How to reduce your food carbon footprint

Simple changes in what you eat can make a world of difference to you and the planet’s health. This short blog gives you all you need to know to make decisions about the food you eat so to make your stomach happy and your mind at peace.

How to reduce environmental impact from IT equipment

Digital technologies emit 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions(1).  Three-quarters of those emissions come from the extraction of tonnes of minerals and metals, and the manufacture of equipment(2)(3). We must do more to increase the life of the technology we use.  This article outlines how to reduce environmental impact from IT equipment.

240kg of fossil fuels, 22kg of chemicals and 1,500 kg of water are used to manufacture an average desktop computer and a monitor(2).  110kg of carbon is released in the manufacture of a laptop (2), with 48kg of carbon from the manufacture of a mobile phone (3).   The average lifetime of digital technology is around 3 years (3)(4).

To increase the lifetime of IT equipment there are strategies we recommend employing.

1. Purchase quality, long-lasting equipment from companies with a strong environmental record

The first step in getting long-lasting equipment is to buy it with a high specification, ensure that it is versatile and the technology is usable within the digital environment you work within.  Choosing an environmentally considerate supplier is not particularly vexing as leading companies in the tech space are doing a lot to be environmentally friendly.

When looking for companies with a good record of recycling materials, using renewable energy in manufacture, and in sourcing ethical materials for manufacture, using Just Capital rankings of US companies or other sites such as Worlds Most Ethical Companies can really help.  We provide a quick synopsis of leading companies from Just Capital across sustainable products (which tests reliability, safety and durability), climate change (for carbon impacts and resource efficiency (how much of product is taken from non virgin sustainable sources):

BrandSustainable ProductsClimate ChangeResource Efficiency
Microsoft1st3rd5th
Dell10th5th1st
Apple1st1st7th
Intel1st10th1st
Source: Just Capital rankings of US companies

2. Reduce the amount of IT equipment each person uses

A few simple things that can be done to reduce the amount of IT equipment each person uses is to:

  1. Get versatile laptops that restrict the need for a desktop or tablet
  2. Start having employee owned IT equipment

Versatile laptops with long-lasting batteries and detachable touch screens that may attach to a desktop setup restrict the need for both a desktop or a tablet.  It also means that people can use these in meetings to read documents, instead of having printouts.  These types of computers are usually high-end and longer-lasting.  If bought with the right protective equipment they will be less prone to damage and will last a long life, often allowing for new keyboards or other equipment to replace existing ones.

A new concept we wish to introduce is the idea of employee-owned technology so that employees don’t have to own two of everything.  This idea is simple.  You encourage people to use their own technology when they come to work, or you buy them technology which they can use at home.  The employee owns the technology but gets support from the company to manage it.  This would then allow for everyone to have one phone, and one computer, which they take everywhere with them.  Read more here.

3. Ensure IT equipment gets a second life

There are a few ways of making this happen.  Firstly, use a system at work whereby employees can purchase equipment that is no longer used by the company, or involve this in a scheme of employee-owned technology.  Secondly, use companies that can help restore IT equipment or can help your organization rethink how it uses IT.

Better Century can help set up systems such as employee-owned technology but if you want to go really deep you may want to employ the services of a company such as RDC Recycling.  They are the first company to provide circular services for IT systems.  They effectively help you with purchasing and regeneration of IT equipment and link you with other companies that you can trade with.

You can also use a company like Globechain, which trades office and IT equipment between companies or Warp-It which provide a loan service of goods and services. There are plenty of other companies that will safely recycle IT equipment at the end of life.  These companies will ensure the equipment returns to the manufacturer for recycling into another product. 

Opinions and other help

If you have opinions of this article or need other help please join our community where we can answer more of your questions.  If you need consultancy support please contact Tom through tom@bettercentury.org.

References
(1)  The Shift Project. https://theshiftproject.org/en/article/unsustainable-use-online-video/ 
(2) Life Cycle Assessment of a Smart Phone https://www.atlantis-press.com/proceedings/ict4s-16/25860375  
(3) Life Cycle Assessment of a Laptop Computer and its Contribution to Greenhouse Gas Emissions; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268414508_Life_Cycle_Assessment_of_a_Laptop_Computer_and_its_Contribution_to_Greenhouse_Gas_Emissions 
(4) Life Cycle Assessment of Dell Latitude 7300 https://corporate.delltechnologies.com/content/dam/digitalassets/active/en/unauth/data-sheets/products/laptops/lca-latitude_7300_25th_anniv_notebook.pdf 
(5)  Statista Average lifespan (replacement cycle length) of smartphones in the United States from 2014 to 2025 – https://www.statista.com/statistics/619788/average-smartphone-life/

How to live a sustainable, low carbon, low impact lifestyle

If you’re interested in making choices to live a sustainable, low carbon, low impact lifestyle you’ve come to the right place. This blog helps you make the right choices in three steps; stop bargaining, learn the solutions, and don’t look back.

Before we start you need to remember that living sustainably is counter-culture.  Westerners see themselves as consumers, make this their mark of pride and success, and constantly want more stuff.  Living low impact means using what resources are available wisely, with consideration and where possible to reuse.

In taking this journey you will be a pioneer and although it will be hard convincing your friends and family to make the same decisions, they will eventually, and you will have the solutions.  So read on if you dare to lead.

Step 1: Stop bargaining

You hear it everywhere when someone expresses concern about climate change – ‘what about China – they’re not doing enough’, ‘the big corporates need to take the lead’, ‘the government needs to provide more incentive for change’, ‘it has to be easier – products need to be sustainable – that’s the answer’.

This is what I call bargaining.  It’s a way for people to avoid making a difficult decision.  It’s a natural reaction to a traumatic event.  And let’s be realistic, the climate and ecological breakdown is traumatic – it affects everything.  The natural reaction is to feel helpless and to avoid experiencing anxiety or depression by displacing responsibility to others.

Accepting that we must do something is the first step, the next is to not bargain.  Decide now to live as sustainably as affordable.  Make a plan to decarbonise your lifestyle.  Many decisions simply need to be factored into that plan.  We can’t all afford an electric car or a house with a heat pump, but we could all make a plan to transition by 2030.  50% of our impact is from behaviour, so there are plenty of ways to live sustainably now.

Step 2: Learn the solutions

There are so many ways to learn how to live sustainably.  We at Better Century provide an online community where people can learn from each other, we write blogs and we provide a directory of products and services.  There are loads of sites just like ours that can help.

A great starting point is to consider your own environmental impact.  This will help you understand what your footprint is.  At Better Century we have developed the first environmental footprint calculator that tells you your carbon, land, water and waste impact. 

Once you understand your footprint you can think about what causes that impact.  You’ll be surprised about how contrived low impact decisions are, but is actually quite simple.  Here are some principles for you to consider:

  1. Use less: When traveling, walk or cycle, or use shared public transport, as less material is required to create and power these transport forms.  For food, use less processed and animal products, as these require more inputs.  In life, buy well picked quality products that last.
  2. Waste little: Use the stuff you have – see out it’s lifetime – you don’t always need new stuff to be happy.  When you need to throw things away, think about reuse and where they can be remanufactured.  
  3. Enjoy what’s in front of you: The grass is alway greener on the other side right… wrong… What we have in front of us can give us much joy as something complicated.  Enjoy nature, read books, and engage with the people around you.

There’s so much to explore and enjoy and a whole new you to explore.  Enjoy learning how to live sustainably and do it your way!

Step 3: Don’t look back

Living a low impact lifestyle results in us opening a new door for our life.  It’s difficult to close the old door of ourselves especially as when you learn more you discover what you were doing was very impactful.  Most of us find it difficult to forgive the old self but that is exactly what must be done.  

Once you have forgiven yourself you can allow yourself to close the door on your old habits and can begin to live a life you can be proud of.  It’s hard as there’s still friends wanting you to be your old self, but you have chosen your new path and now it’s your job to encourage them to do the same.

Simple things like picking places that do good vegetarian food as meeting places or encouraging holidays to be had locally, and to do activities that don’t demand much stuff, are some of the ways to achieve your new life.  Where possible don’t preach about what we all must live sustainably but sing the praises of your choices, from the great recipes you’ve discovered through to the joys of taking public transport to work.

These things aren’t an impediment to living a joyful life, they are the route to a fulfilling and amazing existence which you can feel contributes to making the world more equitable and better for our children.  There is honor in the choices you make, so don’t look back and think about what you could have had, enjoy what you have in living a low impact lifestyle.

Want pandemics like Covid to stop? Make more space for nature.

The reason we’re not allowed to move or mingle is that we’re rubbing up too close to nature’s diseases.  To stop pandemics like this from happening in the future, we must improve agricultural practices, stop deforestation and make more space for nature.

It sounds simple, but scientists have been warning the WHO and UN for decades the impact environmental degradation could have on human health through pandemics exactly like Covid.  An article published at the beginning of the pandemic from leading scientists for Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) said:

“Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases.” 

“There is a single species that is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic – us. As with the climate and biodiversity crises, recent pandemics are a direct consequence of human activity.” 

It is an unfortunate truth to be hearing.  But is it surprising?

This same report outlines that 70% of diseases have originated from domestic and wild animals, and that some 1.2 million diseases are yet to be discovered by humans.  A bat is the cause of Covid, but just imagine all the other species we’re rubbing up against as nature has fewer and fewer places to live.

75% of freshwater supplies are used in agricultural practices, a third of land is now used for agriculture.  It is estimated that 10,000 acres of Amazon rainforest is cut down every day.  

Our agricultural practices are dependent upon mechanically managed large fields of monoculture crops covered in man-made nutrients with pesticides to stop any other species from being there.  Our farm animals are mostly unhardy stock, brought mostly inside, and are riddled with antibiotics as they are too sensitive to disease. And if we continue to pollute at the scale we are climate change threatens to make around a 1/3 of the world unhabitable to most species by 2100.

Simply put we are making ourselves exponentially vulnerable and it’s now becoming pretty clear there isn’t a solid economic argument for it. The good news is sustainable agricultural practices can be carbon neutral, nature positive, and can use vastly less land if we decrease our dependence upon meat and moved to vertical farming practices.  And if we halved carbon emissions by 2030 we could avoid runaway climate change.

If you’re looking for something to blame for Covid, blame our attitude to the environment, and do something about it.  What we decide to prioritize politically, how we shop, and even the conversations we have to make a difference.

If you want to learn what you can do to make a Better Century, or wish to get articles just like this on a regular basis, join our online community and learn to make decisions that can help regenerate the world.

This article was written by Tom Beckett, Founder of Better Century, sustainability consultant, entrepreneur, and blog writter. Follow him on Twitter.

We must stop bargaining with climate change action, and actually act

How many times have you heard these points when talking about climate change?  ‘The government needs to take the lead’, ‘if only we had an international agreement’, ‘What are China doing’, ‘ it’s more expensive’, ‘Technology will sort it out’. 

I’ve heard them over and over again and I’ve even been that person. I’ve wanted to think that climate change isn’t my responsibility. ‘If only I could get others to take action then I’d properly take action myself.’ That was my one.

This is bargaining with climate change – it’s just the same when we’re dealing with trauma. What we’re trying to avoid is helplessness. The evidence points to this being the main cause of inaction on climate change.  And understandably – people actively avoid feelings of despair. This is why climate change has been a taboo subject for so many years.

By externalising the issue we are bargaining for our own responsibility.  That is being extended through companies, insurers, investment companies corporations, local government and even national government. They are bargaining because the action needed is likely to be painful. And we’re doing the same at an individual level.

And that totally makes sense. This is a global issue so how can it be our responsibility?

The fact of the matter is all of us need to take action to cut the unnecessary carbon we’re producing. If we bargain by establishing increasingly complex criteria for our engagement, climate change will be beyond our control in 10-20 years’ time.

Have you ever wondered why there is a major difference between young and old on the issue? It isn’t because young people are ideologists. It’s because middle-aged and older (like me) feel we have to compromise, and therefore we bargain.

Younger people have no other reality, they know there is nothing to bargain with. They just want to see action. It could be argued that when they get older they bargain with for example with a more expensive bill to replace their heating system. But I think for them, it will simply be a morally indefensible trade off, like choosing to fly or not.

It is the perfect recipe for inaction to push a problem onto another party. We’re in that cycle again with the summit on climate change COP. Everyone remains on the edge of their seats to find out if we’ll form an international agreement. Will it matter? Does it mean that we’ll halve global emissions by 2030 to overt runaway climate change? 

My answer may surprise – ‘No – it won’t’. We can’t wait for the machinery of government, business and finance in this timescale, we must take this responsibility into our own hearts and decarbonise our lives.

And let’s be honest. A global agreement won’t make the slightest difference to whether you cut meat consumption, choose active, public or electric transport or install renewable systems in your house. What will make the difference is if we all stopped bargaining about when or if, and simply acted.

Most of us feel helpless when we decide to engage. Knowing a little about climate change it’s terrifying.  You simply don’t want to know more. This is part of bargaining. Most of us dive into the global issue and feel bewildered, lost, perplexed, paralysed by the reality of it. We react by closing down our research, deciding it’s someone else’s problem.

I’ve got to tell you when you do engage, when you decide to make positive changes, the reality is you don’t feel powerless. It’s quite the opposite.

For me I have felt empowered with new knowledge, thinking and understanding of the issue.  I am lucky enough to now see the solutions in my own home, community, food and transport. I have a plan to decarbonise my heating and vehicle. I have solar panels and mostly cycle. I get excited about the technology which can transform my life to be low carbon, and I like it better this way.  I want to tell others.

I’m doing what I can. My life is no longer part of the problem, I am (or people like me) are the solution. That goes a very long way to tackling helplessness. Even I feel that internationally, nationally or locally there is not enough action. But now instead of despair I feel helpful – people simply need to catch up, and I can assist them.

And it does make it a lot easier that we can talk about climate change openly. People genuinely want to learn more – they don’t see it as green nonesense anymore. People don’t walk away or shut down the conversation they actually engage. That is refreshing but people are still bargaining.

I might be a fool for taking action when it’s not the most economic decision at the time,  but that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that I’m a citizen of the world and that I’m responding to the global problem in the most practical way I know how – in my own life.

I encourage you to stop bargaining. You can move beyond despair quickly, and make some changes. Don’t look over your shoulder but look forward – find more things you can do. Before long you will be talking about life with pride and encouraging others to do the same. You will think tackling climate change is feasible as you will know what the solutions are and like me you will be empowered. 

Tom Beckett is the founder of Better Century and has written numerous other articles about sustainability – see his profile on Better Century and consider joining to get help on create a low carbon, low impact trajectory in your own life. 

A blueprint of what citizens need to do in the next ten years to help prevent a 2°C rise in global temperatures

Ever wondered how much you need to cut your carbon emissions so you can do your bit to prevent further catastrophic impacts of climate change? Here we provide you with an answer. Learn what the average UK carbon footprint is and what you can do about it. Our short infographic tells you where we are and what we need to do to tackle climate change on an individual level, as well as giving you some useful tips.

The average UK Carbon Footprint stated above was determined through nationally reported emissions and estimated imported carbon emissions. Average Global Citizen emissions were set using the UN Carbon Footprint Gap analysis. Proportions of emissions from different areas were determined using a Carbon Trust report that calculating bottom up emissions from numerous participants.

Why do carbon emissions matter?

At some point between 2025 and 2040 the average global temperature will exceed 1.5 degrees celsius, and could be a lot higher.  A 2-degree rise is likely to cause run-away climate change.  Within the next 10 to 30 years if we carry on as we are severe weather events will cause major food shortages and will disrupt entire economies.  This is called climate breakdown.

Climate change is caused by man-made carbon emissions.  We have disrupted the carbon cycle by burning millions of years old carbon from coal, oil, and gas, and by farming intensively.  This causes the release of carbon-based gases which sit in the atmosphere.   They absorb energy from the sun and act like a thermal blanket around the earth.  

As more carbon based gases are released, the concentration increases, thickening the blanket and storing energy.  This energy results in an increase in temperature and severe weather events.  

Can I really make a difference?

There are 7.67 billion people.  Each one of us has a responsibility to stop climate breakdown.  Our choices make a difference.  Over 70% of all carbon emissions occur directly because of our choices.

Trying to influence people to tackle climate change? – Stop talking about consequences, give positive solutions

If you, like me, have been trying to get people to take action on climate change at home, in the workplace or through communications sent out to customers or members, then this is for you.  I summarise sociological studies that have analysed concern for climate change as well as barriers of engagement.  I conclude by providing some of the best ways to communicate climate action.  

It is very apparent why we need to take action on climate change as well as biodiversity loss.  We have witnessed and taken notice of the severe weather events, climatic anomalies, the numerous protests that raise awareness of future catastrophic impacts, as well as governments actively pursuing agreements that will limit temperature rise.  We know it’s serious.  

Although this is the case, people aren’t making change at scale.  Even organisations are dawdling in delivering real net zero plans.  And although governments are making commitments, evidence shows they are falling behind these short lived public statements.

This is after 30 years of communications efforts have been made to tackle climate change.  So what’s missing?  Why are people turning off to the idea of taking action?  

It turns out that people work hard to avoid acknowledging disturbing information.  They don’t want to feel emotions of fear, guilt, or helplessness.  Where possible, people simply want to follow cultural norms and maintain positive conceptions of individual and national identity.  When climate change is mentioned there is an in-built instinct to protect oneself, to move the subject on, or to simply walk away. 

Some of the other trends are also useful in noting.  Concern for climate change is higher in poorer countries even when they have been exposed to less information.  In wealthier countries, it appears that people turn off their concern for climate change in part to protect their cultural norms.  Outrageously people with a higher level of knowledge about climate change, tend to show less concern.  All of this is due to the sense of helplessness and frustration.  

“Informing the public of the problems can increase frustration and apathy rather than build support. Our research suggests that what the public is most skeptical about is not the existence of problems but our ability to solve them. What will make the public invest energy in these issues is not the conviction that the problems are real, but that we can do something about them.” (Immerwah, J. 2009)

So what gives?  The more we inform people the more they switch off?

Climate denial is not just stimulated by creating doubt about climate change – a widespread phenomenon in the U.S. particularly in the 90s and 00s.  Societies develop and reinforce a whole repertoire of techniques for ignoring disturbing problems.  They do this to maintain coherent meaning systems, desirable emotional states, to maintain belief that they can succeed, and in order to follow norms of attention, emotion and conversation.  In other words we pull the wool over our eyes so we can maintain our collective illusion that everything is fine, so we can all ‘live the dream’. 

Powerlessness and guilt were also found as being major means of avoiding taking action.  Studies found a consistent expression that this is not an individual’s problem, or that carrying the guilt is simply too much to bear.  What is tied to this is the impact taking action has on individual and national identity.  A respondent of one of the studies sums this up well:

“We shouldn’t consume so many resources, drive so much, or travel so much by air. We know that it is bad because it increases CO2 levels. And creates a worse situation. But at the same time of course we want to go on vacation, we want to go to the South, we want to, well, live a normal life for today. So many times I have a guilty conscience because I know that I should do something, or do it less. But at the same time there is the social pressure. And I want for my children and for my wife to be able to experience the same positive things that are normal in their community of friends and in this society.” (Interview with Eric, Norgaard, 2009)

If climate change switches people off, how do we enable change?

What is consistently found through studies is that people do care about climate change, and want to do the right thing.  This is counter to the belief that people don’t care and are selfish.  So as a starting point it is a consistent recommendation to not assume people are selfish in communication, which frames the tone of voice being used.

However, the interplay with the systems of denial that protect the self from guilt, powerlessness, and alienation from societal norms, needs careful consideration.  

To avoid denial, messages need to be non-threatening and frame a positive view of self.  And to avoid negative emotions realistic opportunities need presenting that allow people to participate in positive action.  Where possible these need to counter alienation, by allowing people to participate in community collective action with a positive framing.  

What is also important is to convey the message that a difference can be made now through personal action, and where possible to highlight the immediate economic benefits of a decision.  An atmosphere needs to be created for people to experience positive emotions and positive views of the self, through real opportunities for change.

To counter-cultural norms community movements need to be started which represent a view of parts of society.  An example of this is Fridays for Future, started by Greta Thurnburg, or flight shaming, a phenomenon in Sweden.  Both of these movements have galvanised a certain spectrum of society to reconsider what should be the cultural norm, whilst also shifting national perspective.

To achieve pan societal change, movements need to occur through all parts of society where people associate their identity; workplaces, gyms, churches, political parties, clubs, and societies.  Movements needn’t be big, they can simply be a regular conversation or communication that support collective action.   This could occur through groups talking about what they could do, emails that simply outline what can be done to live more sustainably, and through public declaration of the club/society to take action on climate change. All delivered within a positive framing.

Great ideas, but how do I put them in action?

If you are trying to encourage your family or friends, the best way is not to expose them to your feelings of guilt or powerlessness or encourage that within them.  One needs to be a source of helpful, positive information on the subject, which can be practically put in action.  That could be health benefits of a new diet, positive gains from the use of low carbon technology, or benefits of using a bike.  There should be some challenge on carbon-causing choices, like flying, but these need to be framed as being counter-cultural.

If you’re in a workplace and you are trying to achieve change, then forming a group is a great start.  Finding small things that can be done to improve the office, like plants, recycling, or purchase of recycled paper, as well as forums to exchange means of living sustainably, bring a sense of community around the issue.  Once this baseline enthusiasm is initiated, company-wide declarations may be made.  The important thing is to build a positive community around change.

If your organisation is trying to get your customer base or membership to take action, it would be a great thing to have a well-respected member of that community to outline what they had done, and how it had made a difference to them.  To go further community-wide actions may be called for whereby aa community-wide carbon reduction targets are achieved.

It’s important to remember that the most recent survey conducted by the government found 80% of people were fairly concerned (45%) or very concerned (35%) about climate change.  You are pushing at an open door so why not use this information to galvanise change!

Got your own views on the subject or need more help?

If you have ways to build upon this thinking or need help in engaging your friends, family, or club/society, we have a community at Better Century which is bringing together useful information for people, with a positive framing. You can get input or get help from our digital community.  Simply sign up. 

If you’re trying to get members of your organisation to make a change this can be more challenging.  You may want to join a new group on our community site to get support from people like you – click here to sign up.

If you’re working to make a declaration to be a carbon-neutral or net-zero organisation, you are likely to need some consultancy support in assessing baseline carbon emissions and setting trajectories to net zero.  Our consultancy can help you with this – click here for more information.

If you are trying to galvanise action on climate change through your customer base or membership, we can help by writing tailored communications with tips on personal action with a positive framing.  We can also provide digital tools that help your community take collective action with a joint goal.  If you’re interested in this then set up a call with me to discuss how we could help.

Thanks and further research

I want to give a special thanks to Kari Marie Norgaard, who wrote the paper Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Responding to Climate Change, Background Paper to the 2010 World Development Report, to which much of the information shared here may be attributed. This paper may be found online if you want to learn more.

Go to the next page to learn more about other references used.

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Best Ethical Business Bank Accounts

Starting or running a business and want to give a good impression to customers and your staff? Picking the right business bank account is a great way to start. Read on to learn more.

Why does Ethical Business Banking Matter?

Banks collateralize debt and use money in your account to make investments. Many banks invest in fossil fuels, arms and companies with unethical practices, some solely invest in ethical businesses and renewable energy.

By extension, your bank reflects your business ethos, as your money will be used for varying purposes according to who you bank with. Some may even consider banking within Scope 3 carbon emissions, as money invested does have a carbon factor, especially if invested in fossil fuels.

Your bank appears on your invoices and maybe tracked through your payments. Increasingly the public is becoming aware of banks with poor environmental and ethical investment practices, and although this may not stop someone from doing business with you, it may become a subconcious consideration.

Checking a business bank account is ethical

If you’re running a business you’ve probably already got an account, if you’re looking then these tips will help you make a good decision from the get-go.

Here are some markers you may want to consider in your search:

  1. Investments in the extraction or burning of fossil fuel (e.g. coal mining/power, arctic drilling, tar sands, fracking)
  2. Investments in arms or military activities.
  3. Have they made a declaration of a climate (and ecological) emergency? If so – what actions are they taking?

To save you time on the fossil fuel question there is a brilliant report produced from Bank Track which details level of investment from banks in 2019 into fossil fuels. Barclays, HSBC, BNP Paribas, Santander, RBS as well as many others have billiosn invested in fossil fuels.

You will probably want to ask your bank directly about arms and military activities. Declarations are usually a very public thing so either this will be searchable online or it will be a very simple question for an employee to answer.

The Best Ethical Business Accounts

1. Triodos Bank Business Account

Triodos started in 1980 and only uses money in ways that benefit people and the environment. They do not invest in fossil fuels or arms or military activity, and have recognised the climate emergency, with CEO Bevis Watts signing a letter in support of Extinction Rebellion last year.

The great thing about the bank account at Triodos is there is no standing charge, only charges for transfers and payments in/out of the account. Limitations include only online banking services, and very few high street locations. Cash payments can be made through a post office though and if you need a card for your business a credit card from a seperate provider can be used and put on automated payment.

2. Co-operative Bank

The Co-operative Bank bank has had a recently chequered history, but it has always remained committed to ethical practices. Although not quite a niche in how it limits it’s investments, it does not invest in fossil fuels or arms/military. Although there is not public record of the bank declaring a climate emergency it’s operation is carbon neutral and it has publicly supported the school strike.

For this account you get cards and good online banking and there are no charges for the first 30 months for small businesses, including for transfers/withdrawals. Payments can also be made through post offices, as well as the number of high street banks available.

3. Starling Bank

A relatively new player, which is quickly growing. It has been confirmed through curiouslyconcious that this bank does not invest in fossil fuels, arms or military activities. As a paperless, branchless bank hosted in the cloud their activities are pretty carbon neutral.

There are some great services with Starling including automated annual reports for HMRC and VAT returns, as well integration with Quickbooks. Their fees are pretty reasonable with no monthly charge for a basic account but charges for withdrawals/transfers. This is a great option for a small digitally aware business!

How to Switch Bank Account

Switching bank account is really straightforward and can happen in just 7 days. Simply start an account that then transfer funds.

What are the 5 Best Air Source Heat Pumps?

Air source heat pumps allow you to heat your home with just electricity.  That’s right; no more gas or oil, and you could even use 100% renewable electricity to power the system.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about air-to-water heat pumps, commonly known as air source heat pumps. We will share our recommendations of which ones are the best, and will tell you how to get started in getting one installed.

Why get an air-to-water heat pump?

Air-to-water heat pumps are the renewable heating solution for most urban home owners.  Rural home-owners may also consider ground or water source heat pumps – learn more here.  But why get a heat pump?

  1. Low-cost heating; installation costs are a lot more than traditional boilers, but running costs are much lower.  Heat pumps deliver 3-4 kilowatts of heat energy for every 1 kilowatt of electricity used, making them super-efficient.  If you heat your home using off-peak electricity you can cut bills by 40%.
  2. Longer lasting; many have 25-year warranties.  This means they have double the life of your traditional boiler.  
  3. Cooling and heating capabilities; as well as heating these units can be used to extract heat.  During a hot summer that can be very helpful!
  4. Government incentives; the government helps fund the installation cost of heat pumps through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).  This grant is paid out over 7 years and allows you to recoup your installation cost.
  5. Cut carbon emissions; 15% of an average person’s carbon emissions come from heating their home.  Use 100% renewable energy to power your heat pump and you could slash your carbon footprint!

How does an air-to-water heat pump work?

Heat pumps transfer heat by circulating a substance called a refrigerant, as used in our fridges.  Air from outside your property is sucked up and pressurized, and is used to heat a refrigerant, which then heats water, which can be used in the house.  Hence air-to-water heat pumps.

The heat from ambient air, close to the house, is essentially condensed using electricity.  These systems therefore deliver three times as much heat energy as the electricity used, known as the Coefficient of performance (COP).  This is why you would use a heat pump instead of other electric heating solutions, and why heat pumps can still deliver effective heating with external temperatures of -25°C.  Thermal stores are used within these systems to ensure no loss of heat, but also to increase the heat of hot water used in the property through exchange units.

How does a heat pump affect existing heating infrastructure?

There are two components of the system.  A fan to pull in the air and heat the refrigerant and a thermal store.  The fan sits outside, and does create a little noise, but most with a well performing heat pump do not have sound issues.  The thermal store can become another floor standing kitchen unit, may be placed in a cupboard (to replace a water tank) or some manufacturers provide a unit the same size as a combi boiler to put on the wall.

You can get monobloc systems that heat water on demand, resulting in only a larger fan unit being used outside (and no thermal store), but these are best used for very efficient homes.   Low and high temperature systems can also be selected.  Low temperature systems deliver heat at around 55°C, and are largely more efficient, but are likely to need replacement of radiators, which need a larger surface area.  High temperature systems can deliver at 80°C, requiring no radiator replacement.

Heat pumps require a fairly energy efficient home without too much heat loss.  If your home has an energy efficiency rating below C, it’s likely to be better to improve energy efficiency first.  Learn more here.

Best air-to-water heat pumps?

We have read blogs, looked at reviews and have had our community comment on the heat pumps they’ve used.  This has helped us arrive at the best air source (air-to-water) heat pumps to recommend.

Alongside the manufacturer finding the right installer is incredibly important.  We have found across the board that poorly installed products perform very badly and attract incredibly bad reviews.  So take some tips on choosing the right installer below.

1. Mitsubishi Ecodan

Purchase price: £5,000 – £7,000
Benefits: Sound, reliability, maintenance, aesthetic, controls, range.
Downfalls: Internal thermal store size, reviews.

They’ve been delivering electrical devices for over a century, so they know what they’re doing.  This is why they are beating many on cost and have developed some very nice looking products, with good reliability and low cost maintenance, for all sizes of property.  What we particularly like are the advanced control systems that allow you to connect to solar panels, whilst optimising heat pump usage during low cost energy tariffs.  

The only downfall we can see is the lack of a wall mounted thermal store and that there isn’t a high temperature system, with all heat pumps delivering water at 55°C.  There have also been a few rough reviews online, which we attribute mainly to poor installation.

2. Samsung EHS

Purchase price: £3,000 – £6,000
Benefits: Size, cost, reliability, controls, range
Downfalls: Aesthetic, limited range.

Samsung has extremely compact outdoor units, that claim to be 40% smaller than competitors, and they major on a unique refrigerant that is super environmentally friendly and efficient.  On top of all of this they provide a low cost solution, but do have a limited range of external products with only 16kw output and no low noise solutions.  Connectivity on their products is great though, so you can control them remotely, can optimise upon energy tariffs and sync with solar solutions.

We feel the big downfall of this product is the way it looks.  It does have nice internal units though and one good wall mounted one.  It also has very few negative reviews we can find, with only positive ones relating to suppliers.

3. Nibe F2040

Purchase price: £6,000 – £8,500
Benefits: Reliability, efficiency, controls, range, maintenance, aesthetic.
Downfalls: Cost, flexibility of internal units.

Nibe is a lesser known brand, which has built it’s reputation in Poland, Czech Republic and Scandinavia.  Their products are some of the most energy-efficient on the market and they have a great range, which variable outputs of heat up to 65°C, allowing a smaller demand on replacing radiators.  They have great controls, including an app that flags issues, and like most Scandanavian products are well made and require little maintenance.

Our only criticism is the lack of a wall mounted internal unit, and potentially the high initial outlay.  They do have some negative reviews but they are mostly installer related and are countered by may positives.

4. Viessman

Purchase price: £5,500 – £9,000
Benefits: Reliability, efficiency, range, aesthetics, maintenance.
Downfalls: Cost

Viessman is a German manufacturer that focuses on delivering efficiency in its range, which is extensive.  Delivering heat up to 65°C makes this again a super deliverer.  Internal units are also flexible and extensive.  Not much is posted on the controls of their units, but there is a flexible range of thermal stores.  We think their range is pretty aesthetically appealing as well.

5. Daikin Altherma

Purchase price: £6,000 – £8,000
Benefits: Heat output, range, maintenance.
Downfalls: Aesthetic, reviews.

Daikin, a Japenese firm, is a leading global supplier of air conditioning units.  It has a long history of providing climate control technology.  They are the only unit we can find that delivers heat at 80°C in their High Temperature heat pump, meaning these units can be installed in less efficient houses, using existing heating infrastructure.  They have a very good range and espouse low maintenance requirements.

The aesthetics of their units we don’t find that attractive, and unfortunately we’ve found some very negative reviews of their product support.  Saying this they are recommended time and time again from blogs from leading review sites in the heating world.

Finding a good installer

You can choose to either follow a manufacturer when you are sourcing an installer or seek the installer first.  The analysis of our reviews finds that manufacturers don’t necessarily screen their installers sufficiently, so when seeking a quote through that channel do also check on reviews of particular installers. 

You can also simply choose an installer.  We have a list on our renewable heating page, which have all been recommended by our community. 

Join our community and get more support 🙂

Join our community, and ask experts and those going through the same experience questions about how to reduce your environmental impact. Get into your inbox the most up to date information about living sustainably, and support others.

10 New Year’s Resolutions to Live More Sustainability in 2021

Our community has done so many things to live more sustainably, we thought we’d share 10 to inspire you for your New Year’s Resolutions in 2021.  And what better resolutions could there be than to be healthy, save money and the environment at the same time?  With some of these you can do all three!

Go back to work on a bike

You may have loved cycling during lockdown, now take it on your commute!  If you pledge to cycle to work you get health benefits but there are also incredible benefits to the environment.  Daily personal travel is 17% of your carbon footprint if you drive. 2021 could be the year that you prove your commitment to tackling climate change by getting out of the car and on the bike!

You can go electric with your choice of bike or just peddle every step of the way – check the links to get some great advice!

Start ethically investing

It’s all the rage.  Environmental, social and governance investments have shot through the roof in 2021 to over 1 trillion dollars.  The time is now to move your money to where your mouth is.  Afterall around 30% emissions are related to infrastructure and companies which only your money can affect.

Why not start by setting up an ethical ISA with Abundance or energize Africa through an investment with Ethex.  You could also move your pension to Impax or get advice from financial advisors that specialise in this space such as John Ditchfield or Hugo Sparks, members of Better Century.

Reduce consumption of meat/dairy 

Reducing meat and dairy are sure ways to cut your carbon footprint by a quarter, whilst also reducing the amount of growing space to feed you.  This environment win-win-win, which also reduces water consumption and tackles biodiversity loss, is heralded as one simple way is which everyone can help.

You needn’t be a vegetarian or vegan, you can just eat less meat and dairy.  That’s a habit but is massively affected by purchasing choices.  A good way to start is to pledge to cut meat out of a number of meals.  Think about getting a veg box and learn new recipes.  

Cut out single use plastic

With gyres collecting mile wide Islands of plastic waste in the ocean and with marine life being severely affected by plastic particulate in digestive systems, it’s time to cut down on single use plastic.  It was a hugely popular movement after Blue Planet so 2021 could be the time to reinvigorate change by making simple resolutions – to cut out single use plastics.

The key ways our members have found to cut out single use plastics is to use new providers; like Milk and More who deliver milk and veg,  The Funky Soap Shop that provides awesome soaps, shampoos and conditioners, or Green People, who do all types of beauty products and reusable cups and the suchlike.  Why not pledge to reduce your single use plastic through our community pledge and get inspiration from dozens of others doing the same!

Switch energy supplier

Switching energy suppliers can (debatably) make a difference.  Around 10% of your carbon footprint comes from electricity usage – so if you move to 100% renewable then you can make that reduction?  Yes – if you pick the right supplier you are helping build renewable energy and are decarbonising our economy.

View our pages on renewable energy supply and learn about suppliers here.  There are also some great initiatives like Ripple Energy which allow you to invest in a wind farm and pay much reduced rates for energy, or Octopus Energy where you maximise upon flexible rate renewable energy tariffs – slashing bills to those with electric vehicles or heat pumps.

Decarbonise your home

Heating your home is 15% of the average carbon footprint.  Insulate it properly in the roof and put in some draught proofing, and you’ll save hundreds a year.  Go further and insulate walls and hot water systems, upgrade windows, and install thermostatic radiator valves, and you’ll save 40% on bills and footprint.  If you want to go the ‘whole hog’, then install a heat pump, and use just renewable electricity to heat your home, making it arguably zero carbon.

Whilst the Green Homes Grant will pay for two thirds of the bill of these measures, then it makes sense in 2021 to make this resolution.  To learn more about energy efficiency and renewable heating, click on the links!

Buy eco clothing

Sustainable fashion is becoming very fashionable!  It’s because of the incredible environmental impact fashion has through sourcing, processing and disposing of clothes.  An average pair of jeans uses 7,000 litres of water in production, 60% of clothes are made from synthetic materials and the majority of clothes get thrown away with an average use of 5 wears.

If you buy eco clothing, it’s cool, it lasts and it is made from recycled or renewable sources.  Why not just buy sustainable clothes in 2021!  Check out Vivobarefoot for shoes, Bamboo clothing or Lofte Sustainable Luxury Clothing.  There are loads of other community recommendations through our sustainable fashion tag.

Buy an electric car

Well, it’s the time isn’t it?  New Diesel and Petrol car sales will be banned by 2030, you don’t want to be behind the curve.  It’s time to trend set and buy a car that can dramatically reduce expenditure on motoring, whilst reducing carbon emissions.  If you’re an average driver you’ll save around £1,000 a year moving to electric, and if you drive a lot more, then that number just keeps on going up.

With loads of options for financing and leasing electric vehicles, and with such dramatic savings, 2021 could be the year it makes sense for you.  Read all you need to know on our eco resource, and find yourself a great vehicle for 2021!

Holiday without flying

Hopefully when we’ve all been vaccinated, we can move around freely once again.  Instead of joining all the holiday makers abroad why not continue to enjoy your country in 2021 or go to Europe in an electric vehicle?  There’s so many options available to you.

Check out EcoBnb for sustainable locations for staying in 2021, get a log cabin in the Cotswolds next to a lake, or check out Darwin Escapes across the UK.

Make your garden nature friendly

We’ve all loved our gardens during lockdown, now’s the time to make nature also love your garden, and for you to be surrounded by abundance of life!  Whatever size your garden you can encourage nature to come there, by taking some simple steps; growing pollinator friendly plants, putting up a bird feeder, composing, making a hole in the fence for hedgehogs or making a small water source.

Make a resolution to bring wildlife to your garden this year by doing something.  Here’s a great guide of things you can do to make your garden nature friendly!

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