing the air pressure inside. Escaping air can then be monitored and the leaks rectified. Nationwide tests are available from UK Air Testing (01763 242114, ukairtesting.co.uk or Leema Tech (0116 253 3422, leematech.co.uk). Tests start at about £70 and typically take two to three hours. By helping you to work out where you are losing your heat these tests pay for themselves very quickly.
3 Draft Excluders
Most DIY stores sell basic draft excluder kits for a few pounds and these can often achieve the same results as upgrading windows and doors to double-glazed, modern alternatives, but at a tiny fraction of the price. For further advice and information about local fitters, contact the Draught Proofing Advisory Association (01428 654011, dubois.vital.co.uk/database/ceed/wall.html.
Sturdy ceiling-to-floor curtains in front of windows and external doors can also make a terrific reduction in heat loss due to drafts.
5 Heat-Recovery Ventilation Systems
This option is usually only effective in modern homes that meet the latest, rigorous insulation regulations. There are companies in the UK who supply and fit heat-recovery ventilation systems. Villavent (01993 778481, villavent.co.uk) sells DIY kits, with prices starting at about £2,500.
6 Micro Energy Generation
There is a growing list of renewable energy options including wind turbines, photovoltaic cells, solar panels, ground-source heat pumps - but for many, the price and practicalities remain off-putting. For advice, contact the National Energy Foundation (01908 665555, nef.org.uk, or the Energy Saving Trust).
7 Consult your local Energy Saving Trust
Your local Energy Saving Trust should offer free impartial advice about improving your home's thermal performance. Contact the advice centre on 0800 512012, or visit energysavingtrust.org.uk/home_improvements. If you live in the Greater London area, the Green Homes Concierge service (supported by the London Development Agency) will do a year-long energy audit of your home for £199.
Many people are considering switching their car or vehicle to bio fuels. There are quality fuels out there, which do not require modifications to your engine. There is, however, some concern that environmentally beneficial forests will be destroyed to make way for crops, which are the raw material for these fuels, so opinion is divided over just how ecofriendly bio fuel is. As the debate rumbles on, watch this space!
For those more adventurous, a diesel engine may be modified to run on common vegetable oil, but a converted vehicle will not meet any recognised safety standards. The modification could damage your engine and will almost certainly invalidate your warranty.
Petrol engines cannot be modified to run off vegetable oil. Our advice: don't try this at home!
Biofuels are combustible liquid fuels derived from vegetable matter or crops, such as rapeseed or soy. They produce virtually no harmful emissions, however there are a number of important cons:
• Biofuels require a large amount of energy to grow, harvest and transport.
• The more arable land is used to grow biofuel crops, less land is available to grow food supplies, contributing to the world-wide food crisis
• It is feared that increased biofuel production will lead to more chemical pollution in the shape of pesticides and herbicides
• It is also a concern that increased biofuel production will place more strain on the world's limited water resources.
What is carbon offsetting? The subject is much talked about, but few seem to know what it really entails. The concept of carbon offsetting is as follows: every time you do something that will produce a lot of CO2 emissions, like jetting off on your holidays for example, you pay into a fund that finances positive eco products that help to reduce worldwide CO2 levels, such as replacing diesel generators in developing countries with solar powered ones, or installing wind turbines. The intention is that you will neutralise your impact on worldwide emissions.
However, this is also one critism of offsetting: the overall effect is neutral. Ideally therefore, in addition to offsetting, individuals and governments should be aiming to actively reduce the amount of carbon they produce.
Some popular offsetting schemes include:
Carbon Offsets Ltd
The introduction of government standards has done a lot to allay people’s uncertainty (not to mention downright suspicion!), as only schemes that can prove that the emission reduction that has been paid for will receive the mark of approval.
Our advice: only use schemes with the government mark of approval
You only have to watch any episode of Grand Designs on television to realise that architects, particularly at the more
prestigious end of the spectrum are starting to take climate change more seriously. There is now a whole arsenal of eco
friendly building materials available to choose from, in the battle to build eco friendly homes, from Wind Turbines, to solar
panels, to high efficiency lighting, ultra efficient insulation, water conservation plumbing and much more.
A fabulous example of an eco friendly home would be the Zero home designed by architect Scott Sprecht, pictured below. The Zero home utilises large solar panel "sails" harnessing the sun's energy to generate electricity, which it stores in super efficient batteries. The power generated is conserved by many energy saving features such as super efficient LED lighting. A roof cistern collects rain water which operates the homes plumbing system. Any water used in house, flushing toilets etc runs down to a compost collector at the base of the home.
The impact of the zero home on its immediate environment is so minimal that you could literally pick it up and move it to a different location and it would continue to function perfectly with no need to disconnect and reconnect sewerage pipes, electricity cables etc.
The Zero Home
The new Zero House, designed by architect Scott Specht, is the ultimate green home - as close to being off grid as you can get whilst enjoying all the creature comforts.
High efficiency solar panels generate all the electricity you could need while highly efficient batteries store enough power to keep you running through a week of cloudy days.
A 2700 galon roof cistern is at the centre of an ingenious plumbing system that terminates in a compost container in the basement. Consequently, there is no need for sewerage pipes.
There is of course, super efficient LED lighting, with each bulb lasting for around 100,000 hours.
And lets face it, it looks very cool!
Picture Courtesy of what to watch.net - The Ultimate Green Home
Wind Turbines are obviously a source of renewable energy, as the wind will not run out!
Wind Turbines, the mechanism for harnessing the power of wind to generate power, have been with us for centuries in the shape of wind mills. However, for a long time, the installation of wind turbines to generate electricity has been seen as a large scale engineering project, limited to commercial wind farms or businesses with huge industrial complexes like sea ports. However, as their use at a domestic level increases the price is coming right down and companies like B&Q now offer a 1.2kW wind Turbine to domestic users for around £2000.
In priciple, the concept of micro generation is one that we would support wholeheartedly, however We would advise that you get an independant expert opinion or survey before installing a wind turbine, to check just how much electricty you would generate. It may turn out that, environmentally speaking, your money might be better spent improving the insulation in your home or another slightly less exciting solution. We would advise the same, if your decision is an economic one (ie you want to save money), as in some cases it has been estimated that a wind turbine would only pay for itself after some 200 or more years!
However it could certainly be a fantastic addition your household if you live in a windy area.
Another option open to eco minded home owners who are intent on micro generation are solar panels. Solar panels as they were
originally understood, are also known as Photovoltaic cells, and they are actually a kind of battery. Current flows when a p
from the panel when a light photon strikes the diode on the panel. These photovoltaic cells are not particularly cheap to
produce and the amount of energy they produce can be limited (especially on cloudy days or at night).
If you come across solar panels today, the term is just as likely to apply to "solar hot water" or "thermal panels". In principle these solar panels are slightly lower tech than photovoltaic cells. They consist of pipes or tubes carrying a fluid through a network that covers the surface of a (usually dark covered) highly conductive material. The idea is, that the conductive material is heated by the suns rays and transfers its heat to the liquid in the tubes. That liquid is pumped around the network, heating up as it goes, and is finally carried away to a hot water tank, or some kind of storage device. These solar panels do not tend to provide electricity but instead provide supplementary hot water.
These solar hot water panels will more often than not work out to be the better option for the average homeowner, costing less to manufacture and install, and having a greater impact on the average household's carbon footprint. Household names, like B&Q offer solar panels at a cost of about £3000 installed, or £2000 uninstalled.
This site is dedicated to providing information on the latest innovations and developments in green technology helping us, the consumer, to do our bit in saving the planet, and creating eco friendly homes. The site covers all aspects of eco-friendly living, but will focus especially on practical technology that will help the average home-owner make a difference.
This site does not aim to be too heavy, with most entries kept to a bite size, and we have even included a section on green jokes.