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Former California governor and actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has launched a new environmental initiative, Sustainia, that hopes to help people visualize a sustainable future using low-carbon resources.

With the support of the UN, Terminator star Schwarzenegger and Europe's climate chief, Connie Hedegaard are spearheading the virtual environmental campaign that encourages people to live a greener lifestyle.

The Sustainia initiative aims to show new and developing technologies, such as renewable energy and hydrogen-powered buses, on a virtual platform that will show people what an environmentally friendly world would be like.

Schwarzenegger says: "Being a champion in body building, in movies and in politics where I was able to lead California to renewable energy, energy efficiency, green jobs ... I believe it is important to demonstrate that sustainability is the better choice for all of us."
"For communities around the world and for the individual, the Sustainia award offers a multitude of benefits in terms of better health, more liveable regions and cities and increased productivity. But we need to actually see it to understand it. And this is what we will make possible."

Over the coming months, people will be able to visit, inhabit and help build the new world on a virtual construction site.

The project also comes with an accompanying book 'Guide to Sustainia, which was developed by Scandinavian think tank Monday Morning in a collaborative effort with 16 global companies, including Microsoft, Philips, Tetra Pak, and Cisco.

Visit www.sustainia.me for more information.

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Fed up of spending so much of your hard earned on fuel bills? Once a year, the six big energy companies usually increase their prices. However, so far this year prices have been increased not once but twice: first in April, and then again in June.

British Gas, E.ON, and Scottish and Southern Electric have hiked up their gas tariffs by 18%, increasing electricity by 16%, 11% and 11% respectively. Npower have increased gas by 16%, electricity by 7%.

And Scottish Power's gas tariffs have increased by 19% with electricity following at 10% more. These are only the most recent increases, and looking at past trends, they won't be falling anytime soon.

So how can you save money whilst the power giants increase their prices? This is where realistic, sustainable solar energy from HomeSun comes in. Installing free solar on your home could save you £237 and wipe out the British Gas price rise (see http://www.homesun.com/energy-price-rises). Developments in any good green energy such as that offered by HomeSun are held back by big power companies, but now people have the chance to declare independence from this. You can generate your own electricity by installing solar panels completely free.

200614_173305526055711_159321044120826_436552_7006518_n.jpg A home solar system consists of panels fixed onto your roof, wired to a small inverter (ideally in your loft). This converts solar electricity (DC) into household/grid electricity (AC). From the inverter, the electricity flows through a solar meter to your existing consumer unit (fuse box) where it’s connected to the rest of your home’s electrical system. Bob's Your Uncle!

To qualify for solar panels your roof should face as close to south as possible (southeast to southwest can be OK) and have a pitch of between 25 and 55 degrees. Ideally, you will also need to look for 24m2 squared of unshaded roof  for a 12 panel system size to 2.94KW.

However, if you are still unsure about whether you quality for solar panels go to the Home Sun website. On the website you can also get information on the benefits of solar panels and look at some of the featured homes, complete with homeowner interviews, images and videos.

HomeSun - http://www.homesun.com/



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Not that July has given Britain many sunny hours so far, but with the news of rising electricity prices many Brits are undoubtedly thinking about installing a solar panel or two on their roof to reduce their electricity consumption. A Suffolk company has gone a couple steps further though by installing 7,000 (!) solar panels.

The roof of Promens' warehouse in Beccles, Suffolk claims to be the UK's largest solar farm and will use almost 100% of the energy generated in the company's manufacturing process. Since the Government has dramatically reduced subsidies available for any solar scheme over 50KW after 1 August 2011, it is likely this is the largest roof-top installation we will ever see on the British Isles.

It is great to see that companies are doing more to make use of the great renewable energy source sunlight is and we hope more will follow. Developed by Lightsource, the 7,000 solar panels will give the site a capacity of 1.65MW.

If you are thinking about installing solar panels on your roof, you can find out more about the benefits here.

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We're all for new and creative ways of using natural sources to produce energy. We've previously written how installing solar panels is an excellent way to use renewable energy sources, but underwater kites?

Swedish site The Local writes that Swedish company Minesto believes that "a device modelled on a children's toy will make harnessing energy from the world's oceans as easy as flying a kite."

Perhaps the world's oceans could provide a viable clean-energy alternative other resources?

The underwater kite solution, called Deep Green, harnesses energy from ocean tides and currents at a far more efficient rate than wind turbines above the surface. Moving - or flying - in a circular motion converting tidal currents into energy, the devices can generate 800 times more energy than if they were in the sky. This is due to the fact that seawater is 800 times denser than air.

The prototype model was included in Time Magazine's '50 Best Inventions of 2010', and Minesto has raised €2 million to develop the technology further and build a scale model that will be tested off the coast of Northern Ireland after the summer.

You might ask how this will affect marine wildlife, as these giant foreign objects are placed beneath the sea surface? According to Minesto, extensive studies have been carried out to see what will happen.

"One of the major obstacles has been the threat of things getting caught up by the tethers. We will place the kites far enough apart so they cannot get intertwined, but there is a danger of floating devices and fishing nets for example," Minesto CEO Anders Jansson explains.

Speaking to The Local, Jansson added that in ways the kites can actually have a positive environmental effect as the kites pump air back into the ocean which will help clean up the water.

solar_powered_house.jpgHave you been thinking about installing solar panels on your house to produce your own energy? If you haven't you definitely should, because the benefits of solar electricity are many:

It will cut your carbon footprint: it is a green, renewable energy source that doesn't release any harmful CO2 or other pollutants. A standard home solar panel system could save around 1 tonne of CO2 yearly.

Your electricity bills will be slashed: sunlight is FREE! So once you've invested in a system, it could help cut your electricity bills with 40%.

You can make money of it: yes that's right. If more electricity than you need is produced you can sell it back to the Grid.

You don't need planning permission for most solar electricity systems as long as they're under a certain size, but check with your local planning officer before you invest in one.

Also ensure you have a nice sunny roof or wall to fix it on, as there is no point having the panels if the sun doesn't reach them.

And most importantly, once you've got your solar panels installed and ready, invest in some energy efficient appliances that will help you maximise the electricity that is produced!

Installing a solar panel system will set you back around £12,000 + VAT (The Energy Saving Trust). But there are also some companies that offer free solar panel systems in return for a cut of your income. Read more about it on the Energy Saving Trust's website.

Pepsi unveils 100% plant based PET bottle

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Environmentally friendly materials and packaging have been the source of many news stories this month: Coca-Cola unveiled plans to create a recycling plant to tackle UK's plastic bottle recycling issues; and new research show recycled cardboard might not be as good as initially thought.

Yesterday, PepsiCo - the company behind brands like Pepsi, Tropicana, Quaker and Gatorade -unveiled what it claims is "the world's first 100 percent plant-based, renewably sourced PET bottle." Boasting that the 'green' bottle beats technology of other industry competitors like Coca-Cola, it appears that Pepsi has won the race to take recycling and plastic bottles to the next level.

Pepsi's 'green' bottle is made from bio-based raw materials like switch grass, pine bark and corn husks. In the future, the company plans to also use orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls and other scraps from its food manufacturing business.

This is a welcome innovation and in terms of recycling biodegradable bottles, made from reused materials, will be a wise investment for beverage companies wishing to remove themselves from using PET plastic made from fossil fuels.

The pilot production of the new bottle is set to start in 2012, and upon successful completion Pepsi intends to move directly into full-scale production.

GoodNewsForPolarbears goes live

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goodnewsforpolarbears.org.jpgBilled as combining the best bits of Freecycle and eBay, the wonderfully-named GoodNewsForPolarBears is a free local recycling website that lets people recycle things they no longer need by simply giving them to other people that DO need them.

Like eBay, items are listed with multiple photos, helping others see exactly what's on offer - except all items listed must be free. The only difference though is that all the items are FREE. Visitors can search the site, browse through categories, or set alerts to get automatically emailed when stuff they want is on offer.

The website's founder, who goes by the mysterious name of 'The Big Bear', set up the site in response to seeing perfectly serviceable items being dumped at the household recycling site:

"I realised that some people were dumping perfectly good items like baby stair-gates, patio furniture, and computers, while another bunch were in the high street buying the exact same stuff. It seemed like such a waste. Many of those buying new would have been perfectly happy with a used item for free, and many of those dumping stuff would've been over the moon to have someone take it off their hands and put it to good use."

The site which has just come out of beta testing has so far attracted about 1100 members with suppport from prominent people like Sir David Attenborough, Arne Naevra (Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year), and Nicholas Hanley (Directorate-General Environment at the EC in Brussels).

The site helps the environment by helping people to recycle consumer goods, thereby reducing waste and landfill, and conserving raw materials and relies on donations to keep it going. Currently offered on the site free of charge are a Samsung Colour TV, old fashioned oak teachers' desk and a ladies' wetsuit, size 14.

www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org

Debenhams_green_energy.jpgDepending on how often you hang out in department stores, it's quite possible that next time you shop in Debenhams you could find yourself basking in heat and light provided entirely by renewable sources. This is because the chain has just signed a first of its kind deal that will ensure all of its electricity comes from 'green' energy.

Scottish Power has agreed that Debenhams will be supplied with 35 MW of green energy per month, enough to light and heat 50,000 homes. This should be enough to cover every one of its 172 stores. This is a major step forward for the renewables sector, and will be seen as a shining example of how greener electricity can work every bit as well as the more polluting sort. Let's hope that Debenhams' shoppers will be inspired by the plan and take the idea of greener energy to the one place it most needs to get established: at home.

[via The Independent]

solar vibrator.jpgNow, I don't have a lot of luck with solar-powered gadgets, so I've gotta admit I'd be wary about putting this one to the test. Having your iPod die while you're listening to your favourite song is one thing...in the middle of a session with your, um, "love toy" quite another. But sure enough, some women are getting their rocks off from pure solar stimulation, with this solar powered vibrator.

At first glance, the solar sensations bullet vibrator looks much like a mobile phone. At second glance: still like a mobile phone. Which I guess gives it points for subtlety. As with all solar gadgets, the theory is that it will work after exposure to natural or artificial light, and will then "go for hours" (2.5, to be precise). Convinced? It'll set you back $31

energy%204%20all%20steps.jpgWant to run your own windmill and live 'off-grid'? Energy 4 All -- a company that helps communities get wind power projects up and running -- has launched a new site today that guides users through the necessary hoops to get started with generating their own energy.

The site splits these stages into nine steps, and gives clear instructions on what's needed at each turn. The first step is pretty straightforward: 'is there enough wind on your chosen site', and from there, it explores issues like planning permission, neighbours and design sensitivity. Once you've run through all the key questions and found the answers to be reasonably positive, then Energy4All are keen to hear from you and assist you in setting up your project.

california%20sun.jpgIf you need a bit of cheering on a grey January morning, turn your thoughts instead to California sun: a bit of good news from Silicone Valley this week has raised the hope of affordable, effective solar energy for the future.

The innovation -- which would make solar energy as 'cheap as coal power' -- was funded by several benefactors, including the founders of Google who declared themselves committed to green technology last year. It means panels could soon be made as quickly and easily as though they were on a printing press. The new-style panels would be so flexible they could be placed in many more places than just rooves and flat surfaces. Could this be the first clear indication that private companies are really prepared to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to the much-trotted-out aim of 'making the world a better place'? Let's hope so!

[Via the Guardian]

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I know some of you super-organised people out there will already have started thinking about decorating your homes in anticipation of the festive season - and I imagine the suddenly rather wintery weather may well have been a catalyst! If you like to go overboard in the run-up to Christmas, but aren't so keen on the idea of the usual plastic, planet-pillaging decor, keep reading... Instead of tinsel and baubles, use potted poinsettias, rosemary, thyme and sage, branches of mistletoe and holly wreaths. Eschewing a tacky plastic tree is also better for the environment, as well as being far more aesthetically pleasing. If you look after it properly, you can use a living, potted tree year after year, and it won't get tatty round the edges like its artificial counterparts, or shed its needles like a cut tree.

If you need further inspiration on what to use and how, there's plenty of help out there. For instance, leafing (ho ho) through the latest Royal Horticultural Society Diary of Events this morning, I spotted a flower-arranging demonstration entitled 'A merry floral Christmas' taking place in Lawrence Hall on Greycoat Street in London on the 9th November - the demonstration takes place at 2.15pm, and is repeated at 4.15pm. If you're considering getting yourself a living Christmas tree, these tips should help you keep it healthy.

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Leaked cabinet papers have revealed that Labour has no intention of implementing its proposed plans to make a fifth of European energy come from renewable sources by 2020. The papers say that although attempting to back down from the agreement would be a "controversial" move for Labour, it is a necessary one, as reaching the targets would be expensive and involve "severe practical difficulties".

Also included in the papers are rather shocking plans involving John Hutton, secretary of state for business, attempting to persuade Gordon Brown to helping lower the targets. Brown is to be encouraged to speak to countries such as Poland, who do not consider global warming such a threat as other governments, and have them join forces with him in getting Germany and other more environmentally conscious governments to accept more "realistic" targets!

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Planning to move house? It seems that Bradford is the place to go for the green minded individual. The city was revealed to have the lowest environmental impact of any British city, in spite of its undeniably large role in the Industrial Revolution. Contrary to popular belief, Bradford's rivers were not polluted beyond redemption during this period in its history, and the streams surrounding the city are now a veritable haven of wildlife! Bradford also boasts large areas of green space, and has a number of successful recycling schemes in place. You can read more about Bradford's environmental initiatives - from their 'real nappy' scheme to the Forest of Bradford project, which aims to extend areas of woodland in Bradford - at the Bradford Environmental Action Trust.

Liverpool was voted the least sustainable place to live, with poor water quality and a lack of evidence that it is working towards a more sustainable future dragging it to the bottom of the list.

The survey of cities was carried out by charity Forum for the Future.

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British Telecom today unveiled plans to meet a quarter of its electricity needs using wind turbines by the year 2016. BT already reduced its carbon emissions by 60 per cent between 1996 and 2006, and it is estimated that the use of turbines will cut BT's C02 emissions by a further 500,000 tonnes. The project is set to be the largest corporate wind power initiative outside the energy sector. The cost of the project will be in the region of £250 million.

BT has applied for planning permission to build test masts at Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall, Wideford Hill Radio Station in Orkney and Scousburgh Radio Station in Shetland. It is hoped that 100MW of energy will already be being produced by turbines by 2012.

Related: Turbulence for home wind turbines | Visit a wind farm | Wind turbines in your back yard | How to build a wind turbine | Renewable energy versus the environment

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