Green News Roundup September 2008

Green news we loved: In case you missed them first time around, here’s our September round up of the most talked about, most innovative solutions or simply the most spectacular green news to hit the headlines.

Is city-living greener than country life?

Prince Charles may deride cities, but they shouldn’t be seen as causes of climate change, but as solutions, claimed a new study last month. Instead of being responsible for up to 80 per cent of emissions — as reported by the UN — new data put the figure closer to only 40 per cent.

The study from London-based IIED, highlighted that it’s misleading to allocate emissions to places, when for example, a power station will be providing energy consumed in other areas. Likewise, emissions generated by industries should be allocated to the consumer rather than the producer.

A large percentage of these consumers don’t live in cities but in rural areas and small towns. In general, the study claimed, it’s wealthy folk outside cities who are responsible for most of the emissions, they have larger homes to heat or cool, more cars to run and they use them more.

The study points out that cities offer many opportunities to reduce per capita emissions, such as by walking, bicycling and public transport and having building designs that require much less energy for heating and cooling. Cities instead can provide high living standards that do not require high consumption levels if well-planned and well-governed.

The world’s first self-erasing paper

Future technology show WIRED NextFest prototyped new innovations from Xerox last month showing their contribution to reducing the mountains of office waste – over 80m tonnes of paper in the UK alone. The star of the show was a new copy paper that can be used time and time again.

The self-erasing paper is coated with substances that react to light of a specific wavelength so when the paper is exposed to that light it creates visible text on the page, but within 24 hours the paper is blank again and ready to be reused.

According to Xerox, 40 per cent of all printouts are discarded the day they are printed so this new tech aims to cut down on the amount of copy paper that ends up in the rubbish bin during a single day.

The Tories’ greenest proposal yet?

News that the Conservative Party plan to scrap proposals for a third runway at Heathrow and instead build a £20bn, 180 mph high-speed rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds met with support from environmental groups last month.

Friends of the Earth said that to tackle climate change ‘scrapping airport expansion plans and investing in a fast and efficient railway network is essential’. While applauding the step too, Greenpeace still pointed out that the policy has not yet made it into the party’s manifesto and the existing railway needs upgrading as a first resort.

However, BAA suggested that the impact of replacement rail would be negligible. They say that even by replacing every flight from Manchester and Leeds by high-speed rail, Heathrow would still be operating at 97% of its capacity.

Transport solution found in compost heap

Those that have never been in doubt of the power of the humble compost heap will herald the new bacteria set to convert agricultural and domestic plant waste as well as cardboard and wood chippings into renewable fuels for the transport industry.

The composting bacteria enables ethanol to be produced more efficiently and cheaper than current commercial bioethanol production — a yeast-based fermentation based on the beer-brewing process.

After screening thousands of different wild types of bacteria, and searching for one that liked heat and feeding off a diversity of plant matter, scientists eventually found one in a compost heap, later coded TM242.

Considering 7 million tons of surplus straw is available in the UK every year, the scientists estimate turning it into ethanol could replace 10 per cent of the gasoline fuel used in this country at present.

Birds not affected by wind turbines

Good news for the future of renewable energy as new research show that wind turbines in agricultural lands are not the severe threat to birds that environmentalists first thought. Instead, farmland birds are not troubled by either the motion or presence of wind turbine blades.

Although raptors have declined around wind farms in Sweden, Nova Scotia and Spain, studies have shown it may be possible to strategically place wind farms so they have a minimal impact on biodiversity.

Although this study from Newcastle University is the first piece of evidence on farmland birds — whose agile flight is suggested as responsible for their survival — it is optimistic for the future of both bird populations and renewable energy.

World’s First ‘legal’ Wind Turbine Base Jump

Another wind turbine related story this week was that the world’s first ‘legal’ base jump tookplace in Norfolk this week as part of the first ever British Open Base Jumping Championship. The jumps were made from the only wind turbine in the world with a viewing platform that is open to the public. The turbine is owned and operated by the UK’s leading green energy company, Ecotricity.

Is city-living really the greenest way to currently live? Do you think the Conservatives have it right with their Heathrow proposal? Know of any other innovative products breaking the mould? Let us know your thoughts and comment below.

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