11 June 2010

The times they are a-changing

Fossil fuels will one day go the way of the dinosaur. Until then, it’s up to us to make
our contribution to change the world for the better.

This article was written by Ian McCartney of Equator Digital Agency in Glasgow.

Fossil fuels have served human beings well over the centuries. They powered the industrial revolution, they put the railways in motion and they put man on the moon. But it was always the case that fossil fuels were eventually going to go the way of the dinosaur. For one thing, the resources are finite. But even if they were unlimited, the originally unforeseen consequences of global warming would mean that alternative sources of energy would need to be found, and inevitably eventually become the norm.

While the day of renewables is dawning, the day of them being our main source is still a fair way off in the future. Until then what we have is a mix of renewable and conventional sources. Some companies have taken the lead on renewable and are on their way to an ever increasing component of renewables in their mix. So, if we require to power our country, this Scottish power company is enviable in being at the forefront of renewable technology and provision. Scottish Hydro are the UK’s largest generator of renewable electricity. And with a good few large utilities companies competing in the UK, that’s no small feat, and surely one that’s set to grow. Wind and water are the way forward, I’ll avoid making a seafaring pun here though ;)

The company also has fascinating plans to introduce a “smart meter” which is much more sophisticated than a conventional energy meter, and will provide the consumer with real-time data on their own energy consumption and costs. This looks like a real step forward, after years of conventional meters, which only indicate electricity use by means of a spinning metal disc!

And as to the future? A recent report states that, interestingly, Renewable Energy could support 8.5 million jobs by 2030. That's going to be a lot of people, a lot of revenue, and the emergence of what amounts to a new world industry.

It’s probably not fantasy to speculate that the world may right now be on the brink of a revolution every bit as transformational and as economically empowering as the industrial revolution. Only this time around the revolution will not only be high-tech, computerised and fast-moving, it will have the environment right at its heart.

In the meantime – what can we do, as individuals, to ensure that we are not living beyond our carbon means?

  • Get political with a small ‘p’. Find out what each party’s green/ ecology policies are, and make note to vote according to which you feel is the greenest. You won’t be alone in doing this – a Green Party MP was voted into parliament for the first time ever just a few weeks ago.
  • Calculate your carbon footprint. Not scientifically exact, but useful for highlighting areas where we are using too much. Check out this site for details.
  • Recycle. Yes, I know you’ve heard this command many times. But it has to be done. It’s easier when you think of it like this: garbage is your last resort for stuff that can’t be recycled. You’ll be amazed just how much less stuff you throw out when you do (as I call it) "priority recycling". It also makes you feel better, knowing that your detritus isn’t going to spend millennia in a landfill site!
  • Travel smart: If you need a car, get a hybrid. If you can walk to work, do it. If you’re travelling abroad, shop around for the greenest travel provider. These small instances of putting the environment first have a bigger collective effect than we realise.
  • Buy smart: Your supermarket might think it’s worthwhile shipping potatoes from Egypt. But the farmer up the road definitely won’t. Vote with your wallet, it’s a real catalyst for change.
  • Eat smart: Find out which foods are carbon light and work more of them into your diet. Red meat might taste great, but it’s only recommended in small portions for good health. And small portions will help with smaller carbon output, so we all win.

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