THE LED REVOLUTION

If you’ve been out at night lately you may have noticed a silent yet bright revolution occurring. The revolt is happening in the form of tiny arrays of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), and they’re replacing inefficient incandescent lightbulbs in your home, changing the sodium glow of  street lighting, and transforming modern architecture. LEDs are truly providing sustainable lighting solutions.

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First discovered over 100 years ago, LEDs create light by electroluminescence in a semiconductor material. Though the low energy LEDs as we know them today have been around for over 50 years, in which time they have become brighter, more colourful and whole lot cheaper.

But what is so great about LEDs compared to traditional bulbs and even low energy CFL bulbs?

Well, lighting a house is uses a considerable amount of energy, up to 18% of your energy bill, so finding solutions to reduce that energy requirement is a no brainer. And thats where LED lighting can come to the rescue.

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LEDs don’t just stop at efficiency either. They achieve full brightness instantly, unlike other energy saving bulbs, and they’re are dimmable. LEDs also come in vast variety of of colours and hues. So, think less clinical lab lighting and more homely glow.

Perhaps what is most staggering about LEDs is their amazing longevity. Light Emitting Diodes last a very very very long time, they can run 10 hours a day for 13 years! That means the average LED bulb lasting 50,000 hours, which is an astonishing 49,250 hours more than an incandescent light, and 48,000 more hours than a halogen bulb!

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However, LEDs do have a darker side. A 2010 study found LEDs contain lead and arsenic amongst other potentially dangerous substances.  That is not to say they are dangerous, but its when they break that could cause problems. Researchers advise you treat broken LEDs as hazardous waste, using a mask and gloves to dispose of them properly.

It’s true that for many years LED light bulbs were incredibly expensive, and somewhat dim in comparison to their incandescent cousins. However, technological developments in LEDs now mean that they will perform better than incandescent lighting and even CFL light bulbs. Although more expensive, a LEDs extremely low energy consumption means that they will quickly pay of themselves over their long lifetime, saving £70 or $90 over the lifetime of the bulb.

Choosing LED light bulbs, like any sustainable decision, means we have to be able to see further than the present, and base our decisions on possible future outcomes. Whilst in the short term it might benefit your wallet to buy cheaper non efficient light bulbs, but it doesn’t take long for LEDs to pay for themselves, and save you a heap of energy and money far into the future.

LED resources

WELL TRAVELLED FOOD

‘Food miles’, a term that has been floating around for a long time. It refers to the total distance has travelled to get from its source, to your dinner plate (and if we’re nit picking on to landfill or compost too).

Whilst many shoppers probably don’t check if there food is air-freighted from Peru or shipped from Spain, food mile advocacy campaigners are worried. They are concerned about the amount of climate change enhancing CO2 emissions caused by food being transported around our planet.

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However, studies have found food miles account for a small number of the total emissions of the food chain. This means, in broad terms, food miles a poor indicator of the total environmental impacts of food production and transport.

Still, some food mile advocacy campaigns have urged shoppers to eating locally sourced food, but assuming that locally grown food is better for the environment is not always true. As a lot of food producing regions of the world employ far more efficient production practices than others areas for the same product.

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Although it may be more efficient to produce our food in distance lands, that efficiency comes with some baggage. Perishable food needs to be moved fast before it goes off, so in these cases planes are used to get said items around the globe as fast as possible.

Unfortunately, as we all know to move anything produces huge amounts CO2. Therefore avoiding air freight is probably the best way of reducing any food mile impacts. Studies have shown whilst only 1% of food is transported by air, this amount of flying accounts for 11% of carbon emissions produced by food miles.

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So what can you do?

If you’re like me and get the majority of your food from a supermarket, the labelling of where your food has come from should be quite clear. So those are the things to look out for at the super market. But If you get your food a local producer or food market, where labels aren’t standard, don’t be shy to ask where your food has come from.

No doubt one of the benefits of sourcing food from around the globe is the amount of choice we’re able to have when we go food shopping. It’s that same choice that makes me substitute fine beans flown from South Africa  for frozen peas grown in France;  they still taste lovely with a fish cake, they’re still nutritious, though they lack the carbon emissions associated with flying.

When all is said an done, improving the sustainability food transportation has is no single solution. As food miles are only part of the food production and transport puzzle, it is as important to  ask “how our food produced?”, and “what foods might be unsustainable?”.

Resources for WELL TRAVELLED FOOD

No Average Cup of Joe

If you’re like me coffee is much more than just a drink, it’s a  daily ritual. However, just getting my caffeine fix at home can have adverse environmental and social consequences. So I thought I’d explore some great ways in which our daily coffee habits can be more sustainable without compromising its rich flavour.

Coffee’s popularity is truly global, with around two billion cups being enjoyed everyday. This means there is an awful large demand for the hot stuff, and making a sustainable decisions might not be as clear cut as it may first seem.

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Firstly, where you get, and what type of coffee you get can make a huge impact.  When shopping for manufactures make it easy to make sustainable choices; many packs of the brown stuff have an eco or ethical certification on the side of the pack. Essentially, this gives the consumer the ability to choose what sort of sustainable coffee they want to buy.  A great starting point for purchasing eco/ethical labelled coffee is Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance.

As well as buying coffee with an eco/ethical label, there is a choice of how much coffee you might want to buy. My method is to buy in bulk! Why? The bigger the bag the less need there’ll be to drive back to the store to fill the cupboard, and an added bonus of going large is bigger packs reduce the amount of packaging being produced.

Buying your favourite blend is the easy part, now you got to brew it. Most methods of making coffee are inevitably going to need energy to heat the water. If you’ve opted for instant, pour over or french press, these methods will generally use less energy than electric coffee makers and machines.

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A problem facing many of us when making hot drinks is over estimating the amount of resources necessary to make our favourite beverage.  Therefore, measuring accurately the amount of coffee and water will not only save water, energy, money, but make a better tasting cup of Joe.

Having enjoyed your morning brew, that isn’t the end of the road for your favourite roast. Composting your coffee grounds its ace for the earth in your garden. Coffee grounds make a particularly good compost, as they are pretty much pH neutral and give the soil an amazing structure. But, if you’re like me and living in a tiny little apartment surrounded in concrete, get social and donate your grounds to a neighbour, gardening group or nursery  – gardeners will thank you for it, plus its a huge waste to see them end up in a landfill.

The global popularity of coffee and the subsequent demand for the fantastic little bean has had a huge impact on the production, transforming the industry from traditional, small production methods to more intense monoculture models that require massive amounts of fertiliser and pesticides. In some cases these production methods have decreased biodiversity, fragmented habitat, generated industrial levels of waste, depleted soil and created social inequality within coffee producing areas.

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The good news? Without much effort, the way we buy, brew and compost our favourite picker upper can help transform not only the way the coffee industry operates, but reduce the impact that coffee has within our homes using less energy, water, packaging and products. The result… a better tasting cup of homemade coffee, that benefits your back pocket and the planet.

Resources for No average cup of Joe

Pee(ing) in the Shower

Sometimes trying to be sustainable isn’t easy, other times it is, that is why I pee in the shower everyday. So why would I go and urinate in one of the cleanest places in the house? Its simple, for me its all about conserving water.

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Answering natures call in whilst lathered up doesn’t just leave you with a clean conscious and scrubbed body. Taking a whizz whilst in the shower can save you time and effort cleaning the toilet, and reduce the amount of water used for flushing in turn reducing a costly water bill.

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Although taking a pee in that shower will save some water, it isn’t a silver bullet for our water conservation needs. After all, water is still being used and ends up going down the drain. That said, the amount of water used will be much less than an average flush (if you pee for approx 21 seconds), so there will be a saving by taking a tinkle in the shower.

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It may seem trivial reducing the amount of water by missing a flush or two seems a day, but little changes in our water use go some way to reducing the overall water consumption in our lifestyles. Its important to save water, as excessive water consumption can have negative effects on the environment as water is not a limitless resource.

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So the next time you’re bursting to go for a number 1 in the shower, just go. There is no shame, nobody has to find out (unless you brag about it). More importantly, peeing in the shower is a small step towards a more sustainable modern life.

Resources Peeing in the shower.